Startups Are Hard. So Work More, Cry Less, And Quit All The Whining

I slept at work again last night; two and a half hours curled up in a quilt underneath my desk, from 11am to 1:30pm or so. That was when I woke up with a start, realizing that I was late for a meeting…But it was no big deal, we just had the meeting later. It’s hard for someone to hold it against you when you miss a meeting because you’ve been at work so long that you’ve passed out from exhaustion.

Suddenly everyone’s complaining about how unfair things are in Silicon Valley. How hard everyone has to work so darn hard, and how some people don’t get venture capital or a nice sale to Facebook or Google even though lots of other people are getting those things.

Silicon Valley is an unfair place, say all the headlines. The CNN racism documentary was just one piece of this. Another are the cries from the press that Zynga would actually consider renegotiating contracts with highly compensated employees no longer pulling their weight. Expect more articles soon about the woes of being asked to work hard at a startup. People are working so hard, they’re crying themselves to sleep!

As if all of this was new. The quote above isn’t from some overworked Zynga engineer. It was written in 1994 by Jamie Zawinski, an early engineer at Netscape. Here’s more:

I saw Ian today, for the first time in months. His first words were, “Wow, you look like shit.” He says I seem really strung-out and twitchy. I thought I had been doing ok! I got a full night’s sleep last night and everything. I have no life. I never see any of my non-work friends, and I’m wasting away my one and only youth. I ought to be out doing fun things and active things, the kind of things I won’t be able to do when my mind and body finally decay. But instead I’m stuck inside under fluorescent lights, pushing bits around inside a computer in ways that are only interesting to other nerds. I glanced at a movie listing and there are movies out that I haven’t even heard of. How did that happen? That freaks me out. I bought some wrist braces at a drug store, and I’ve been typing with them for a couple of days.

I don’t think it’s helping much; my middle finger doesn’t hurt quite as much, but my ring finger is just as bad. This job is destroying my body. This can’t be worth it.

and

Well the kids went out to get drunk, or rather, more drunk. I think they might have actually gone out to a strip club again. How classy is that?

Oh good, the kids are back, and they are well hammered. None of them can walk properly, and they keep bumping into the cubicle walls and making everything on my desk shake. Since I’m not drunk, the impedance mismatch makes it impossible for me to carry on a conversation with them, so I’m just trying to block them out. But now they’re all playing networked DOOM at top volume, so in order to concentrate, I have to wear headphones with music on at top volume, and even that doesn’t quite work. Since, as I mentioned, they keep making the mistake of trying to walk, and they’re making all the shit on my desk bounce around.

It’s a saturday night, and I’m in my cubicle surrounded by a bunch of drunken farmboys from Illinois who haven’t been more than two miles from our office in scenic downtown Mountain View in four months.

My ears are going to be ringing after this. Fuck it, I’m going home. (Check that — my ears are ringing.)

and

I’m so fucking burnt. Existence is suffering.

We’re doomed.

I’d work on my resumé, but I don’t even have anything new to put on it yet, because we haven’t actually shipped anything.

I’m going to go home and cry myself to sleep now.

Yes, there was crying. Even way back in 1994.

But then, the payoff. That fleeting moment of glory that every twenty-something overworked engineer dreams of:

The power came back on, and we put the damnable program on the FTP server, and two million people all started attempting to download it at once, before we had even posted the announcement message, and we’re done done done and I suppose now we can all live happily ever after.

We sat in the conference room and hooked up the big TV to one of the Indys, so that we could sit around in the dark and watch the FTP download logs scroll by. jg hacked up an impromptu script that played the sound of a cannon shot each time a download successfully completed. We sat in the dark and cheered, listening to the explosions.

You can imagine the same words, the exact same words, being written by the guys that created the early Zynga games. Or Google. Or Facebook. Or some startup that failed miserably and was forgotten. Maybe some of those people think that they’ve been worked harder than anyone else has ever worked in Silicon Valley. That working so hard, working all the time, is an extraordinary demand on their soul.

They’re wrong. This is what startups are made of.

If you work at a startup and you think you’re working too hard and sacrificing too much, find a job somewhere else that will cater to your needs.

But if deep down you know that you’re part of history, that the things you are building will be written about and thought about forever, then maybe after that good cry after a short sleep under your desk you’ll pull yourself together and remember. That you are a person in the Arena. A Pirate. That you are here to make a dent in the universe.

You might be sad that you work long hours and that sometimes your boss yells at you when tensions run high. But you also know that there is nowhere on earth like Silicon Valley. Nowhere else that is structurally designed to help you make whatever you can imagine into reality. Nowhere else where there are so many like minded people who are willing to sacrifice and work hard to create something new.

There’s so much money in Silicon Valley now that a lot of non-like minded people have rolled in. Looking for easy stock options at a hot startup. They start whining when they realize that they have to give so much to make it all work. This happens periodically, and I wrote about it back in 2007. Then a downturn happens and suddenly everyone left is just thankful they’re still here.

But if too many people like this roll into town, a tipping point will be reached. And the magic will be gone.

It feels like we’re getting there. That not too long from now people will be talking about maximum working hours, minimum numbers of engineers assigned to complete a given task. And, shudder, unionization of startup workers.

I really hope that doesn’t happen. If it does, all the really necessary people will just leave and do their thing somewhere else.

Work hard. Cry less. And realize you’re part of history.

Update: Zynga “colleagues broke down into tears.” FFS, the place has free acupuncture and an organic cafeteria.

Update 2: Evil, bad, horrible Zynga

279 thoughts on “Startups Are Hard. So Work More, Cry Less, And Quit All The Whining

    • Chas Emerick says:

      Jamie Zawinski (the programmer quoted extensively above) does not endorse this message:

      http://www.jwz.org/blog/2011/11/watch-a-vc-use-my-name-to-sell-a-con/

      • There’s no end to what you can achieve when you have the vision, determination, and an endless supply of expendable labor deluded by promise of fame and fortune!

        I completely agree with Jamie. Why should we be using up people, and then when there’s absolutely nothing left: trading them them out for a new sucker? Why should we treat anyone this way? Why the hell do we think that in order to “make it” we need to burn ourselves out? What happens after the burnout? I can tell you: depression, lack of concentration, and a bitterness toward any promise of wealth. All the money and success in the world don’t mean a thing if you’re too sick to even notice them. Some mention in a history textbook isn’t worth the monumental sacrifice of so many people in my life.

        • OMG – I want a plaque with the “There’s no end to what you can achieva when you have the vision, determination and an endless supply of expendable labor deluded by promise of fame and fortune!”

          …wait…I may be missing your point. Can I keep my plaque anyway?
          ;)

  1. benmilne says:

    “Work hard. Cry less. And realize you’re part of history.” Stellar ending.

    • jenifer says:

      oh yea .. can you recall the names of 10 early employees of apple besides Woz and Jobs or 10 employees of Facebook … i bet they worked their ass off for the slice in history … lets call it what it is … for founders it is being part of history for the rest of them its a way to make a quick buck or get some experience for your own startup … and not being conned and lured into the ‘part of history’ pickup line …

  2. Startup idea: Create a startup which helps entrepreneurs cry more efficiently. Implementing Facebook/Twitter sharing should work well too.

  3. chris b says:

    :: wipes single tear away ::

    :: rises from easy chair ::

    :: creates mobile app that cures cancer ::

  4. Agree with most of this. I think people do burn out, though, which is good for nobody – and that balance leads to more creative thinking, which is good for everybody. There’s no doubt that startups are hard, though, and definitely not for everybody. Too many people still think it’s like a 9 to 5 but with more of a chance of suddenly making it big.

  5. Great article! We often get caught up in the little things, so it’s nice to take a step back and remember why we do what we do.

  6. ItsLeeOwen says:

    Startups will be looking to Foxconn for guidance on overclocking HPUs, human processing units.

  7. Nnamdi says:

    I thought this was an already self-evident fact to everyone who was attempting to start a company. This life SUCKS!!!! I almost have no social life anymore and worst of all, the end isn’t even in sight yet.

    But, when all is said and done, I wouldn’t have it any other way. :-)

  8. lawstudent says:

    Written by somebody who knows and has worked the hours required in biglaw. :) Go mike!

  9. Amy says:

    Ok. Back to work. I needed that.

  10. Thanks for writing this, Mike. We needed it.

  11. Ramfla says:

    Having a startup myself in Silicon Valley, I appreciate the commentary. Except, nothing justifies racism. Racism and sexism, if they exist in the valley, they better be eradicated. It will not affect at all the success of our best entrepreneurs. Sometimes, we have the tendency to justify bad behavior as an excuse for failure. But if power abuse is going on, and/or abuse that is against the basic freedom of a person, then everyone should stand up against it. Some people do abuse their power, and even if they are very smart, they do need to pay for that.

  12. “then maybe after that good cry after a short sleep under your desk you’ll pull yourself together and remember. That you are a person in the Arena. A Pirate. That you are here to make a dent in the universe.” — I’m coughing at that. Partly from crying, laughing, agreeing. If you’re not compelled to “make the dent,” a startup is a brutal, confusing, exhausting place to be. Good post! I’m curious about what people do to “pull yourself together and remember.” You must find something that works – a support system, a vision (or delusion), exercise, etc.

  13. anuj says:

    brilliant piece mike! we need such articles every now n then to keep ourselves motivated.

