In Defense of Valentines Day
Ok, I am the first to admit that this is an unusual plea from a hard-driving, rational physicist turned Venture Capitalist. So, what on Earth am I doing defending this Hallmark Holiday?
Indulge me while I make this connection. One of the things that I care about professionally is to future proof startups and equip them with what they need to make their business a resounding success. How do we do that in an environment where odds are 9 out 10 startups fail? And does it have to be this way?
There is a lot written out there on the business side of this journey, including by us at Sputnik ATX.
But here, I will address the emotional side of starting a business. As humans, particularly startup humans, we are very resilient, and we should be. With every startup that goes through Sputnik, we are brutally honest with our founders about what it takes to grow a startup, and the emotional toll you have to pay.
You are in an eighty-hour-per -week grinder, where every other day is a fight for survival; where you do not know where the next round of funding is coming from; where you might have separated from your co-founder and re-built the team; where your most trusted developer that you relied on to finish the product release is lured away by your bitter rival; where your biggest customer you have been cultivating for a while has a change in direction and leaves you hanging; where your trusted partner leaves you overnight with just an email notice and you are left to pick up the pieces of the broken project all by yourself. Sound scary? It should. This list goes on and on.
I really wish I could tell you that all of the above are singular events that happen once in a lifetime. But the reality is these are regular occurrences for every successful startup founder. Also, let me remind you that unlike the overnight unicorns you might have read about in the news, it takes most companies 8-10 years to go from inception to stability. As I have mentioned above, it is anything but a straight line to stardom.
So what do we do? How do we survive and keep bringing our very best to our teams, our customers, and the world around us? What gives us strength to keep delivering on our mission for eighty hours per week for the next 8-10 years?
The secret to this is to build strong support networks, and to start with your loved ones. It may be your spouse, you parent, your child, your friend. A lot of you right away argue with me that you don’t have time in your above mentioned 80 hour week -- it is just not possible, and maybe you’ll offer five other well rounded reasons on this.
I emphatically disagree. First off, it is not the time, it is the intention. Most kind and thoughtful things we do for each other are not long and tedious. Let me ask you this:
How long does it take to give your child an extra long hug How long does it take to genuinely compliment your spouse on something that is special about them? How long does it take to call your mom on your way to work? How long does it take to play hockey (or in my case tennis) with your friends What about a walk with your friend, or a meal/ manicure/ golf with your girlfriends?
If you are honest with yourself, the answer is “not that long, I have just not thought about it in this way.”
Your time with your loved ones may be short, but make it intentional, non- negotiable and be present when you show love. As your VC advisor, I would say that the ROI on these minutes would be one of the highest you have achieved on that day.
I love life hacks, so let me offer one from the amazing coach Brendon Burchard. He sets a daily alarm on his phone to remind himself to give love to the love of his life, Denise. What would your “love alarm” be?
I’m no love coach, but I am an entrepreneur who is married to entrepreneur. My husband and I have lived this lifestyle for more than a decade while raising two amazing kids. We have made SO MANY mistakes in this area that I am seriously contemplating a book. We took each other for granted, put our businesses ahead of each other, and came dangerously close to not recovering from this turmoil. Without a shadow of doubt, not catching ourselves in time would have destroyed us and, as collateral, would have affected our businesses. We were lucky to see the warning signs and figure it out, and we did not work any less in the process.
Your mental toughness and ability to make into reality what was science fiction yesterday rests squarely on your ability to rejuvenate. To be able to do that, you will need your loved ones in your camp. They will remind you how strong you are when nothing goes right,. They will kick you off the pedestal should your head get too big after you raise that new round. They will help you make it through this hard and long journey. They will make it fun.
So, stop reading this post, get out there, and do something special and surprising for someone you love. After all, Hallmark and Oksana are telling you so :)
Happy Valentines Day!