Sacrificing Our Health for Our Startup is Not OK

"This may sound crazy, but ever since launching my startup I'm gaining weight, losing sleep, building a mountain of anxieties, and am in the worst emotional state I've ever been in. Is this just how it goes or am I doing something really wrong?"

June 29th, 2022   |    By: Wil Schroter

Show me a startup Founder and I'll show you someone with a boatload of health issues.

But why? Why is nearly every Founder who is neck-deep in the trenches of their startup suffering from physical, mental, and emotional issues? More importantly, why do we feel like these sacrifices are justified?

We are surrounded by tons of Founders all essentially making the same mistakes at exactly the same time, particularly with our health, at which point we assume that must be "how it goes." And yet, the reason we're all blowing ourselves up is that collectively we're doing it all wrong.

Are Sacrifices the Cost of Being a Founder?

To an extent, yes, we do have to make sacrifices to build a startup. We need way more resources than we can possibly pay for — it's kinda that simple. But what exactly are the limits of this sacrifice? At what point is the cost simply too high?

At which point that cost begins to physically and mentally destroy us, we're no longer sacrificing for the benefit of our startup, we're quite literally destroying our bodies, the very vessel we need to make our startup successful, toward the goal of creating a successful startup.

We've got to understand the contradiction here. Imagine that we're rowing a boat to get to the other side of a metaphorical lake, yet in order to row longer and faster, we think that firing holes in this boat will somehow help. That's what we're doing to our bodies — firing holes in the boat — and somehow thinking that we'll improve our chances of making it to the other side.

No One Wants This

In our minds, we often justify this by thinking that the physical destruction of our bodies is something that others actually want. Not explicitly — that would be awful — but implicitly.

We think that our investors want us to forgo sleep to build our startups. We think that our employees are fine with us being in an emotional grinder 24x7. We think that our families are OK with our bodies being ground down so that "they may have a better life someday."

No! None of these people want these things! We totally made that up! No one wants to see us destroy ourselves for our startup, so our external motivations aren't real. They are bullshit, we made them up, and now we're killing ourselves to support them.

Also, if someone actually did say they wanted us to destroy ourselves for their benefit I have some very choice expletives for that person.

It's Critical that We're Healthy

Not only do we not want to kill our bodies and minds to build a startup, we actually have to do the polar opposite — we have to heal and improve them. Going without sleep doesn't make us a better Founder. Being riddled with anxiety doesn't make us better decision-makers. Working 16 hours straight doesn't equal actual productivity.

If we really took our startup seriously we'd be doing the polar opposite. We'd be getting as much sleep as we need, exercising regularly, eating well, working through our emotional challenges, and trying to keep our precious vessel as fit as possible — like an Olympic athlete.

And that's how we need to think of ourselves — like a startup athlete. Someone that treats their body as a temple and puts the value of that temple above all else, not at the expense of our startup, but in service of it.

In Case You Missed It

How Do I Leave My Startup Stress At Work? While startup stress might not ever diminish completely, how we manage it can help us navigate balance in our lives as Founders.

We Can't Keep Ignoring Founder Emotions (podcast) Let's talk about the impact of Founders feeling uncomfortable about sharing their emotions, why you are being put in the wrong light, unpacking emotions to show vulnerability, and the difference between problems and emotions.

When Our Startup Works For Everyone But Us The effort we put into our startup is a sacrifice in all forms and shapes, to the extent of spending less time with family, neglecting our health, or even getting a pay cut just to keep the business rolling. So, what happens when things work for everyone else but not for you?


About the Author

Wil Schroter

Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes BizplanClarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.

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