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Internet Entrepreneurship: How to Avoid Becoming a Stressed-Out Loner (gamasutra.com)
99 points by Red_Tarsius 1376 days ago | hide | past | web | 41 comments | favorite

Am I the only one who spends 16 hours in front of a computer (mostly) working 6 days a week, managing staff exclusively through email and oDesk, and loves it? Maybe it's because I view the entrepreneurship stage as the filling between two sides of the cookie sandwich, with tons of partying, debauchery, and socialization in the years before I got into it, and tons of it on the other side once the damn thing's finally making enough money to hire a real management team to watch the stables for a while, while I go out and take a years-in-the-making vacation to end all vacations... then come back and get to work until I don't feel like working on business anymore.

I also don't use Facebook, Twitter, or anything else along those lines... if you want to reach me, you can email me, and I'll respond when I check email once every few days, or if you're one of the very few people who has access to my phone, you can call or text me and we can chat or grab dinner. No cyberstalking or hours lost to staring at social media inanity wondering why I'm not a part of all the pretend-excitement people portray themselves as engaging in for me. Wonder if this vicarious living through people's puffed up social lives on social media isn't a big part of why the author feels so left out.

The problem there happens when you get a few years in and realize that "the other side" is far from guaranteed, and that there's a good chance that you've spent 16 hours a day, 6 day a week for the past several years working for nothing. Most people do have needs in their lives besides just working, and when you deny those needs for years at a time, eventually it builds up and you quit. The unfortunate part about this is that very frequently it's right before your startup would've succeeded - you can't predict when or whether your startup will succeed, and so you have no idea of knowing whether this hurdle is just the dip before your eventual smashing success or whether it'll be like every other hurdle with no end in sight.

There definitely is something very relaxing about focusing on only one thing, but it only leads to long-term success if you've picked the right thing. I know entrepreneurs that worked for a decade on their companies, and then folded them up without ceremony because they'd poured their life into them and yet they were generating significantly less revenue than a day job would.

16 hours in front of a computer (mostly) working 6 days a week

This is not sustainable no matter how much you love it. There is simply not enough time left to live healthy life - rest, exercise, be in a good relationship. Please do not do the same mistakes I made. I used to say what you say and I used to love my work. But I burned out. Love turned into hate. I had to quit - I just could not do it anymore. And I was left with severe depression, anxiety attacks, health problems and worst of all - loneliness. I did not have time for social life and now I have no love in my life, no sex, no intimacy, no meaning, nothing worth living for. I wasted few years of my youth that I will never get back and I just hope that somehow (with a lot of help from my therapist) I will be able to recover and enjoy life again... but it seems almost impossible now. I am in a really bad place right now... and I see you going there as well and loving it.

Sorry to hear that you feel this way. I can guarantee you that you can change your life by 360 degrees if you set your mind to get where you want to be. Your startup didn't turn out to be the next billion dollar idea? Guess what, life goes on. There is many better things you can experience in life. Forget the past, just forget about it. The moment you remember something bad from your past, remind yourself that it's not helping you and you have a future life to live. Are you 200000 pounds over the weight you want to be at? Guess what, YOU can change that if you set your mind to do it. Are you socially awkward? YOU can change that too. Go out, don't limit yourself on what others think about you. Who cares, it's your life and you can live however you want to. Just do the things that you always wanted to do and thought were impossible. Change your mindset, set your goals, and work hard to get there. I promise you they will come much faster than you think. I joined HN just to post this and encourage you ;)

I fear becoming what you described, I'm feeling what you described 3-4 months of of the year and it seems to increase a bit each year. Trying to force myself a bit less work, and more of the enriching things in life - it helps, just need to be consistent.

The good news for you is that your'e still breathing, so your opportunities to find love and fun exist. Be well...

"This is not sustainable no matter how much you love it"

Agreed, I went through the burn out too.

Got out of it by starting my work day with a 1 to 2 hour walk in the morning. It serves two purposes at once : first your body recovers gently from the hours spent sitting on a chair, second you go to sleep before midnight and can start over the next day.

I completely agree. I'm just 23 and I burned out, last year I decided going on my own, freelancing and launching own products. That was a hard year, a lot of stress, anxiety attacks. I made a huge mistake. Hopefully I'll try to change this.

This thread hits home with me. Its been a year since I went all into building my product. Its taken some time since I'm a solo founder and I am willing to accept that. It sucks. Sometimes you start questioning what you're doing. I started getting sudden anxiety attacks late last year. Abnormally long work/coding hours take a toll on your health. My most recent anxiety attack lasted 3 hours. Anyway, if any of you are in the sf/bay and want to hang out talk about product or whatever, I think there's a lot we can relate to. There needs to be more positive encouragement in our community.


Yeah, this is pretty much the way I've operated for the past few years. I can identify with many of the things the OP wrote--this stuff is really hard and emotionally draining.

I often joke that I wouldn't be doing this if I were smarter. When people say "You have to be crazy to be an entrepreneur", they're not kidding. That said, there isn't anything else I'd rather be doing.

