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The Cult of 'Killing It' (459pm.com)
40 points by jasontraff on July 10, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 13 comments



If you have to consistently work 100 hour weeks for your startup to survive, you probably have bigger-picture problems that need addressing.

It's normal for there to be occasions where you need to put your head down and hustle, but this shouldn't be the persistent standard. People are most productive (and happy) when they live a largely balanced life, punctuated by brief stretches of high-gear hustle.


I've stopped talking about "Work-life balance" and started speaking almost exclusively to my employees and peers in terms of "sustainability." I've found that work-life balance carries negative connotations and speaks to an end, not a means. I'm glad to see the terminology shared elsewhere.

Completely agree with this article; especially on the point about a small-startup being unable to "out-work" a larger company.


Sustainability sounds better to me personally. I think we all have our own tolerance levels when it comes to how many hours we can dedicate to "work" vs. "life" and still be happy. That term seems a bit more appropriate than the common "work/life balance".


Look, I agree with a lot of what you have said, but at the same time it is a little unfair to paint this as some universal truth.

> There is nothing noble about being willing to sacrifice everything for success.

Maybe not to you, but many people find nobility in success. For example, I recently watched the "When we left earth" [1] series about the intense NASA effort to put a person on the moon. There was quite a bit of sacrifice involved for many many years towards one single goal, but damn if the people involved didn't take a great amount of pride in their accomplishment afterwards. Building a startup might not be putting a person on the moon, but it sure can feel like that when you are involved in it.

> Remember, the road is long and you’re going to be on that grind for a long time

I compare my career in startup-land vs friends and relatives in careers that are actually a grind (try politics), and I will tell you how many of them would love the opportunity to work much harder to compress the timelines of their careers, but they can't.

I'm not saying that having a sustainable culture of the proper amount of work isn't good, I think it is. But if somebody is working 80 hours a week for something they believe in, I say good for them! Maybe they like it, maybe they have fewer responsibilities, maybe they genetically need less sleep than everybody else. Who knows. But I certainly don't assume they are making a bad decision because it isn't one that I would make.

1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_We_Left_Earth:_The_NASA_Mi...


In scale of awesomeness, 99.9% of silicon valley is closer to "Goldman Sachs" than "The Apollo Project" (if not below both). If a Goldman Sachs analyst spends his Christmas eve looking at charts, claiming he's furthering the wealth of mankind, you'd probably laugh.


It is not true that 99.9% of Silicon Valley is not furthering the wealth of mankind. Making products that are useful to people, in fact, does further the wealth of mankind.


Sure, just like the Goldman Sachs analyst does generate liquidity.

Ok, ok, cheap shot. But come on, here: the average product created by a Silicon Valley startup barely reaches the threshold you've set (usefulness), never mind the more widely agreed upon definition of "furthering the wealth of mankind" (contributing to a substantial improvement in the human condition or knowledge).


Okay, but even if 50% or more of startups don't actually succeed in being useful to people, by failing, they still aren't trying to be whatever you deem Goldman Sachs to be -- they are (many of them are) attempting to make something useful.

(I also think Goldman Sachs does useful things too, like buying commodities when they're cheap so that they can sell them when they're not cheap, an act which, if Goldman makes money off the trades, causes certain units of that commodity to be more used more efficiently.)


There are few people that benefit if a startup makes it. Generally they're the founders and investors. Investors invest, so they don't do any of the work. That really leaves the founders. Is it worth it for the founders? That depends on the exit, but if they get lucky enough, it will be. For everyone else that's 'killing it,' they're only killing themselves. It will not be rewarded in any objective way and it will be punished as everyone has physical limitations. I believe it's for the the rest of us that the article is intended, not founders. Of course, if the company doesn't make it, no one succeeds and no one gets a rewards. That's the startup gamble.

Personally, I stopped gambling a long time ago, soon after I realized that whether I worked hard or normal, without being a founder, it made absolutely zero difference.

EDIT: Comparing a startup to putting a man on the moon is a bit over the top and ludicrous. Startups are businesses designed to make money; landing on the moon is an accomplishment in and of itself.


Pedantic note: They were burgled. To be robbed you have to be there.


You are correct, and made me smile. Thank you.


I feel like OP needlessly draws conclusions too far from a single dropped phrase, which by itself could've been an exaggeration.

Maybe there's some background on the person who said it? If a guy with wife and kids spends Christmas night in the office, that's different. Otherwise, well, perhaps someone isn't very sociable or their daily schedule got messed up. Perhaps they have financial trouble and live at the office, who knows.

> There’s an ethos in the tech community that wisdom is gained through suffering, and that if you can suffer more than everyone else, you’ll be the wisest.

Perhaps it's OP who's looking at the world still somewhat through this prism.

I was working through last couple of New Year eves. (I work remotely, though.) Not that I was trying to ‘kill it’, I believe in working smart as opposed to working hard. Simply had nothing better to do at that particular time. My schedule periodically slips and I work at nights, but it doesn't mean I work harder than usual.


I particularly liked the juxtaposition of these three sentences:

>Instead, I think it’s much more likely that you’ll become disconnected from your support network, burnt out from exhaustion and frustration, unable to inspire your best employees, and ultimately fail. Kinda like I did. :) Even now, when I look for company’s to invest in...

Is this the kind of failure one experiences when losing at a board game?




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