Self Care November 23, 2020

I drove myself into the ground


I've been building my startup + working a BigTech job for 18 months. Why? To pay the bills + bootstrap.

Consistent 12-14 hour days, 20+ meetings/day, continuous context-switching between startup/job (to the point where I was sending job emails from my startup email 😂). It's not just about time. Layer in founder stress + family obligations, and I created a pretty gnarly situation for myself.

Last week, I started experiencing ice-pick headaches which turned into fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms, ultimately leading to a fairly disabling viral infection (not covid ICYWW). I avoided screen-time for days, flushed out work from my brain. Finally woke up today, feeling like an alive human, and have made the call to quit my day job, and go all in on the startup.

This is a decision I'll never be comfortable with. I don't come from money, don't have a big safety net, have zero VC/SV connections, and am a first-time founder. But .. I have an amazing family, some personal $$ runway, a product + initial traction, and unending belief.

To all my fellow founders who are at the ledge of the diving board .. whether to go full-time or not - if you've made some start progress, have deep conviction in the idea, can survive for 6 months .. then take the dive. 2021 is our year.

  1. 2

    Hang in there @rainbowdash.

    Two years ago my colleague and I left our telco jobs to found a startup that we'd been working on on the side. We set aside a runway of around 18 months to work on the idea, with an exit plan of heading back to the corporate world if it didn't work out.

    And it didn't. Because life happened - bills, kids going to Uni etc. So the 18-month runway became 12, and we found ourselves back in a regular job shortly thereafter.

    But lo and behold, that startup itch doesn't ever go away. Difference this time is, we're not going to leave our jobs until the idea is making enough money. Not really ideal, but that's the balance between idealism and real-world obligations that I have to take.

    So hang in there. With some care and good luck, you'll find what you're looking for.

  2. 2

    I personally don't think 6 months is enough time.

    Remember that whatever runway you think you have, subtract 3 months from it. That's because if you decide you need a job again, it will take a few months to find the right opportunity and job-hunting is a full time job itself.

    I don't mean to be a downer, just being practical. I've been in your position.

    You may find this thread and the commentary that followed interesting:

    1. 1

      @yongfook 100% agree. Thinking back again, 12 mo personal runway is min.

  3. 1

    I went through your posts and saw your idea. Very cool and I think this could blow. Best wishes.

  4. 1

    Only have one thing to say: we never regret what we do, only what we don't do.

    If your heart is telling you to go try it, do it and learn all you can.

    When you look back in the future, it will all be good memories.

  5. 1

    Good idea! All the best!

    Quitting the 9to5 and starting something of my own has been the best decision I've ever made and it's been 10 years now :)

    As for mental health / clarity - I do the Wim Hof Method breathing and lately TRE (Tension Reducing Exercises) and that helps a lot with the buildup.

  6. 1

    I appreciate your openness about this. I think it is fair to go all in once there is traction and one has a comfortable safety net.

    However, I also have seen multiple founders dry out their savings and live in very poor conditions for too long, not quitting because "a winner never quits". Just a few days ago there was a thread here on how much money is necessary to go all in, with testimonials on how bootstrapping can actually lead to severe financial stress.

    You've made your decision and I fully encourage you, I will checkout your product if it's relevant to me. I will however not encourage anyone to jump in head first when they are past a certain stage in their lives (beyond recent grad with very little commitments), unless the have a solid safety net or a very long runway (12+ months).

    1. 1

      Thanks @boristane. Agree on the 12 mo personal runway (that's what I have). I'm building Wildkard ( - a chat+media platform for youth sports teams (adult teams can use it too).

Recommended Posts