  14. Ramiro says:

    Are we still on this? Really? Arrington talking down to us peons as if the only problem in SV is that we – *read women and minorities* don’t have a strong enough work ethic? As if we haven’t worked hard all of our lives and don’t know who usually gets the lion’s share of our hard work? This is a rehash of the Right wing habit of using bias to intimidate and invalidate. I’ve seen this formula before and I’m sure I’ll see it again…it’s just that old and tired.

    • fred says:

      I agree. A bit old and tired.

      This has all the ear marks of propaganda. Rehashing moral issues as platitudes for one. Zygna is completely wrong. Working to exhaustion is stupid. Crying is not always about weakness. And racism hides easily in the meritocracy Mike has created.

  15. Nomnipotent says:

    He’s preaching to the choir. Who’s really whining? Picking the Zynga fiasco as an instance of whining reflects poorly on this opinion piece.

    Zynga made a terrible mistake changing employee stock options around so late in the game and that’s something we should speak up about. In SV, we are honest and straightforward with each other about potential upside, risk, and the fact that lots of work will be involved. But this kind of bait-&-switch is a horrible precedent to have. Executives & management should be cutting their own options for failing to anticipate this problem, not those of software engineers.

    • Michael Arrington says:

      It was four employees.

      • Watts says:

        Zynga felt that those four weren’t pulling their weight anymore? Okay, but did those four help the company get to where it is now? If so, they earned their payout. If not, they should have been fired some time ago. Either way, unless management magically gets exempted from the “quit all the whining maxim,” tough patooskis for Zynga, isn’t it?

      • bob says:

        There has never been any evidence that Pincus could be trusted by anyone. A spammer, and a guy who creates games based on an addictive theory of the human behavioral reaction to diminishing returns.

        SkinnerBoxVille(s).

        Not fun, nor worthwhile, just addiction to carpal tunnel.

        And you would trust this man? I dont care how many employees it was, they were and are clearly stupid. Im sure a guy who wants to inflict damage on people with the mental development of a semi-infant would let me keep my options.

      • Geo says:

        Sounds like some axe-grinding, then. I don’t think claw-backs are a great idea.

  16. Ryan says:

    Thanks Mike. Today is my 29th b-day, and I’m working. Very apropos, and motivating.

  17. Jeremy says:

    Sorry, sacrificing my youth for somebody else’s idea – even a friend’s – isn’t worth it. There are better ways to spend one’s life than boarding somebody else’s slave ship.

    • blakelandau says:

      I will say that this blog is pieced together well and makes a good argument. But that being said I still have to agree here with Jeremy. I will preface this by saying I am not a developer or technologist.

      People sacrifice their lives–for not much in return–all the time in the corporate world–outside of SV too. When I worked in NY people worked 7 days a week, long long days, and if there was room to they would pull a George Castanza and take a nap under their desks.

      While it does feel great to be part of something bigger than you, at a certain age you realize that killing yourself for someone else’s start-up is really not worth it.

      To think that we are saving the world here in the Silicon Valley, is …. a little dramatic in my humble opinion.

      There are a lot of miserable twenty something year olds here, with no social life–addicted to technology, and work. I think that’s sad. And people my age would probably benefit from really taking care of themselves then sitting at a cubicle 7 days a week under neon lights.

      Outside of SV people are taken advantage of by their employers all the time. People have to be smarter.

      Zynga and a lot of these tech companies have celebrity status–and every story about them seems to go viral. To think that somehow we are special here in the Bay Area I think is a bit short-sighted.

      I think it’s good that media companies like CNN are taking note of SV trends (like the lack of diversity in the start-up world). If you ‘ve been to a developer conference lately, it’s generally all white guys in their forties. If we’re lucky there’s one woman on stage [as Marc Benioff notes at the Facebook Developer conference]. http://www.women2.org/foodspotting-founder-and-ceo-alexa-andrzejewski-virtually-only-woman-onstage-at-facebook-developer-conference/

      To say that SV is always a fair place, especially to African-Americans and women, takes a lot of chutzpah. It’s simply not true. But you would probably have to be a woman or an African-American to see that.

  18. GW says:

    Silicon Valley sounds like a right shit hole to work in. So glad I’m not there, but then again, I’d never put myself into these situations or allow others to shoehorn me into stressful situations for their own gain.

    The author of this article seems to think it’s okay to live this way (and if that’s what floats his or her boat, then that’s his or her choice) and to tell others they should live this way too (not cool). It is seriously damaging and unhealthy.

    Yeah, work hard for 8 – 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. But, make plenty of time to pay attention to yourself, your life, and your family and friends. It’s called work/life balance, and yes it’s perfectly achievable even when working for a startup.

    Don’t think it’s achievable or realistic? Then you deserve to lose out the way you currently are. There’s a lot more to life than working 24/7 and a permanently fat wallet.

  19. Bravo. This is a perfect – and necessary – reminder of why we’re in the game.

  20. startup chick says:

    People who complain about sleeping under a desk or pulling all-nighters are pikers. Clearly they were never investment bankers. The longest I went without sleep is 52 hours and I’m a chick. I only cried when I broke the heel on my Chanel shoes flying down 2 flights of stairs getting to a meeting. Pikers….

    Sad that Mike even has to remind people that startups are hard.

    • Perhaps then instead of regulation seperating intestment branches from banks we need regulation for mandatory sleep hours.

    • ann says:

      erm…’and i’m a chick’? seriously? you want props because you live a life most would hate (not saying you do, but most would), and you think it’s special cuz you’re female? just…not…feeling ya here…
      call me a piker, i guess…

  21. Jason Calacanis says:

    Work less, cry less and quit the stupid startup IMHO. Work to live.

    If you believe in the project, great. Keep at it as long as it’s worth it to you. If not, find something else and stop wasting your life.

  22. Katya Kean says:

    I don’t buy it. When you haven’t slept in weeks for an immense bootstrapped entrepreneurial gamble for which you have spent a year on with no wages, and as the deadline approaches you’re not sure if this new tech will ever take off, you just want to die. Adrenal glands can only take so much.
    I say go ahead and cry, and then get back to work.
    Yes, it’s exhausting. Yes, you will want to cry and quit and kill yourself. And that’s OK. It doesn’t make you a wimp to feel that way. In fact, it’s healthier to just expect it and plan accordingly than it is to beat yourself up for feeling so miserable at that crucial time.
    The trick is to do it anyway, and remember the guy at Netscape who didn’t yet know how huge it was going to get, and how worthwhile it would prove to be. And have faith that yours will too, that it is worth it, and that you can stretch your abilities so far beyond what you thought. And yes, that it might hurt so much you’ll cry.

  23. jarnix says:

    I agree with everything except the part about Zynga, they did not play fair with the people they hired. They should have thought twice before giving away too many stock options or fire the people when they could.

    Anyway, good post !

  24. I cried myself to sleep many nights working for a Fortune 500, I think it builds character. Crying feels good. I wish people would stop denying the emotional side of creating a business. Yeah, I get it — you love it so much you want to tear yourself open so people can see what is inside your soul. Do it! Cry. Get out the stress, and then keep crushing it. You’re leveling up.

  25. CraigHoward says:

    Man this is what i keep telling my team i dont think we are working hard enough but i must demand more of myself thats all.

  26. Kevin Keller says:

    California has always had it’s “gold rushes,” and along with them a mix of people. There are some who come thinking that they can get rich quick and easy, but there are also some who see longer term opportunity in the place and are willing to put the time and effort in to create something new.

    At the beginning of the internet era it was the dot com rush, which brought a wave of new people to Silicon Valley. Another wave hit in the mid-2000s, breaking with the financial collapse in 2008 and it seems we’ve got yet another one going right now.

    Most of the “get rich quick and without work” people tend to get washed back out when we have each downcycle. Some of them might to cling to older, more bloated companies, pulling them down with the dead weight, but I think most start-ups tend to see through them quickly and jettison them before they can cause much harm.

    • bob says:

      Actually I find it quite different. SV is full of nothing but get rich quick types who if they are engineers try to hide the fact that they are just schilling for stock and options and spend all day on the phone outside the office talking to real estate agents and impregnating their office manager girlfriends.

      Just because you are intensely protective of your position doesnt make you good. Only noobs think that because they got a startup job that they must have talent.
      Most are not talented in any sense.

      Its kind of like politics, in software we keep perpetuating paralell universes, where we simultaneously magically know how to develop great software and yet never actually do it. We just deliver late, garbage.

      No sane investor would look at a SV startup, for production quality, on time delivery or stability. No those days were over a long time ago if they ever existed.

      SV is a chewing gum factory. No more flavor? Heres another stick.

  27. I heartily endorse unionization at all of my competitors.

  28. IcanTell says:

    Work sheep. Work !
    You are gambling with your life for a statistically irrelevant chance win something you don’t even need. But I can see, they don’t want your nerdiness out there, lock yourself up.

    In a place where a vicious asshole like Jobs become a saint, you can understand how everything is fucked up. “realize you’re part of history” ha ha, that’s a good one, but an average lieutenant would be more creative.

  29. howard says:

    Soledad really pissed someone off. Fear of people thinking you are (not actually being one) a racist is a tremendous motivator.

  30. Need to distinguish ‘hard’ from ‘smart’ work. There is a lot of ‘hard’ work that could be done much more efficiently through a combination of personal responsibility and proper distribution of resources. I’ve met a lot of people that have told me of sticking in out at their desks for 48 hour benders which I’ve never understood…there are always times when you need to put in monster hours but if living in your cube becomes a way of life you need to look deeper into the problem. “Cry less,” I agree, however put it into perspective. It’s not like coders in SV are sitting on an Afghanistan hilltop living with the fear of being shot at…after all, most IED’s in the SV are self-made and self-detonated.

