In between the two launches of Feel, for various reasons, I decided not to do any work for roughly two weeks. In that time, I went to Cabo by myself for a week. It wasn’t the Cabo Wabo drunk club beach party sunburn kinda trip. On the contrary, I was driven 45 minutes into the middle of nowhere, wedged between a desert and a beach, living in a glorified hut with WiFi and an open-face to the waves. My host was a lovely 70-year old woman who renamed herself Elena, who’s been completely off the grid for 25+ years. There was no running water or electricity (water was periodically restocked and stored in giant tanks, power was supplied by the sun or by gas tanks), I took shits in a (nicely decorated) outhouse – i.e. no flushing, and showered from a bucket for 2 days. But on the bright side, I woke up to the sound of waves every morning, had almost no distraction from technology, and practically had miles of beaches to myself because I was miles away from mainstream tourism. Needless to say, I did A LOT of thinking and reading.
I had a wake up call after my first launch. Ever since I got back from Asia in January, my life had been fairly focused on bringing my idea to life. In the fashion of my superhuman immigrant parents who work for hours on end, I (tried) to follow suit. I worked my own hours on end, with the mindset that there wasn’t enough time to do everything that I needed to do, rarely proactively scheduling any sort of breaks. I definitely feel like my life slipped out of balance – not that I completely neglected everything in my life, but I certainly didn’t apply the same focus, creativity, and determination to other people and areas that are important to me. In retrospect, it was unhealthy and probably not sustainable.
To a degree, our culture encourages workaholism – I remember having conversations with my coworkers about how late we stayed at our office, jokingly trying to one-up each other as if it were a badge of honor (and I certainly felt like it was in a twisted way). This is even more pronounced by the fact that my parents and the rest of the first generation immigrants worked their fucking asses off to make it in America and give us a better life.
I still have immense respect for my parents’ work ethic. However, I am seriously questioning the correlation between hours worked and actual productivity. For my parents’ occupations, their productivity and salary was in direct relation to their hours worked – more hours, more money. For me, it is not necessarily true that the more hours I work, the more productive I will be. How would you even define productivity in this sense?
First off, designing and developing a product is a very creatively intense task. From a macro perspective – I must make sure that I am building what people want, that I’m making the correct decisions, solving the right problems, etc. From a micro perspective – I could be stuck on a coding problem for hours on end without ample creative problem-solving energy, or I could be wasting my time on designs that suck, etc. I have always had a hunch that sometimes creativity comes to you when you give it space to incubate, when you aren’t working on it 24/7. Sometimes brute force isn’t always the best path.
Looking way beyond productivity in a pure business context, pretty much every other area of my life was relatively stagnant. Even in a pure business context, if your body doesn’t have the vibrant health and energy it needs, your mind isn’t focused and sharp, your soul not centered, your relationships strained, there’s no way you’d be effective in said business. Not to mention, your body doesn’t have the vibrant health and energy it needs, your mind isn’t focused and sharp, your soul isn’t centered, and your relationships are strained.
To quote a passage from Arianna Huffington’s (of Huffington Post and Time 100 fame) amazingly inspirational Thrive:
Look at Steve Jobs, a man whose life, at least as the public saw it, was about creating things–things that were, yes, amazing and game changing. But when his sister, Mona Simpson, rose to honor him at his memorial service, that’s not what she focused on.
Yes, she talked about his work and his work ethic. But mostly she raised these as manifestations of his passions. ‘Steve worked at what he loved,’ she said. What really moved him was love. ‘Love was his supreme virtue,’ she said, ‘his god of gods.’
‘When [his son] Reed was born, he began gushing and never stopped. He was a physical dad, with each of his children. He fretted over Lisa’s boyfriends and Erin’s travel and skirt lengths and Eve’s safety around the horses she adored.’
His sister made abundantly clear in her eulogy that Steve Jobs was a lot more than just the guy who invented the iPhone. He was a brother and a husband and a father who knew the true value of what technology can so easily distract us from. Even if you build an iconic product, one that lives on in our lives, what is foremost in the minds of the people you care about most about are the memories you built in their lives.
I was feeling curious, so I asked Quora about how people balance launching their startup with their personal life. Someone answered and scoffed “lol healthy balance”. I want to begin to challenge the notion that you have to work 200+ hours a week in order to be the next big startup, that you can’t be successful AND have a balanced lifestyle.
I spent a lot of time thinking about how to achieve this in Cabo. It’s only the beginning, but I am excited to try various things to restore balance to the things that matter to me, to structure my life and goals and plans in a way that reinforces the idea that I am wealthy in terms of my time. I am certainly not scaling back my ambitions by any means, but I have to challenge myself to be more and give more to my life than I have been. Let’s see how this goes.