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Entrepreneurship the Illness - A day in the life
53 points by dworrad on July 9, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 31 comments
Entrepreneurship the Illness - A day in the life

Inspired by Dave Mcclure's honest piece a few days ago...

It's 2am… I've spent the last 5 hours working on my personal projects. I shut my laptop and take a moment to think. All I can think about is the fact that I have 4 hours until I awake to start a new day. I make my way to bed and I can hear my daughter crying… Tomorrow is going to be a long and challenging day.

6am rolls around and my alarm wakes me up to groundhog day. I feel very low… I question if I'm wasting my time on this earth, I question my ability, I question my life. I admit to myself that this can't go on, but it occurs to me that I have reached this same conclusion many many times before….and I'm still standing in the same place. A place which is probably not too dissimilar to the place an alcoholic spends their waking moments.

6-30am and the coffee is brewing. My wife and the youngest of my two children wakes and I spend some time playing and talking to them. When my oldest child awakes breakfast is well under way and I'm helping dress my youngest before shooting out the door for a day of work.

8-30am I arrive at work ready for the unchallenging, un-motivating, uncreative 8 hours which pays for my families life. It has been "beaten" into me from a young age that this is unavoidable - while you live you will work, and while you work you will hate it. I then try to convince myself that I am lucky to live in a developed country and have a well paid job which most people would die for.

12-30pm - Off to lunch I go. I am a free man for 30 minutes. Although I still have to wear this ridiculous clothing which most people call a suit and tie. I have to remind myself that this clothing is necessary to prove that I am a trustworthy, honest, powerful, intelligent person. And without it I would just be another broken loser.

13-00 - I start to fall asleep as we discuss the new functionality we are going to add to the app of which I am lead developer. I lose focus as we discuss a form for users to add blah to the blah so they can visualise the blah. This app is used by all 80 users in the organisation, not exactly the size of audience that I had always dreamed of showcasing my talent to.

15-00 I am now in some sort of semi conscious dream/brainstorming session… the plans I have to make the world a better place - Ideas, functionality, marketing… round and round I go.

17-00 - Small talk - done. Read emails - done. Pretend to be motivated - done. Pretend to be a great employee - done.

17-01 (or somewhere close enough without giving the impression that I would rather die than stay another minute) I'm on my way home. Success! I have sold a portion of my day in exchange for enough money to make sure my family doesn't starve to death.

17-45 I arrive home to my family. This is without doubt the highlight of the day and easily the most fun. My wife has had a really challenging day (unlike myself), so I take the kids to the playground and we have some fun before dinner.

19-00 with dinner now eaten I get the kids ready for bed and sit with them until they fall asleep. While my wife takes care of ALL our household chores.

20-00 With the kids now asleep I have 4 hours (6 if I want to kill myself) free time to take care of any unfinished business before I make my dent on the world.

20-30 I'm showered changed and ready to create. My tool of choice for the last 15 years has been web programming.

2am - After going around in circles and questioning everything I do - I prepare myself for bed and groundhog day.

My name is Damian and I have an illness which I was born with, it's the illness to create things, some people call it entreprenuership. I've always been fascinated with the way that as a lone person you can create things that have an impact on many people. One idea can change the paths of many lives, and the internet has made it much easier to put those ideas into action.

Talking to people about this illness is not easy. They say things like "Just quit", "Do something else with your time", "Manage your time better", "You need balance in your life". I guess these are the same sort of responses alcoholics or drug addicts get when they try to explain their predicament to someone who clearly doesn't understand. I certainly never talk to my family about these feelings, it wouldn't be worthwhile.

Ok so there was a little tongue in cheek (in parts), but it isn't far off the truth.

I believe that everybody on this planet should have an inner drive to change the world and make it a better place. And you should never quit, otherwise you might as well die.

So I continue my life of solitude without the things I enjoy - socialising, working out, movies, books. I admit that it doesn't sound healthy when written down.

It's the self doubt which can kill you.

Please up vote if this story held your attention - Thanks.

Current project - www.commentary.io - sports commentary on live events

Follow - @dworrad

Email - same username @yahoo.co.uk

You are not getting enough sleep.

Without enough sleep you won't be able to stay healthy, much less change the lives of _others_ for the better.

Health first. Everything else second. It's an inescapable prerequisite for being effective at _anything_.

Agree totally. I guess what I'm trying to say is - If you want to make a dent in the world, do it before you have kids. It aint easy afterwards (although it's not impossible)

You don't agree, otherwise you wouldn't be abusing your body like that. This is the definition of lip service.

Or cognitive dissonance. Which many alcoholics and drug addicts do experience, if we wish to continue with his chosen analogy.

Some people choose to sacrifice in the present for a future reward. It doesn't always manifest, but what good is health to a miserable person?

Not only sleep, but exercise, too. If you're not working up a sweat a few times per week, you won't sleep as well and you'll be less healthy.