  31. busting your ass for a startup is not worth it unless you are a founder or have a large equity stake. The probability of hitting a “home run” that makes all employees a millionaire is miniscule. Work hard, but more importantly, work smart and keep your life balanced.

  32. Someone sleeping 6 instead of 8 hours a day is as alert as an intoxicated man. Also sleeping for less than 6 hours daily for prolonged periods of time will shortne your life span.

    So it comes down to what your are doing. I wouldnt sacrifice years of my life to make Farmville. I would hapilly do it to change the world like Netscape did.

  33. Bob D'Agostino says:

    Typical Silicon Valley, echo chamber, drink the kool aid bullshit for anyone but company founders. Even for most founders it is bullshit advice. Is it really worth it to kill all your relationships and put all your energy towards the 100th photo sharing app out there? Probably not. If your scrappy little startup is the one in 1000 that becomes the next Google or Facebook then all the brutal hours are worth it, but of course you never know this ahead of time despite your best efforts.

    As an employee I don’t see the wisdom in killing myself with work so that the Michael Arrington’s of the world reap the real rewards. Does this make me a “loser”? Perhaps, but I really could care less what folks in the echo chamber have to say about that.

  34. Not only is there insanely hard work but nobody cares! The only thing that matters is the end result.

  35. Jon Washburn says:

    Thanks for this. It is a timely post for me and provides some much needed encouragement. I especially appreciated the reminder to the person in the arena and pirate.

    When you said “But you also know that there is nowhere on earth like Silicon Valley.” did you mean Silicon Valley in a geographical sense or figuratively. Eventhough I live in Seattle I feel like I’m in Silicon Valley because of what I do and my sense of mind.

  36. Davide Tonti says:

    Is the same in Silicon Valley or somewhere else in the world. I have my startup based on Costa RIca and we have to work really hard to be were we are today, and still there is lots of things to do.

    Nice article Arrington!

  37. bobledrew says:

    So far divorced from the reality of my life that I feel like I’m on another planet. I’m happy to work hard, and I’ve seen my share of evenings and weekends working on stuff. But I just ain’t gonna work like that. I have friends. I have music. I have a partner. I ain’t gonna give up the things that bring me pleasure for some mythical goal of endless riches. Good luck to those who do.

  38. Funny that you mention Jamie Zawinski – the same Jamie that burnt out and quit the tech industry entirely. His last contribution to “changing the world” was 13 years ago. Since then Jamie dedicates his time to finding new bands to play on his nightclub. Not exactly a role model, uh?.

    Yeah, startup life is a lot of hard work, but this “look-ma-I’m-working-like-crazy-so-everything-will-be-fine” mentality is just stupid. And even though the post was exactly trying to criticize this, in reality it does exactly the opposite (“you should feel great by sleeping 2 hours per night, because you’re changing the world. Just don’t whine too much, but it’s fine to brag about it”).

    That is the reason of why we have so many brain-dead stupid startups out there. In reality the world would be better off with entrepreneurs getting more sleep and having better ideas the next morning rather than pulling an all nighter and spending 30, 40 hours nonstop furiously coding “Color”…

    Fact is: everybody works hard my friend, so that’s nothing to brag about. I agree with Mike on part about “shut up and do what you have to do”, but let’s not forget you still have to do the other 99%. In order to make your company successful you better be really smart – or incredibly lucky – so use those sleep hours wisely, and please be on time for that meeting the next day.

    Unless, of course, you like music..

    ps: as usual Hacker News has a much more comprehensive take on this: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3283214

  39. Zak Kinion says:

    Work hard at working smart. Better yet, figure out ways where people can work hard for you. Work on things you enjoy and make something good and meaningful.

    Watching people toil away on bullshit projects making others rich and richer while they themselves go broke and get fucked out of equity makes me think of the people that built pyramids. The pyramid builders worked hard too, under some delusional work and religious ethic (most of them weren’t slaves, they were conscripts who chose to be there and were paid), and certainly built great things, but who remembers or even cares about them? What history?

  40. Jorge Tiger Biter says:

    Protfolio company of Mr. Mike is singing the blues right bout now yes.

  41. dude says:

    personally i didn’t have a social life to begin with, and if i wasn’t at work all the time/sleeping under my desk, etc, i would just be at home working on a side project doing the same

    a lot of people just aren’t cut out for it, and that’s ok. they should just realize this and make way for those of us that are

  42. Mike Arrington’s opinions on startup culture make perfect sense from the perspective of a venture capital investor with a background in economics. However, it’s alarming to see so many workers deluding themselves into believing that his views represent their best interests. As a venture capitalist, the primary goal of any investment is to make a profit, which generally means supporting a company until it is acquired or goes public, at which point the stake can be divested. When your primary interest is short-term return on investment, employees can be treated as expendable resources, and their long-term physical or mental health becomes irrelevant. He is right to fear the unionization of software engineers, because unions have generally emerged out of a corporate culture with systemic issues of labor abuse in order to protect employees from exploitation. Investing in employees by promoting work/life balance pays long-term dividends in sustainability and fosters a positive environment that is crucial to attracting and retaining talent in a competitive industry. Furthermore, it negates circumstances that would otherwise give rise to a unionized workforce. The startup industry IS beautiful because there is “nowhere else that is structurally designed to help you make whatever you can imagine into reality,” and hard work is absolutely a requirement for success. What is essential to remember though, is that Arrington is writing as an investor with a short-term financial interest. If you want to truly build something that will make a dent in the universe, a balanced approach will lead to greater creativity, productivity and long-term success.

    • Michael Arrington says:

      My feelings haven’t changed on this topic. I worked hard as a lawyer, hard as an employee of a startup, and hard as an entrepreneur. Sometimes I felt taken advantage of, overlooked for advancement, etc. But I didn’t complain about it, I quit and did something else. I’m just the kind of person that believes that hard work pays off. And also, why would I spend time doing something unless I was going to do it well?

      You’re right about the investing stuff though. VCs favor younger founders. Partly because they think outside the box, think anything is possible, and sometimes pull it off. And party because they have the stamina to work all the time and don’t usually have spouses and children to pull their attention away. They are, simply, a better bet. People who are willing to put everything they have into a startup are more likely to succeed than people who are not.

      • “VCs favor younger founders. Partly because they think outside the box, think anything is possible, and sometimes pull it off. And partly because they have the stamina to work all the time and don’t usually have spouses and children to pull their attention away” – Doesn’t this fly right in the face of the never ending “we invest in people” and “what’s your team’s experience” BS that every startup hears from VC’s? As a follow-up and in reference to your previous industry, my last company I spent a decade in legal working on the largest cases in the world and I saw a lot of junior associates sleeping under their desks doing research, making coffee and copies while the old white haired guys making all the decisions and taking months off at a time…so who did the work? Who was more valuable? And by the way, they all cried about it!

        • Michael Arrington says:

          At the firm I worked for, WSGR, the partners worked as hard or harder than the associates.

        • kevin keller says:

          My experience at WSGR was similar to Mike’s. Most, if not all, partners I worked with put in as many hours as associates. This was one reason I left…making partner would have just been more of the same thing. High quality work, and great pay for sure, but being in-house and part of building something was more appealing.

        • That’s the quickest I’ve ever seen two people come to the defense of a lawyers in my life! For the record, I do have respect for the job but being a lawyer is just another job and just as the two of you did, if its not what you thought it should be you leave and find something that is worth the effort.

          At any rate, I would like to hear your response to my first question concerning your comment about seeking younger entrepreneurs because of their stamina and lack of baggage and how that conflicts with the constant message of ‘team’ and ‘experience’ from Sand Hill Road?

        • Kevin Keller says:

          Mine was less a “defense of lawyers,” as stating that there wasn’t a distinction between the old white haired guys and the younger crowd where we worked, which I suppose cuts against VCs favoring younger founders over older based solely on some notion that once you hit 30/35/40 you all of a sudden stop being the same type A person you were before…that all of a sudden your inner innovator falls out and you’re content to coast. Some priorities may shift, but I think those who were already driven just adjust their schedules accordingly, which doesn’t mean accomplishing less. There are efficiencies that you gain as you get older, you don’t have time to waste, so you don’t waste time. If anything, I’m more driven in my 40s than I was in my 30s. I don’t want to speak for Mike, but the same seems true for him.

        • @Kevin I hear you and I agree completely. I’m 43 now and I’ve got my first company build and exit under my belt, I find myself exponentially better prepared to do this for a second time. Time/priority/stress management are beyond anything I had in my 20’s & 30’s…I sleep better, worry about a lot fewer pointless issues and put real thought and experience behind things that matter. That is my issue, not just with MA’s response, but the same message that is repeated regularly from the SV. I think the reality is the VC’s want experienced leadership who are able to convince a bunch of 20-somethings to live on caffeine, promises, and the dream of a life-changing opportunity. In the end, its a balance that very few who haven’t gone through it will understand until they bleed through the process and do it better the second time around.

        • notmyblood says:

          More like: “We want them young – They haven’t figured the game out yet. They’re so young, they don’t see how the VCs have all the equity stake and are there to fuck over the young bucks.”

