It all depends on your definition of success. Clearly you can build a company that does millions in sales with a 4-day workweek, just look at Treehouse. And for most people, that’s an awesome success. But there’s different classes of success. Putting it in baseball terms, there’s singles, doubles, triples and home runs. If you want to hit a home run, you’re not making it home for dinner every night.
Think about it. How many billion dollar businesses had founders with a great work/life balance? Not many. Do you think Bill Gates, Steve Jobs & Jeff Bezos put in a 40-hour workweek? Probably not.
Now admittedly, I’m young (24) and don’t mind putting in the crazy hours. I’m your typical “balls to the wall” founder that will sacrifice all for the sake of the startup. But all the data points I’ve personally experienced reinforce that.
For example, I work out of the VeloCity Garage in Waterloo, Canada. The most recent successes to come out of there are BufferBox & Thalmic Labs. Both are also YC companies. BufferBox sold to Google back in November & Thalmic sold $1.5M in gesture control armbands in 2 days. You know what those companies had in common? They were easily the hardest working teams in the whole workspace. By a long shot.
BufferBox jokingly referred to their work hours as the new 9-5; 9am to 5am. And after rooming with a couple of the Thalmic founders for 6 months, I can verify that they were on the same schedule.
The companies that weren’t? Still toiling away. The notion that you need to work like crazy doesn’t come out of the blue, there’s data to back it up. Are there outliers, like Treehouse, that buck the trend? Absolutely. But startups are hard enough as it is without pushing your luck.
That’s why you need to work hard and play just enough to keep going. Stepping away from work every once in a while is good for you. It keeps your morale, productivity and creativity high. But you don’t need a perfect work/life balance to achieve that. I can work 70 hours a week consistently and be fine. Any more than that and I start to make bad decisions.
That’s my line. It isn’t a balanced life, but historically, it gives me the best chance to succeed. And since I’m going for a home run, that’s the line I need to walk.