And actually, it stretches past being an entrepreneur. The technology and information we have access to now creates opportunities that simply did not exist just 10 years ago and geography is increasingly irrelevant.

Further side note: I'm a big fan of history. I think that there's essentially this rising worldwide class of freelancers-turned tech entrepreneurs involved in a variety of "lifestyle" businesses where lifestyle = $300k+ p/year in income. In the future, this whole sector will be a lot more crowded and it will be very normal for people to have a bunch of different side businesses involving the internet. But this really is a significant historical trend and an emerging new social class I think, and I'm sure there will be a lot of debate about whether it's good or bad for society as a whole just as it has been with the move from farms to factories.

Same here, I love nearly every minute of it. If I sold out tomorrow, I'd start another project and work the same hours.

Here's an idea for a HN developer. Setup a site where entrepreneurs can hangout and chat daily. This next point is going to sound crazy, but only have the site online for 1 hour (or maybe two 1 hour sessions) a day. This way, we're not distracted to check the site on a constant basis, but it's more of a 1 hr daily meeting, where you can jump in, network, chat about your project, what you're working on, technologies, etc. Associate everyone with their related app or business, so you'll see 'Michael Gnade (IndieGameStand.com)', etc.

Can't remember the name, but heard a while back about a system that gathered independent freelancers/entrepreneurs in small groups (3-4?), and set up regular capped-length conference calls (20m?) where by convention each spoke for just a few minutes. It was creating a chance for check-in and follow-through – accountability to peers, even if not collaborators – without the open-ended digressions of other meetups. The person who mentioned it spoke highly of it – so there's definitely something to your suggestion, if the participants and boundaries are set well.

A definite no for me as well, because online contracting is almost infinitely better than most of the jobs I've had: painting houses, moving furniture, working in a Mac repair shop. The only two jobs that came close to the freedom I experience now were a contractor at hp for a year and six months contracting at a small company that provides mainframe services for banks.

The main downsides for me now are the feast or famine nature of working for one's self and isolation from teams of really smart people. I've found that this is mitigated by working on side projects that are close to my heart and move me from what life is to what life can be.

So on that note, I've stopped working nights and weekends so I can dabble in those projects and spend time with friends/family. The other thing that has helped immensely is delaying most to-dos and requests until the next day. So I usually handle the previous day's email the next morning unless it's an emergency.

Also I've moved my attention up to gigs that pay at least my overtime rate. A professional in Idaho should be making at least $40k per year to meet expenses which means I charge at least $30 per hour. I'm also realizing that the real money is made by taking gigs for more than this and hiring others for their overtime rate, because I probably need to multiply my efforts by however much is needed to start a family or contribute to my parents' care in retirement. I'm not sure how comfortable I am with the added responsibility though. If someone has any thoughts/experience with that, or how they transitioned from freelancer to client, I'd love to hear it.

I agreed with you until the part about entrepreneurship being a means to a goal. To me, entrepreneurship is the goal. Live in the now, not the future. Enjoy the process, etc.

I've got a team of 40+ (50% remote) with management for the stables, and I still work just as hard as when it was just me and my dog. But my end game isn't to lead by vacation, it's to drive this fucking company forward. I can't tell if you're doing it right, doing it wrong, hubris, a noob, or simply just awesomer than myself.

I think it's good to have a positive attitude, but I've been grinding for 8 years (the filling in my cookie sandwich is getting pretty thick) and maintaining a constant positive perspective is an impossibility.

Is it worth it ?

An impossible question to answer - changes by the minute, it seems. When we get to finish line, I hope to have a positive answer. Will always beat a real job tho...

"real job", ha you mean a "normal job" the kind people like us can't stand working.

Exactly. I was always an exemplary employee, but always had an underlining annoyance with myself because I was wasting what little time I have on this planet building somebody else's business - made me sick. So did everything I could to get and stay out.

Beautiful post. Abstract out the gaming aspect, and throw in a couple of kids, and I would've believed that I had written it. In my experience, it only gets harder once you start reproducing. All that kick ass time you have to decompress (hot Yoga, etc.), is now replaced with home stress (which is >= work stress) - and it only compounds everything.

I find that I increasingly crave human interaction (besides screaming children and agro SO), and really appreciate human connection more and more, when it does happen. But sometimes that human interaction comes at a cost of productivity and therein lies the rub.

My cutoff for work is supposed to be 11pm (shutdown all devices and decompress for at least 30min befor bed), but eventually things flare up - I'm up until 2am for a few weeks and forget all about my 'cutoff'. A few months later, I realize that I need a cutoff again. Vicious cycle.

Sorry, I'm rambling. I guess what I'm ultimately trying to say is that you are not alone - I think it's the price we pay, but it's always good to be smart about our approach.

I'm 25 and live precariously off of the meager income from my own projects.

My goal is to grow my income so that I can "finally do what I want", but sometimes I wonder if I'm squandering my life in a delusion.

Recently, my safety-net project suffered a catastrophic collapse out of nowhere and now I'm quickly trying to rebuild it.

Over time, an increasing amount of my energy is spent warding off the specter of self-doubt.