          Half of the fresh-faced college kids don’t even understand how stock options work or what their stake in the company is. They’re willing to give up the best part of their youth to make the last set of people (who were probably fucked over by a previous set of VCs and now know the game) rich.

      • Charlie says:

        “Sometimes I felt taken advantage of, overlooked for advancement, etc. But I didn’t complain about it, I quit and did something else”

        So if you were a hard working Zynga employee being taken advantage of you would quit and look for something else to dedicate your efforts to, correct?

      • bob says:

        Especially when they have literally nothing to offer but the willingness to let a VC take over their business. Lol that was good man.

      • Katya Keand says:

        Some older people might frown on the “youth-advantage”, but I just interviewed a nice married IT guy with two young kids and a house, a potbelly, and debt. He’s maybe 35, mature and likeable, and there was no way I could feel good about encouraging him to join a startup. I told him he’s be better off at a 9-5 so he can see his kids grow up. Besides, looking at him it was obvious he’d followed directions his whole life, and was looking for just a more fun place … to be told what to do. His character and education was quite desireable, but his circumstances made him a “poor investment.”
        So I’m training a teenager instead. He’s full of ideas, affordable, constantly trains himself, and long-term job security is the last thing on his mind. And most importantly, he’s not going to start, or end, a serious relationship anytime soon! Win-win.
        And unless someone has actually hired someone and created jobs, I don’t care to hear protests about fairness.

    • Hi Mike (Morris),

      I can’t recall too many successful revolutions in the history of time that sat down and said: “right guys and girls, how can we a) topple the existing establishment; b) come up with a better version of how things could best be changed for all; c) manage the transition carefully and successfully and; d) ensure we all get to yoga classes and take an hour for a good vegan lunch and a massage”.

      My take after working in, and founding startups, is that you hire people who are innately motivated to “make a dent in the universe” and also understand what it takes to make this happen.

      I have total respect for people that look for a work / life balance and are upfront about it. But there is no time in a startup for people who sign on knowing how hard it will be just to sit back a few months later and complain about the hard work they freely committed to.

      Also, if you don’t like VC’s don’t let them buy into your business. They take the risk so will obviously be looking for a return. That is just capitalism.

      I’ll be sending this article to all potential future employees before making an offer.

      Cheers,
      @Jamie_Carlisle

  43. Emelina says:

    Startups are A LOT of hard work, like you said. And they are very worth it. :) There was a blog post about how to succeed in creating a successful blog and the main message was continue writing, don’t quit. The writer mentioned that he followed all of these bloggers that he looked up to for motivation and encouragement in his journey to create a location independent lifestyle and then he checked them again recently and most of them didn’t exist any longer. He mentioned the blogs that are still current and today they are really successful, the people are living the lives that they want and they have found ways to monetize their blogs through services, subscriptions or products. It’s a similar message. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Keep on going, daily, be consistent. It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but if you keep on going, it will pay off. I’m often exhausted from working, but I know that what I’m doing has already impacted people’s lives and when my online communities really get going, they’ll be able to make a global impact. It’s rewarding and fulfilling to help others.

  44. Amazing post. Really. My cofounder and I were cracking up because Zawinski’s words from 1994 still ring true today in our own experiences in Silicon Valley.

    I feel incredibly blessed to be here and working with people I respect and admire.

  45. bob says:

    This reminds me of the motion picture Interns who were suing the production company because they didn’t learn anything and just made coffee for people.

    Duh.

    It’s called, “pay your dues, Honey.”

    Tech and Motion Pictures are very similar (not television, which is sort of like working at Microsoft).

    The real issue is that there is a Generation coming out of Universities, that 20-16 year old crop, who are clueless. They feel entitled. They feel like life should be different.

    It isn’t.

    • It’s hardly exceptional to believe that the latest generation of youngsters are much more privileged, entitled and lazy than all that have gone before.

      Why shouldn’t life be different? Sleep deprivation and grinding through regardless of the impact on your health isn’t paying your dues. Bad project management isn’t a badge of honour that people should need to wear.

    • Katya Kean says:

      Right on. I’d rather hire someone who couldn’t afford college and had to work since he or she was 10, or just did it for the game- just to have someone who isn’t waiting for “the adults” to tell them what to do and take care of things, to keep them safe and prevent real risk.

      “Pirate” is the right word for founders. Structure tends to break down into the most essential core of “what works”, whatever will make the dream come alive, even if, at crunch time, it means all-nighters, improvising, and loneliness, and a business temporarily held together with duct tape and promises.

      Kids are kids, though. Many kids who come out of universities often trust “the system” and work well in a protected structure. They’re navel crew, not pirates. Regular meals will mean more to them than the free wind in their faces and the joy of bucking authority.

      (yes, yes, lots of “pirates” can work their way through college and come out fighting. I got nothing against grads. I’d just rather start another business than ever finish business school)

  46. Brad Marcus says:

    Great article that puts it all into perspective.

  47. armchairbusiness says:

    I wonder if we cry more and more when we ship our products less and less.
    On one side of the coin you could be a startup that works these horrendous hours but is constantly shipping your product or reaching milestones. This is motivating. On the other side, we stay involved in a project so long (years?) and we never see results. With the latter case, we will certainly be negatively impacted. People were not meant to work and work for no results…history or not, count me out.

  48. Michael, great article.Lots of wimps just got real with themselves. I have been building a startup and this just comes with the territory, short days and long nights. I am going to Evernote this one. Thanks

  49. ms says:

    To all you losers who state how hard you are working today. Give me a break. You are reading blogs and waste time posting comments. That by no means can be considered working.

    Check out what Ryan wrote above: “Thanks Mike. Today is my 29th b-day, and I’m working. Very apropos, and motivating.”

    Again Ryan, you are not working. It’s frigging sad that on your 29th birthday you got nothing better to do than reading blogs and post comments. Get a life!

  50. Sunil says:

    So refreshing to reed your posts Mike!! I was kinda getting fed up of TechCrunch and especially MG’s stupid posts. Its no longer what it used to be around 2007/2008.

    Great job!!

  51. I loved this. I love the real life example. There needs to be more material out there like this.

    Mike-or anybody-Is there a community out there that follows startups through their journeys? I’d love to share my happenings as I build my startup (I have a little bit on my tumblog) and would love to follow others…

    The closest thing I’ve seen to this is TechStars on BloombergTV. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough.

  52. Bibliophile says:

    Great encouragement! Having the right attitude is crucial.

  53. Great article. What I love even more is that one of my developers read it before me and shared it with the rest of the team.

  54. I love you for this post Arrington.

    The wonderful, life destroying, soul killing world of getting a new product or company off the ground is about believing in an idea so much you just can’t _not_ do it. You either get that, or you don’t. I thought it’d get easier, but if you want to ship good shit, it really doesn’t. But I wouldn’t do anything else, and I’d probably still do the startup thing for free (almost 15 years into it) if I could pay my bills and had a chance to win it, because it’s insanely hard.

    • bob says:

      getting a new product off the ground is neither life destroying, or soul killing.

      You have been trained to do something you are not good at in a really shitty way with poor expectations.

      Nothing worth doing is life destroying or soul killing. Hard is just hard. Grow up and learn to do something…right.

      • Katya Kean says:

        No physicist remembers Marie Curie as “that woman who so ridiculously gave herself Leukemia.”
        I’m pretty sure the early explorers of new continents weren’t criticized for a few sailors dying or going crazy.
        We remember them as ground-breakers who brought something new to the world, not as being bad at “their job” because they got hurt.

        I am willing to believe that for You, nothing is worth that kind of pain.
        But for “The Crazy ones”, who just can’t_not_do_it… yeah, it’s worth it.

        The ones who worry about “doing something Right” will stay put and follow the leaders when it’s safe. Have fun with that.

  55. I should have added: “_because_ it’s insanely hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

  56. bob says:

    Actually, your post is quite full of shit. I have coded circles around folks in silicon valley. And if I cared could do it day in and day out. And the risk/reward scenario you speak of is completely illusion.

    Talk to the employees of all the social network/picture upload sites, groupon clones, and zynga clones how they feel about the situation after their bullshit companies fall through the cracks.

    The only pleasure in software is making people’s lives better. Not staying up late on 3-4 rockstars, or being an arrogant dick to your coworkers, or hoping that your options vest.

    Silicon valley is when taken as a general proposition: a scam. Its an extension of wall street manic/depression, where money attaches to things or doesnt attach to things with no rhyme or reason. Its a joke.

    You are not Steve Jobs, and neither was he.

    • Katya Kean says:

      “I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
      I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
      Was it famine or scurvy—I fought it;
      I hurled my youth into a grave…”

      “Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
      So much as just finding the gold.” -Robert Service, The Spell of the Yukon

      If all the SV manic-depressives want to “search for gold” and try their best, why do you care so bitterly much, Bob? Sometimes the journey is the destination, landlubber.

      Sorry for the mixed metaphors. Gold-rush 49-ers… Pirates… will Startup Founders become a name for a sports team someday too? ;)

  57. bob says:

    arrington pls stop referring to employees at startups as “talent”.

    Its stupid.

  58. Calley Nye says:

    Next thing we know, the employees are going to organize and start camping out in front of their building. Get your pepper spray ready.