Try sleeping 6 or more hours per night. Spend half an hour 3 times per week exercising (it doesn't matter what: run, lift weights, swim, bike, etc). Take that time out of your side-project time. No, you won't have as much time to work on it, but that will be a good thing, you'll have to change how you work.

I wonder if you slept more and worked on the weekends if you would come out ahead.

My personal schedule,

6:00am - wakeup 6:45am - start on sideprojects 8:45am - head to work 6:00pm - leave work 6-10pm - dinner, family 10:00pm - to bed

That gives you 10 hours Monday - Friday. Put in another 6 on each of Saturday and Sunday (relatively easy to do in 3 hours segments while also having time with your family) and you have 22 hours a week of side project time, that's a lot.

You also have 8 hours of sleep a night. That makes the rest of your time more productive (both at work and on your side project). You also won't be killing yourself and your family ultimately needs you down the road.

I also like that afterwork I'm 'off'. I basically say from the time I get home from work until bed, I don't work on anything. Your family won't miss you at 5am while they are sleeping, but they will miss you at 8pm when they want to hang out.

It's not about maximizing the number of hours you work, it is about maximizing output. More sleep means the same output in less time, and it is worth it.

Well, I've been there doing the 9-5 and working on something on the side which is turning into a real business. While I don't have a wife or kids, I wonder if you could find more time by changing your work schedule a bit. Instead of working 8.5 hours (I assume you take a lunch and don't count it), eat at your desk and leave a bit earlier? Maybe put in an hour before work? Also, you could look for another job or a contract position while you are still at your current one, since you do seem to hate it. Also, what if you put in two hours a day instead of four at night? That'd be easily 10+ hours a week which is plenty and helps you focus on whats important: shipping and validating your idea with customers.

I can't imagine sleeping 4 hours a night is helping you in any way. If you don't get enough sleep you aren't going to be maximizing the precious hours you do have. I'm a zombie when I get less than 7 hours.

I'm in the "balance" boat, even for entrepreneurs. If you don't have balance, your hard work turns into burn out and impatience. Instead of letting things grow, you get frustrated and lose motivation at the world not keeping up with you. Learn to make slow and steady progress and you'll be amazed at how far you've come year after year.

Definitely. Being successful is about cultivating good habbits, and you seem to be suffering from some rotten ones.

I suggest you stop working on building a better business, and start working on becoming a better entrepreneur. That means building up your patience, finding creative outlets outside of your business, and being healthy and financially stable. Once that is in order, you'll be in a far better position to get your business going. Your boring job is an investment in your your dream, so make the most of that investment.

Rotten habits? I know people who aren't at home when their kids wake up... and they are home after they go to bed. That's a rotten habit. I have a balance... But I guess all of my spare time is invested in the dream that I am gonna one day create something that people really want to read, use, watch, etc

Sleep is important and I do try and get enough. But it is like an illness/addiction... the highs, the lows. Sometimes I have so much energy for it... you'd have to drag me to bed. But the mornings are low points. I guess to be truly successful you need a plan, a direction and you need to be 100% sure of it.

I completely understand. I'm exactly the same way. However, I think it's really important that entrepreneurs think long term. This stuff takes a long time, even overnight success. Give it consistent work but try to keep it a healthy side project in your head so you don't freak out over a lack of early success. Good luck!

Great piece. you need to outsource or find a co-founder or you'll burn yourself out quickly. Oh and SEO suggestion =>>

commentary.io doesn't 301 to www.commentary.io . I'd use just commentary.io in your marketing copy. the www is kinda the old world.

Now you are talking. Although co-founders are hard to find... especially outside the big cities. I've looked at outsourcing and it feels a little like quitting... I LOVE programming - although I'm not the best. Thanks for the SEO tip... Already noticed that, and it is on my list to fix up.

Outsourcing is not quitting. You're creating a business correct? Does the CEO of every business clean the toliets and wash the windows? In the beginning yes but your hourly value increases as your business grows. Outsourcing is just workers on demand (just like the EC2 instance you may be running your startup on).

As for the co-founder it should be pretty simple since you're a technical founder. When I started FriendsEAT I got courted by 20 "idea/marketing/money" potential co-founders because I was a tech founder. Since you're not in a major city you should run a meetup, go to a local techmeetup, go to hackathon... You'll see them all over.

I'd disagree that being born to make things is entrepreneurship. If you just keep making things and not selling anything...I guess the buzzword is wantrepreneur.

I totally relate to putting things off you enjoy.

If you don't change something about your current schedule, nothing is going to change (please change something).

Some ideas...Save some money. Quit your job, renegotiate working hours, start consulting. Downgrade expenses. Start a business that has fast revenue potential.