I'm moving towards doing more of my own projects, but for the past two year's I've been quite happy with contracting three to five days a week. It's harder to work on your own stuff when you're working for someone else in an office for more than three days, but it's a good way to save up some money and it's nice for a change.

I read somewhere that it takes 15 years to become a professional at anything. So when I started, I told myself that I had 15 years to get it right, and to not give up before then. Has served me well, as I have improved significantly over time and feel the odds of when I get to the 15th year, I will be pleased with the outcome and with the journey.

"The Struggle is when you wonder why you started the company in the first place.


The Struggle is not failure, but it causes failure. Especially if you are weak. Always if you are weak."

So untrue. You are not weak if you quit ! And conversely, you are not strong if you don't quit.

Sometimes, you should quit, and it takes courage to do so: when you gave so much to your project that quitting breaks your heart.

It was kind of funny to read the whole "Struggle" part. My response is, Nobody is forcing you to go through the struggle. Live in Bangladesh for $1/day and you will know Struggle. Whoever wrote it is seriously need to get some perspective.

And while the author is at it, he should stop complaining about anything because there is always someone worse off than him!

No lonely, no focus. No focus, no productivity.

Programmers are a different creature from other people. But enjoy.

This is something I've thought about a lot and I think a lot of the loneliness comes in the early stages of being an internet entrepreneur, the times when you don't need to / can't afford to hire full time employees and open an office. For me at least, my ideal working environment would be something like the way 37Signals is setup. When you get to the point where you can hire a handful of employees and open an office but only go to the office when you feel like it.

Another option that also sounds fun is to startup a small retail company, maybe related to one of your hobbies, something that at least requires some foot traffic at a physical location. Find someone to run it and go there to manage and check on things whenever you feel the need, or better yet, grab your laptop and work on your internet startup from there.

It seems that all my ideas require you to have some extra cash and time on the side though so they're not always possible for a 1 or 2 man bootstrapped startup. If you can get to the point where you've got things running pretty smoothly with your internet company and are making decent money, these options might be something to look forward to.

> Few or no colleagues

> Working remotely is lonely

Both pros for me.

We created tribes (http://tribes.techendo.co/) to basically combat this while expanding your network and resources. If you're in SF, you should join us. If you're not in SF you can take our guidelines (http://tribes.techendo.co/rules) and help create a tribe in your area.

People with experience with this, what do you think of coworking spaces? They seem like a great solution to the loneliness and can even yield some nice networking. Any downsides to them?

They are loud. Then again I am a programmer, so headphones can solve the only real downside for me. I don't have to make calls all day.

But to more specifically address your offering a coworking space as a solution to meeting other people. It probably comes down to personality, but I am an introvert and find it very difficult to just start talking to someone. So, it ends up a bit like being at a party full of strangers. You are pretty sure there are some cool people around, but have no idea what the first step is for locating them and then breaking the ice. There are sometimes happy hour type events, but people tend to group up with people they already know and give you the 'what do you want' look if you start the slow awkward approach. Again, there are lots of people who are good at this, I am not one of them.

To summarize, it can be a good solution or not depending on your personality. My solution is to schedule lunches with my friends and people I have met who were interesting. That lowers the burden of meeting new people at the coworking space, which can then happen a little more organically.

What if it was a coworking space that first introduced the members, what they do and what their plans are, etc (as an ice breaker). Being able to gather many entrepreneurial minds in one building is quite powerful, many opportunities there...

Many coworking spaces have 'after work talks' or work with local meetup groups so they end up doing this kind of thing.

They are loud though - I worked in one once which was full of recruitment people who yakked on the phone all day, not nice.

Coffee shops, malls, cafes, diners, bars, libraries, Meetups, parks, schools, etc. Build a repertoire, find ways to avoid traffic, crowds, etc. Anywhere you can bring a laptop. Buy a WIFI hotspot. Keep an extra battery. Bring snacks. Variety is the key. They all have advantages/disadvantages. And you'll find entrepreneurs everywhere, not just coworking spaces.

What about a coworking space with high speed Internet access, printers/scanners/faxes and other equipment for work, space for hardware design/hacking, a powerful computer for CAD/3D modelling? Would you go there and pay for a membership?

No. I have a printer and PC at home.

I don't see the appeal. Here's a typical coworking space in Austin http://capitalfactory.com/work/coworking/ $350/month doesn't even get you a desk vs. (random Craigslist post) private office with a private bathroom http://austin.craigslist.org/off/4235555193.html walking distance from Dell. (No affiliation with either link!)

I can see "coworking" for artists/sculptors/printmakers because you have the shared gallery, shared tools, shared materials, shared Home Depot runs, guestbook/email list for the massive wine & cheese party.

Interesting. I also graduated with a degree in Real Estate at about the same time as you (bad timing) and have since moved on to the software industry (self-taught).

Very beautiful put and aptly said. And, yes in the end, it's worth the reward.

Too late, voice of wisdom, too late!

another casualty here.

does it bug anybody else that the alt text is in the stress level screenshot?

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