  59. Nicky Zotos says:

    I’ve always played against type — and had a fun, exciting, rewarding, very interesting life. Three months ago I moved to Israel, and to my surprise, I was hired by a high-tech startup — to the envy of my friends and relatives — to do content writing — using my range of skills built up over the years of working for myself — and others — pr, marketing and journalism background. Hired for 12 hours of work per week, working more than 20 already (because it requires that much time to do the job right) and not reporting it, because it’s easy and fun to get swallowed up and their startup budget is small. I wasn’t seeking fulltime work, which it’s going to become (they already asked), and I wasn’t even thinking in terms of being “vested” with the company because I do believe it is going to be successful, and never saw myself on this “career path.” Then what shall I do with my wasted youth and energy to burn? Female, age 70, a lot of life left to live.

  60. Mo says:

    Total productivity doesn’t go up with hours worked. During WWII, which had a slightly larger mark on the world than FarmVille, British industrial scientist found that total output was maximized at about 65 hours per week. This is because with more hours worked productivity goes way down and errors go way up, so you spend time fixing those mistakes. There are times, like right before launch or a critical deadline, when people should be working longer hours, but if >70 hours is your SOP, you’re doing it wrong.

    And yes, I worked at an investment bank and had to work those hours, but, in the end, they didn’t pay me enough for my misery.

  61. Brent Hoover says:

    This is utter bullshit. The New York Times article points out that treating your employees like shit may actually have an effect on your bottom line, especially if you start breakng your promises. The startup descibed in Micheal’s hazy nostalgia filled vision is not at all what Zynga is. Zynga is a profitable corporation, not some plucky group of recent college grads. People *want* to work at that “make a dent in the universe” sort of startup, but Zynga is clearly demonstrating that it’s more about commoditizing employees and grinding the last bit of productivity out of every employee. That fine, it’s not illegal or even unethical. But don’t be shocked when people don’t want to work there. And it’s not just employees who don’t want to put up with the founders bullshit, it’s entire companies who would take 250 million dollars less to not work for you. These are people who have paid their dues and don’t want to be sucked into a human meat grinder. How much of a jerk do you need to be to 250 million dollars worth of unlikable? So turns out being a over-driven, self-obsessed, greedy jackass actually has a downside. Who’s the crybaby here?

  62. orubel says:

    realize you are part of history? Here is some perspective for you. I was at Amazon from 95-97 and worked in a garage. When I left did I get credit for saving the company millions by catching a bug in the cascading ordering system causing over 35,000 order (large amount back then) to be looping for the last 6 months? Did I get credit for creating the buying dept? Did I get credit for coming up with a system to integrate videos and other products as keys into their existing database? No. I was interviewed by authors of books but credit is given to management. Jeff made loads of promises but when it came time to deliver, we were given stock options that vested 5 years from thethe time we went corporate… not backdated to our startdate. So while we may have been their a few years already, it didnt mean shit.

    Fact is… if you are not management, you will not get shit and this is why you should NOT be invested. Look elsewhere. If someone isn’t giving you a guarantee that lawyers can argue out in court, there is no reason for you to work those hours… the only people invested and rewarded are management and investors.

  63. Thank you Mike for this article! It’s really motivate me.

  64. John Ngoi says:

    Running a startup without any funding is definitely a hard life. Even with funding, it is a lot of work. I run a scrappy startup (www.decimalsoftware.net) and events such as being featured in What’s Hot in the Apple App Store, lingering around the Top Free daily, and rave reviews from users mean a lot to me.

    I want to take the startup to the next level, and that requires funding to build a kick ass team and absorb the operational cost to take it to the next big thing. Dream big, work really hard, and never give up. The whining can be theraupetic as long as you keep working at it.

    So my time is split between product, development, QA, customer support, business operations, marketing, and looking for funding.

    Want some cheese with that whine? :-)

  65. sufianrhazi says:

    Hmm, I have a feeling you chose your quotes poorly.

    “But in 1999 I took my leave of that whole sick, navel-gazing mess we called the software industry. Now I’m in a more honest line of work: now I sell beer.” –Jamie Zawinski

  66. Matt Nirlator says:

    Part of history? Remembered forever?

    Are we talking about a company that cured cancer or made a bunch of time-wasting slot-machine games?

    Zynga’s going to make a lot of money for a lot of already well-off people, but let’s not mistake “making money” with making the world a better place or doing something revolutionary that actually will be remembered forever.

    • chris b says:

      History! Forever! Yes! Our names shall be etched in the scrolls for all eternity! We shall be welcomed into the gates of Heaven by trumpet blasts! And Heaven itself shall be re-named Silicon Valley II, and all of its hosts shall drive Maseratis, and eat sashimi, and be vested! Yea, it is written!

  67. I agree with @tylernol. Working hard is important… but it’s overshadowed by working smart. I have no doubt the engineers at Color worked their asses off… but would they have been better off working smarter instead?

  68. This post has been published in the right time for me, after I just started losing motivation on the project I’m working on.

    Keeup up the great work Michael!

  69. objectiveSEE says:

    Robert Martin: If you want engineers that behave professionally, code professionally, and respect the values of professionalism, hire professionals, and treat them professionally. To treat someone as a professional is to respect the separation between personal and professional commitment. Demanding someone work overtime because of poor project planning or because investors want to see a new feature is not professional. Doctors are arguably put in a position of saving lives every day they go into work. They still have days off. They still take vacations. Feature X is not as important as someones life. Sorry, get over it.

    • Ariella says:

      “Demanding someone work overtime because of poor project planning or because investors want to see a new feature is not professional.”

      EXACTLY! *applause*

  70. mn84evr says:

    This is great. I’m glad i’m not the only one out there feeling like this!!! Thank you.

  71. Karl Drobnic says:

    Without all your hard work in Silicon Valley, there would be a lot less zigs and zags in the stock market for the rest of us to trade on. While you’re sacrificing your youth and social life, remember that a lot of us are happily dining out and appreciating what you do. Thanks…a million!

  72. Shannon says:

    Well my 2 cents is this; this is not a permanent state. A bunch of you are younguns who put in all those hours because you don’t have enough experience to be efficient. Those of us with 15 years or more under our belts know what ideas won’t work and don’t even consider some things. We don’t make the same mistakes any more.

    It’s like that old martial arts expert, who’s shorter, lighter, slower, and weaker than you, but he tosses you around on the mat like you’re a rag doll because he knows exactly how much energy is required and exactly where to place it. And in fact you know you’re going down the instant you go to grab him just by the near supernatural way he moves. (Am I comparing myself to a martial arts expert? Yes I am.)

    Graduate school was this same way, especially studying for qualifying exams. You’ll never get to the point where the older programmers are without this obsessive period where you eat, sleep and breathe programming (or in my case, physics). It’s required in order for you to build your intuition, to get your skills to the point where you don’t even have to think about how to solve certain problems.

    At the same time, intolerable working conditions is a highly subjective concept. I found that since I’m working on my own startup, I don’t mind the long hours like I used to. (Lest some of you claim I just contradicted myself, I’m still way more efficient but we’re so small there are only 2 of us coding, and much of it is either done by me or not at all, but I’m not killing myself the way I used to).

    Plus, it’s totally ok to cry, just not in front of the other engineers :) Anybody who doesn’t like that can go f-k themselves!

  73. Steven D' says:

    If you ain’t willing to put in 18 hour days 7 days a week for years probably best to find something else to do.

  74. womensfitnesscenter says:

    Sometimes, it doesn’t end even after you’re established. I’ve been in business twenty years, and now my staff and I have to put in startup-worthy hours just to compete. Maybe I’m going about this the wrong way, I don’t know. I do know that I love what I do and wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Thanks for the mental reboot.

  75. I enjoyed the read – big gains = big sacrifices. We choose.

  76. I like this. Sometimes, when something is really important to you, you should be ready to make sacrifices.
    If you find yourself working that hard, ‘crying yourself to sleep’ and still waking up and getting back to it… consider that you’ve found your passion. There are millions of people who would kill to be where you are.

  77. Ariella says:

    Haha, work like a robot in a sweat shop environment so you can receive zero bonuses while the owners rack up millions from your work. Thanks but no thanks. The individual developers of any product are seldom remembered. Some might get lucky like when working for famous companies like Apple or Netscape, but even then chances are slim. Does anybody know all the developers who worked on OS/2 (IBM), or AmiPro (now Lotus Smart Suite)? What about Wordperfect 4.2 (PC), Directory Opus (Amiga) or Combat (Atari)? What about Windows95?

    People remember the product a helluva lot more than the effort and people it took to create it, unless they’re figureheads. The founders and presidents with private jets, 3 homes, and 8 weeks vacation will be remembered even if they worked less. Position/class still matters more than hours worked.

    The journey is more important than the destination because while the few famous people will be remembered for what they “did”, the other 99% will be remembered by friends and family for “who they were” and the love they gave. Nobody gives a joyous eulogy about how absent you were from your family, the marriages you lost from neglect, and the early heart attack you had because you were such a wonderful worker who lived to serve THE PRODUCT.

    If the product happens to be your passion and your dream, THEN live every hour obsessing with it. It’s a reflection of who you are and living authentically is a rewarding journey. But if not, being coder #8475 doing 19 hours of work in a day at some company is only going to teach the employer that abuse is acceptable, that you are first in line to volunteer for it, and that the corporate culture being built is thatTHE PRODUCT is more important than your life value. Choose if you’re in alignment with that, where your life is devalued by the product, and if not, get the hell out.

  78. surfyogi says:

    Steve Jobs quotes and blather.
    Treating people nicely is important..