@dworrad, I'll admit I suffer from the same illness as you. It's good that you wrote it all down, because I couldn't believe how closely our lives match and that tells me something. If you are able to write some that hits close enough to my home, then that must mean it is going to hit home for a great many other people as well.

Nobody ever said entrepreneurship is easy. The $1B buyouts that you hear about on HN are exceptional, win-the-lottery type of occurrences, whereas the greater number of people simply win small amounts or nothing at all. But as long as you feel like you've grown as a person and, more importantly, pass that knowledge down to your kids, maybe it won't be so bad.

I wasn't raised with an entrepreneur mindset. My father worked salary all his life, so while that paid off for him, the same didn't/doesn't work for me. I have to be the trailblazer in my family and learn all this from scratch. My hope is that I can blaze that trail well enough so that my children have an easier time. If that's the case, then maybe they will be $1B successful or, at the very least, not have to toil away 8 hours a day in exchange for money.

If you've been doing this for years and you still have to go to the day job it's time to consider that maybe the dayjob is what you're good at, put more effort into that (and your family, and friends) and wake up feeling less like the world hates you. I have some sort of sleep pattern disorder, so I feel your pain on that front. But still...

Commit to the day job? It is a square peg in a round hole... It would be hell for the rest of my life. You can't quit... It's well documented. You need to make a dent in the world.. If it doesn't happen then I'll have to die knowing that I tried.

Wife, family, children, friends, good times and good people, are these things not important to you?

Guess I'm not an entrepreneur, I'm going to enjoy myself and the world can go hang.

Totally get it. Would rather die than give up and dedicate myself to a job for the rest of my life.

I couldn't agree more with the notion that entrepreneurship is almost like an illness. When I go to a local "tech meet up" I almost feel as if it's an AA meeting. Everyone has the same problems, everyone has the same story, everyone trying to change the world.

I often wonder if life would be easier to "just quit" and not care so much about changing the world and just getting a "real job" and move on with my life. Problem is, just like other illnesses, we are just born with it. You can't quit. You may be able to take a few years off, but you'll never shake it, never.

To be honest I think most entrepreneurs are very OCD, and by being able to channel this obsession to their business, they are able to be extremely productive. Let's be honest we don't fit the "normal" mold. No one else oozes ambition like we do.

Regarding the recommendation to "Just quit." You should. But not the side projects, quit your day job. Put a deadline on it, for your family's sake, if you don't have sustainable income from your new business after the deadline, go back to a day job and put the side-projects on hold. You shouldn't have a problem finding another day job if you're good (and if you're not good, get good first, then quit).

You'll need savings and a supportive family to do this. Talk with them. Explain the situation. Write a journal so you can show how you feel over time. Your family will support you, but first you'll have to make a good case. It's a risk, quitting, but if you have some savings and a supportive family, you can do it.

It'll also force you to build a business, not a hobby.

I have a part time staff for my startup who is a close friend. We both have kids. He has a day job and a similar schedule as yours. But the difference here is that he is happy with his day job (small company where everyone is almost like family). He dedicates time to help me out between 12 to 2am. He drowns in coffee daily, and tells me about how many years he has left to push himself. I am extremely grateful for his involvement and I constantly try to pry him away from his day job.

I guess my point is that one can be happy with whatever schedule(illness) they are forced to live it. It sounds like you only have 1 problem - the day job. Change it if you need one. If you enjoy your Mondays and you can pick your wardrobe, you found the right job. Good luck!

Like a few others here, this hits home for me. However, even with a family and day job I struggle less with sleep and keeping a healthy schedule, and I'm not convinced of the value of the need to "make a dent in the world". I question whether that is the right goal.

For me, there are three things that I want (in priority order) 1. To provide for my family 2. To own my own time. 3. To work on interesting problems.

I wrote it in that order, but mostly I think I over-prioritize #3 over #2. I think things would be much easier if I first focused on achieving #2 and then went on to #3.

I totally identify with everything you've described. I'm also starting to think this approach is not healthy, as I am exhausted on my way back home. Thanks for writing this, as it perfectly describes how I am feeling right now.

Word of advice - get some sleep tonight. Not every night, but at least tonight. You can't do this to yourself every night. Force yourself to get to bed before 11pm. Your health and your family are more important than your startup even if you have an illness.

I went to be at 1am last night, but tonight I am calling it early. Or at least I am going to try.

This might be applicable for you: http://robbieabed.com/fire-me-i-beg-you/ - it was on hn a few months ago.

That sounds way depressing, but only because of how familiar it is (i didn't even have kids!)

I hope your app becomes popular during the Olympics, and you can work on your passion!

I have tried that and its a crazy and stupid thing to do. I quickly realized that not performing exceptionally well on the job results in bad productivity even outside of it. Health, family and friends are important and need high priority.

4hrs sleep is not enough. Try getting at least 6-7 and see how you are more productive.

Wow. Thanks for that. It felt like you were writing out my life!

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