I've been meaning to comment on this blog post for a long time… it's the story of the Founder and CEO of Docstoc, a service I happen to really like and use for that matter.  Jason talks about all the life changes that have taken place since he started his company.  Objectively speaking, most of them are negative — significant weight gain, poorer exercise habits, extremely late nights at the office one after another without end, damaged personal/family relationships, hardcore introversion.  Jason, in effect, has become a totally different person.

It sounds more like a case of depression than a healthy startup!

Now I can truly appreciate Jason's devotion to his business.  He clearly articulates what starting a business means from a professional perspective.  When you create a startup, it really does become an obsession of sorts.

But, my first reaction to reading this was extremely negative.  I am a ridiculously competitive person who wants my startup to succeed as much if not more than Jason.  But I don't think I could allow myself to work nonstop until 2am every day, give up all my hobbies, and add 30% to my weight over a one year period.  I certainly wouldn't stay married if that were the case!

I don't think it's a good idea to adopt those kinds of work habits, even in the most competitive & fast moving business.  We're all different in terms of what we can endure and what makes us excel.  I certainly can't comment on Jason as a CEO — and his company has certainly done well — but overall I think that people who work like this are ironically less effective than their counterparts who work intensely but also have a life outside of the startup.

I work better focusing on high-quality, intense, and productive 60 hour work weeks that allow me to ramp up significantly if circumstances warrant.  I prioritize time aggressively and automate as many "busy work" processes as I can to free time for other parts of my life.  Regular exercise and competitive sports both help me think much clearer and afford me much needed opportunities to let out frustration. :-)  I make sure to enjoy some time with my wife every week.  I stay active with volunteer pursuits and I try to meet people in my community as much as I can.  All told, it really works for me.  My CTO works best getting in the office a little later so he can handle family responsibilities, but then working late into the night every night to make things happen.  Overall, we subscribe to a philosophy that allows for us to work hard and play hard… we just think that helps us make better decisions that satisfy customers.  All of this isn't to say we don't have long weeks — we certainly do.  But we really question the value of every incremental hour beyond consistent 60 hour weeks.  There are too many impacts on your life, your health, your relationships, and your sanity.  Jason is a prime example of that.  I think it can significantly impact your decision making as well, especially if your running too hot for too long.

I haven't yet talked with too many VCs and investors about this specific issue.  It's one of those touchy issues — there is a lot of machismo in our business around "commitment to one's business".  I wonder how many VCs and investors really believe that startup executives should work consistent 12-14 hour days to make a business go.  At the end of the day, how many investors really think that total, constant, and extreme immersion in a business is a necessary success factor for the startup entrepreneur?  My advice:  take a break now and then.  It will make the hours you do spend a lot more productive, and you won't destroy your life at the same time you pursue your dream.