  79. Tiffany says:

    Great article… But I’m going to cry anyway. I’ll keep working but I’m going to do crying dang it! :p

  80. The word “whining” used a little bit too much these days. People who lost their their homes or their jobs and said something about it were said to be “whining.”

    There is nothing “whining” about speaking out after losing your livelihood.

    I liked the idea of your article right up until you used the word “whining.” It sounded like you were trying to help people who were knocked down to get up. But then you kicked them in the teeth on the way up.

    Like surfyogi says above (11/28/2011 at 12:03pm), “Treating people nicely is important.”

  81. mtnspirit says:

    Thanks for the words of encouragement. 12 years into it, I’m still working on it!

  82. yes that jwz says:

    Hello, my name is Jamie Zawinski and I do not endorse this message. Please leave me out of it.

    When a friendly VC tells you what’s good for you, check your pockets *and* your fingers.

  83. Richard says:

    After working for a couple of days with no sleep, do these people get in a car and drive home?? If so I’m glad I’m not on the road near them. You wouldn’t drink then drive, why work to exhaustion and then drive? Some things shuldn’t be done becsue they’re dangerous to others.

  84. Indie Evie says:

    I have examinations @ GCSE at the moment and am picking A Levels so stress levels are 100 but ofcourse thats not much like work is it? But I know the feeling! Check out my blog too please and tell me what you think
    xoxo Individualistic

  85. JohnS says:

    Zynga isn’t a startup. It’s a profitable company with $1B in annual revenues and 3000 employees. Why would anyone choose Zynga to illustrate the point that startups are hard work? Doesn’t make sense.

  86. Tar-Buns says:

    I found you on WordPress – Congrats for being FPd! I have a perspective on start-up companies, venture capital backed, but from 20+ years ago. I see many similarities to your points and the somewhat heated exchange between your readers.

    I moved to CHicago early 1980s. Got a job with a startup travel management company as the assistant to the president. Venture capital backed, old money Chicago. Very interesting, very challenging, many long hours. I was captivated by my boss and thankful for his taking a chance on me. This was before the internet revolution of course.

    In the early 1980s, word processors were all the rage. This was before PCs. I digress…

    Staff was added to the company, all young, successful business types. We worked outrageous hours but loved the challenge. IT was exciting and we hoped for great things, but after a point, the sales projections did not ring true and the company was sold to another. There went my job.

    All in all, it was exhausting, invigorating, exciting and such a personal challenge to grow and learn how to do what was asked of you, even with little experience to do the job. And I did…until I burned out and they sent me on a lovely fam trip to Banff, Canada. (back when you got cheap travel working for a travel agency).

    I switched careers some years ago and am now a teacher. Different challenges, different life. But when I was so young and willing, in my most beloved city of Chicago, it was magical.

    All the best to you youngsters (as my Grandma would say :)) in the Silicon Valley.

  87. chrisnhl99 says:

    I like your blog. if you want to go to my blog it is called http://www.bannhockey.wordpress.com

  88. messagetheworld says:

    Simply brillant. What a great post!

  89. specialtechs says:

    People just need to realize that it takes hard work to get ANYWHERE in life. You can’t just discover that something is going to be hard and start complaining about it. Perseverance is key. Use it.

    Fantastic post.

  90. The Pencil Pirouette says:

    That is true. Having a start-up is building a dream – YOUR dream; being an employee is helping others build THEIR dream, perhaps at the expense of your own.

    I actually have an entry about one of the more famous Silicon Valley “start-uppers” after reading his biography. Powerful book. and very objectively written.

    http://thepencilpirouette.com/2011/11/24/steve-jobs/

  91. MichaelEdits says:

    “Work hard. Cry less. And realize you’re part of history.” I’m framing that.

  92. Cave Story says:

    More power nap should be helpful :)

  93. p90x Should you have not seen P90X, it is actually an ‘extreme’ home exercise regime insanity that includes weight train , cardiovascular workout, and a stretch program. It is generally for people today in good condition, though anyone might do it whether p90x they really collection their mind to barefoot jogg . I benefited plenty from the wholesale hip hop abs routine, and can actually tell an improvement in my health. Though I did so not p90x follow this diet system of the program seriously closely. The truth is, I didn’t have this guide in the diet. I did so try to build some minor improvements around insanity my diet p90x reviews.

  94. man, these guys need holiday . . .

  95. brandimiller says:

    I keep seeing people starting up new businesses, and then whining and crying when they realize that they actually have to work and that everything isn’t just handed to them. As a business owner, I know how much work can go into a business and what you need to do before you can start making money. It’s not all fun and games, and it’s not all going to be easy. Nice post!

  96. Sarah says:

    My motto is that the only true way to true wealth is to learn how to do what no one else wants to.

  97. Laureana says:

    It’s funny how engineers think this always apply to them. Everyone I know starting a company/firm, or working in something worthwhile, has to do the work and pull the hours: my cousin to start her accounting firm while still working on a top company, my friend who is an astrologer to write her book while sicky and still doing her normal astrologer job, all the successful lawyers I know, all the vineyard owners I know, restauranteurs, etc. It’s always like that: crazy hours, crazy effort. But it pays off, because they (we) love what they are doing.
    OR you can always look for a grey job, with a grey sallary doing grey things…

  98. The Claw says:

    Inspiring article – it re-affirmed my confidence in the choices I have made in my life.

    Yes, after reading this, I am happier than ever that I chose to work 40 hours a week at a regular programming job, for comfortable money, and enjoy the rest of my life with my friends, families and loved ones. Rather than destroying myself in a frenzied pursuit of the almighty dollar via the lottery win of a startup that strikes it big.

    Thanks Michael!

  99. brianonrea says:

    Good piece of work and very motivational. Guess I better get off of here and get to work!

  100. ecowxt says:

    quiter nver win.winner nver quit.

  101. egreg says:

    LOL Mike. Our company gets things done without having to live like slaves.

    There is a reason http://qbix.com/about has pictures of all of us in nature. It’s subtle but it all fits together with our company’s vision. We want to have fun and enjoy LIVING LIFE as we enjoy creating the tools that improve other people’s lives.

    Yes, we work hard. And we create things together. But with the internet, 3G, and Wifi we are able to work from anywhere! This is more than can be said for any other industry, and we are lucky to be around in this time when we can travel and still get things done. Not only that, but the geographical constraints are now loosened. Not too long ago you could only choose among engineers that live nearby. Today you can hire engineers that do great work even if they live halfway around the world, and you can connect over the internet, Skype, and a host of other tools that just work.

    We are building more of these tools. We believe in liberating people from their computers and focusing on just living their lives and getting things done. We love freedom. We want it for others, and we want it for ourselves.

    It takes a careful system and a focus on process, but it can be done. With the right tools, the right guidelines and habits, we can be productive without sleeping under desks.

    After all, you have one life, and work is a part of it. We have a motto: people live lives, companies create products.

  102. *words ringing*

    COFFFFFEEEEEEEE!!

  103. Bryan Lee says:

    I just love the part “But if deep down you know that you’re part of history, that the things you are building will be written about and thought about forever, then maybe after that good cry after a short sleep under your desk you’ll pull yourself together and remember.” This is what keeps me going

  104. This is bullshit – there’s no point in burning out working for a “potential” startup and potentially spoiling your whole career. Startups that reach IPOs are like lotterys – even if founders/engineers at every startup work really really hard, there are only so many that are going to make it in the end.

    Sleeping under the table is just not an option (unless that place is more cozy than your apartment). You are foolish if you do that, not brave or heroic – and you will realize this once you grow old, that all your hard work was to make someone else rich.

    “BE A PART OF HISTORY?” People who become a part of history are those who generally aren’t worried about IPOs or buy-outs. Or VCs.

  105. Tim Converse says:

    I’m sure many others will comment this, but: Mike, how do you respond to jwz’s repudiation of this post? https://twitter.com/#!/jwz/status/141340532029931521

  106. Steven Brown says:

    I know all of you have heard of the 80/20 rule. You remember … where 80% of the workload takes 20% of the expended time while the other 20% requires 80% of the expended time. Or in Information Technology 80% of an application development project life-cycle requires 20% of the allocated resources while the other 20% requires 80% of the allocated resources.The 80/20 rule is even applied to computer processing workloads where 80% of the processing workload will take 20% of scheduled processing time while the other 20% will take 80% of the scheduled processing time. In the book “Mythical Man-Month” these cases are untrue of course because the 80/20 rule is only relatively accurate if your resources are used at 65% of total capacity. Once 65% of total capacity is exceeded then workloads begin to be impacted by pent-up latent demand for specific resources of the total given capacity, be it workers, developers or comuter processing capacity.

    This pent-up latent demand cannot be measured because you are out of capacity for a specific resource of your total overall capacity be it worker skills, developer skills, or computer processor, memory, network (switches, routers, brouters, etc.), and/or external storage (i/o buses, i/o adapters, i/o switches, disks, tapes, printers, etc.). Thus from an information technology viewpoint we can typically only hope to be able to accomplish 80% of the most important part of the workload with approximately 6% of the most skilled IT talent with access to 80% of the computer processing capacity.This leaves the rest of the workload to be performed by the other 94% of available IT talent.

    In this given case only two things can happen of which both endanger the successful completion of the workload or project. Either the 6% of the most skilled talent must work far beyond normal capacity and/or the time-line for the workload must be adjusted repetitively because of pent-up latent demand. The solution to the problem is to add additional capacity for the specific skill sets, talents or computer processing configurations which will readily address the pent-up latent demand. When new resources are added to existing resources you will have to experience lead time for adjustments to the new dynamics of the environment. Either way this will cause an additional outlay of captital and time for the period of adjustment before the additonal capacity can be realized.

    And then you have to begin the whole process over again of determining if or when you may exceed 65% of your capacity and re-evaluate it for reconfiguring your talent pool and/or computer processing configuration.

  107. sb says:

    This is such bullshit, I’m surprised you’d put it out there.

    Where were you in 1994 BTW? You show up in the Web 2.0 age and pretend like you’ve been around all this time doing the things that JWZ writes about. Too bad Silicon Valley can’t call a phony a phony.

    • If your talking to me I’m a sixer. In 1994 I was migrating a large IBM mainframe in-house set of CICS/COBOL applications to UNIX platforms using HP-UX and Oracle to an N-tier client server environment using ANSI C, PL/SQL, SQL*Forms, SQR, Postscript, Perl, Adobe Acrobat and shell scripting languages. In 1995 we pulled the plug on the IBM Mainframe and never looked back. We were part of 7% of the successful migrations from IBM mainframes to UNIX in the 1990’s. I spent four more years with the same company supporting the new IT environment implementing upgrades and enhancements. I left the company to pursue a successful consulting career. The company is still in business today and is still near the top 100 companies in the state of California. California had the 8th largest economy in the world in the 1990’s.

      I have successfully designed, architected, built, and managed the technical services for three separate data centers over these many years … all very successfully. The number of large applications I have implemented cannot be counted on all my fingers and toes. My experience with a number of operating system environments include IBM OS/390 (now known as z/OS), HP-UX, Oracle Solaris, and Linux. Yah, I’ve been around the block a couple of times … pulling, pushing, and sometimes riding. But I’m exactly where I’m suppose to be … every experience of my life has brought me to this moment and yet I still have a fresh new vision for the future! What’s yours?

  108. arvinbadiola says:

    i greatly agree on this one but i also cannot blame people if they worry a lot. it’s pretty normal to seek immediate gratification with all that work. i guess (like what we all know) we just must not let all the stress and anxiety get the better of us.

  109. Cameron says:

    Pain is temporary. Pride is forever.

  110. surfyogi says:

    yeah, more I think about it, this is such CR*P:

    1 in 20, that’s how many start-ups are successful.
    I’d have to ask the author, how many start-ups have you been part of yourself? ;-)

    I’ve been part of many start-ups, 3 have gone public that I owned shares in. I was lucky but I’m not rich. I wanted the experience of building a business, and I’ve been compensated for it, occasionally. Most of the time, they went bust, or I left before I vested shares.

    Burn out. Don’t do it, life is short. So become obsessed, but only if you really believe..

    Bad management. Learn to recognize it, and bail once you have another job lined up.

    Abuse. Don’t stand for it. Be more professional than to abuse others. And when you get abused, stand up for yourself, or nobody will respect you.

  111. Gooly says:

    That’s a really nice post; I am also working on a start up ( http://cheerrabbit.com ), and I can feel the stress and the roller-coaster like mood. Though, much lighter than what you wrote.

  112. a realist techie says:

    I highly doubt that single thing any of us has done, or is doing, or will do, is ever making a single tiny dent in the universe. We are not making history. It’s a flash in the pan. A quick buck. Quickly forgotten. Anybody in the tech startup world who things they’re making a dent in the universe needs to get off their high horse and look at the real world.

    • If this is your vision it will become your reality. Consider Sun Tzu “To know yourself and know your enemy will bring you victory in a hundred battles without any defeats”. Find your true passion in life and follow it, then your vision will allow your life to become a reality which brings you true peace and satisfaction. Otherwise what is the purpose of life?

  113. Mary says:

    This is bullshit. What about women (or men) who want to have a family and start a tech company? They should forget it? Silicon Valley should be only for the childless? That’s rich.

  114. P. Envall says:

    Beyond pathetic.

  115. brokertom says:

    Purportedly, crying helps cope with stress, aids in detoxifying the body, and reboots one’s mood. About five minutes should be sufficient for the reboot; don’t know how long the detox takes. Whining about hard work is okay as long as the process is limited to about 9 seconds or less. Imagine how much longer the work day would have been years ago if we added up all the extra “twitter work.”

  116. Anne Ominous says:

    I’m with JWZ, who was (apparently) taken out of context and who (provably, publicly) disagreed. And who should know better? He’s been there.

    There’s nothing at all wrong with hard work. But as the saying goes: the trick is to work smarter, not harder.

    If you want to slave your ass all day for a paltry percentage of somebody else’s pie, that’s your business. But as R.A.H. said: I’d rather own 10 percent of something that manage 100% of anything. Not to mention being one who is “managed”.

    And the VCs (as JWZ explains) are the ones who are owning, and not (if you have any head on your shoulders) managing.

  117. polvadis says:

    I’ve worked at few start-up’s already and with each it’s been an interesting roller coaster ride. When you’re on top of your game with a project in mind you work 14 hour days and love every minute of it. But then someone says it’s too expensive, it won’t ever sell, and months of sweat and tears are thrown away during one half-hour meeting and you’re told to start over again. You didn’t fail, the experience you’ve learned on the last project stays with you and you will use this on the next one, but you feel burned out…until the wind of a new project hits your sail again.

    I love start ups, but at 30 years old I’m beginning to want more stability in my life.

    Good article. Thanks for sharing.

    • Bingo!! You got it! With the realization of each vision comes a new vision. Be aware that where you are now is because of everything that you have experienced to this moment. Perhaps you have realized your previous vision and now seek a new vision. When we pursue our vision as our primary purpose we will realize it. But once realized it will give birth to a new vision. This is the cycle of life.

  118. Ppsssshhhh… You cite an anecdote from a guy that lives in Mountain View. If he’s suffering from such severe FOMO, there’s an itty bitty city by the bay he can commute from, and my favorite dealer is back in town.

    And the twitch with lazer focus around the “kids”? It’s called salt amphetamines

  119. Ryan says:

    And this is where I call, “BULL SH*T.”

    The reality is BUSINESS isn’t about working your ass off. It’s about working smart. It’s about making something people want in a fiscally responsible way. That’s it.

    You don’t have to sleep 4 hours a night to do this or cry or work until your hand shakes. Sorry, it’s just not true, despite how comforting and validating it might make the 90 hours spent feel. I worked 90hrs/wk and failed — why? Because i didn’t work hard enough? Ha, ha… No. Because I didn’t work smart enough and because i changed course/gave up. But, ultimately, it would have been successful in the same amount of time, with less effort, if I worked smarter.

    And unhappy workers’ “hard work” / long hours is wasteful, btw. Because they aren’t working efficiently anyway. There’s tons of data backing this up. So, unless you plan on continuing to rehire to refresh your workforce, then take the time to make your workers happy and stop working them like dogs.

  120. brooksadamz says:

    Hiyya !
    Are You a Cuute Female who plays SL Looking For Cuute Fashion ?!
    Check Out My Blogg , It Has All The Awesome New TRends !

    http://brooksadamz.wordpress.com/

  121. arifjinha says:

    This is exactly the philosophy which is destroying America.

  122. Michael Boyle says:

    This whole approach is just part of a very old work-socialization fantasy that has been perpetuated for years but seems to be breaking down elsewhere. The Paper Chase was the same thing set in a law school, many of Grisham’s novels made the “VC” characters all criminals but essentially calls to question the whole formula using this hyperbole. Most grad schools are the same (PhD student abuse, anyone?), as is med school. Undergraduate engineering programs as well.

    All built around this de-personalization/reconstitution fantasy, a sort of faux-birthing story that you go in one way, have this incredibly painful but transformative experience following which you are accepted as a fully-vetted member of the tribe. And then the old guard lets you get rich.

    The problem is that it is more about indoctrination than an evidence-backed optimal path to success. There is less and less evidence every year that it is necessary to abuse the youngest recruits to the tribe to achieve acceptable mature professionals – and even more, in many fields it seems to have been perpetuated NOT because it works but as a barrier to entry to non-traditional participants than any kind of honest requirement for success. And now professional schools in every field are scrambling to replace it with something more reasonable because over half of their recruits – women – reject it utterly and anyhow can’t be socialized into an essentially white-male fantasy, though they are 100% equipped to be top-quality professionals in their fields.

    Work-life balance isn’t about being too wimpy to handle things “the old way” it’s based on a lot of OB research based on real evidence of the best way to achieve success both as individuals and in teams. And, fundamentally, it’s about understanding that there is value in bringing the whole range of human experience to bear on really important projects, not just the experience of a narrow cadre of indoctrinated white men.

    • To be a sixer, (the 6% of the most skilled IT talent), there is no work-life balance. Most of life becomes a quest for knowledge to further your skill sets and the application of those skill sets to solve the most difficult IT problems. However it is important to also gain knowledge of your spiritual assets. Your spirit is your creativity and your inner strength, indespensible to be successful. A more analytical approach based on logistical skill sets is required to augment you IT technical skills. See my comment above dealing with the 80/20 rule, its limitations, ramifications, and logistics to dealing with inadequate specific IT skill sets.

  123. this helps put things in perspective definitely :)

  124. Working for a startup is just like getting into an old car. It might not start, and even if it does, you don’t know if it’s going to go anywhere.

  125. Artales says:

    Over here in Europe it’s called the ‘English disease’. I don’t subscribe to it or any other ‘wheel run’. We’ve been trying to export it for a century and a half, but a two hour lunch followed by a long sleep is putting up strong philosophical resistance. Anyway, I don’t like crumbs in my keyboard and never will. I also want a voluntary society and ‘Lazy’ is not pejorative in my diction.

  126. peterb says:

    I think it’s hilarious that Mike hasn’t responded to JWZ’s blistering and accurate takedown of him at http://www.jwz.org/blog/2011/11/watch-a-vc-use-my-name-to-sell-a-con/

    Jamie correctly observes that Mike encouraging people to work against their own interests in this way provides a huge benefit to Mike, but not (generally) to themselves.

  127. tanitmkpr says:

    Facing the choice between “Living to work Vs Workng to Live”, I choose the later.

  128. zenlifefrugal says:

    I totally agree with the aforementioned blog post. I find this is true working on my own start-up and sometimes banging my head against the wall in frustration.

  129. Chris says:

    I think the solution is hidden in the last paragraph of that newspaper clipping – if you can just convince the other guys to slow down we can all have a better paced lifestyle :D

    • arifjinha says:

      You can only convince these people is by defeating them. You’ve got to believe that you will do better work by way of steady discipline, heart, indomitable spirit, respect of employees time, creativity, reward and firm commitment to the good. These people are insane and will drive their employees away. If compete and win, you would be doing them a favour by knocking them out of the marketplace and you would doing programmers a favour by poaching staff who are good and yet under-appreciated and exploited.

  130. If frustration is the lifetime agenda of start ups,I will not agree.Managing your frustration is the first point in the private agenda of your life style. Isn’t so?
    J Raman

  131. Steven Brown says:

    To be a sixer, (the 6% of the most skilled IT talent), there is no work-life balance. Most of life becomes a quest for knowledge to further your skill sets and the application of those skill sets to solve the most difficult IT problems. However it is important to also gain knowledge of your spiritual assets. Your spirit is your creativity and your inner strength, indespensible in being successful

  132. Hi Michael,

    Love the way you put this particular blog together. So much I can relate to, although i am a business developer :)

    I absolutely believe in your last sentence: ” Work hard. Cry less. And realize you’re part of history.”

    People sometimes overanalyze everything instead of just doing what needs to be done and if that is not part of your dream anymore, go and do something else. My blog focuses more on this part. Would love to hear your view on it: beingthebestican.wordpress.com.

    Anyway, keep up this blog and I will enjoy reading your new ones!

    Cheers!

  133. Bitch says:

    call me…5169099170

  134. marbluna says:

    Start-up is always hard. But if only you’re worth the history. I’ve been enduring my first six months job with a total intimidating and moody boss who always demanding too much to finish the jobs. It’s okay to work hard, but it’s important not to forget ourselves and to get what we worth of. We deserve it/

  135. I needed this kick in the ass…….. again.

  136. sam gamges says:

    I dunno. I’m a fairly successful dev. My goal is to write neat code and learn shit, not change the world. If I exhaust myself, it’s because I’m doing something cool, not because I care about someone else’s bottom line.

    This sounds like an argument to let yourself be exploited; it’s not the devs that are enriched in the startup world unless you’re shrewd, lucky, and burn out. Usually, it’s the VCs, and far as i’m concerned, they could burn if it weren’t for their money.

  137. veirallley says:

    Interesting! Totally love your work hard, cry less motto

  138. mr3 says:

    Realize you’re part of history.

  139. irarelypost says:

    I think on one hand you have a point, on the other you don’t. In the end it all comes down to choice. Humanity has enough potential people for great ideas coming from hard work and good ideas, but there is just not room enough for all good ideas and everyon’s hard work to be appreciated. As I said, it’s all about the choice you make, the way of life you choose. If it’s money, fame, zero to hero that you want, then you better work hard at it, because the competition is fierce. If however you want to enjoy the spring years of your life by taking a step back and have time to do things you will not be able to do whne you are 45 or 50 years old, then that is also fine. My point is, stick to what you choose, even if it´s a late choice in life, once you make the bid run with it. If you make it then it was worth the effort, if you stop short then you will know that you had never given it your all. If you give it your all and still come short then at least you will know you did not lose because you are a loser. Plus, if you are a hard worker someone who HAS made is big will eventually pick you up for the ride, so not all will be lost.

  140. amira says:

    Thank you for the reminder that we “are here to make a dent in the universe”.
    it’s natural to cry fowl when it appears that you are the only person working while everyone else is having a good time.
    but yes, those who want make a difference – need to work more … it’s sad :(
    but yes the dent in the universe will have your name :)

  141. If you’re constantly working absurdly long hours, what about your personal development? Your life? Your health? We need time to recharge so that we can do our best work. Hell, and even enjoy life.

    You can’t neglect life because a VC is telling you to work longer because of some ambiguous, big payoff looming somewhere in the distance. Unless, of course, you do your best work after 24 hours straight and don’t care about anything else. Then make the best use of the Ballmer Peak and have at it.

    We need to stop following this bullshit thinking, and you should stop perpetuating it: it simply isn’t sustainable to work like this.

  142. J.C.V. says:

    Thanks, I needed this. I was starting to have my own pitty party. After reading this I decided to get back to work.

  143. The start-up culture (as redefined by bullshit companies like Y Combinator) is doomed for failure. It is not sustainable and will come crashing down. Companies like airbnb will not make it to IPO – too many loose ends and potential lawsuits on that one. It’s just a mess right now and controlled too tightly by people like Paul Graham who doesn’t really care about the start-ups he “discovers” and deems worthy of his $17K. To him, they are just another couple of young dreams he throws against the wall to see what sticks.

    http://mankabros.com/blogs/onmedea/2010/11/03/y-combinator-is-a-stupid-idea/

  144. Very well put and I love this. Hard work is why something is excellent. It’s nice to hear this story. Thank you for sharing!

  145. its hard to start something, but i think – if someone have new, fresh and interesting idea – the sucess of it will come eventualy – all we need is wait for it.

  146. Tyson says:

    You’re making a dent in the universe by building mind-numbing online games?

  147. Having started my second career in advertising, and having ‘put in my time’ on the ground floor in an agency environment. I will say that the squeeky wheel get’s the grease needs to be taken off the wagon and rolled down the hill.

    The President himself told us 3 years ago. We’re going to have to work hard. Tighten up our chinstraps and pull up our trousers. It’s time to go to work! Otherwise, just pop a tent on the lawn of city hall and live a life of homeless vagrancy. Ok, in all fairness, that might have been a bit harsh. But seriously people. If you don’t like your job, get a new one. It’s a free country (mostly). And no, you are NOT ‘entitled’ to your dream job. If you want your ‘dream job’, then GO.GET.IT.

  148. cwebba1 says:

    Hi, I’m available for work. Look me up. I provide expert graphic design, copywriting and front-end development. I charge an hourly rate. From you I will need advance payment. You can make payment in easy installments using PayPal. Find the button on the contact page of my website, then give mea call.

  149. mgb says:

    Maybe somewhere between 1994 and now people realized – perhaps during a giant swelling and sudden “bursting”, if you can imagine – that startups could be incredibly damaging to people and that they actually weren’t pure positivity.

    Maybe. I can’t imagine when that might have happened, of course.

  150. What is with the world nowadays? Everyone is trying to imitate the success of the United States, without success. First, there was a hype for researchers and scientists, then that was transferred to the engineers, and now it is for entrepreneurs. Are they all in the same batch? Although there are other options worldwide trying to imitate Silicon Valley, I don’t think they will ever get it:

    http://trendguardian.blogspot.com/2010/04/russia-plans-science-city-modeled-on.html

    http://trendguardian.blogspot.com/2010/03/secret-of-silicon-valley.html

  151. Jeremy says:

    Sure. Work your ass off… for something you believe in. Something worth the pain and sacrifice.

    For me, this will likely have to be a venture I start myself, or at the very least one where I’m a co-conspirator. I’ll make *my* dent in the world or I’ll die trying, dammit!

    As a regular employee at your company though, I’ll help you make *your* dent, and I’ll even give up the right to strike it rich when you do. In exchange, I expect (with reasonable exceptions, of course) to work a reasonable number of predictable hours for a fair salary. That’s how this relationship works.

    If you want more—if you want my sweat and blood and tears—you’d better be prepared to pay for the privilege. This is capitalism, right?

    How many Silicon Valley startups are willing and able to do that?

  152. yakitoko says:

    Really nice article, I think people in startup company should ask themselves this question: how bad do you want to be successful?if you can answer this, you know the amount of work that you have to do.

  153. such a crazy person :)

  154. Michael says:

    Screw history. We’re here for the short time we have on this rock.

    Yes, startups are hard, but a business model designed around unrealistic employee expectations is poorly designed.

    To anyone reading this crap… just remember. Put in the crazy effort if you love it. But NEVER do so because you’re buying the “be a part of history” line from the VCs who want to abuse you.

    • Jeremy says:

      Besides, chances are really good you’ll end up part of the history of failed startups.

      Not to discourage anyone, of course, but it’s something everyone should recognize going in.

      If your heart’s not 100% in this particular venture, it’s probably not worth letting it take over your life.

  155. Kevin says:

    Terrible advice. Don’t get railroaded into giving up time with your spouse, children, and friends because some VC says you should work harder. Your kids won’t really remember whether you had a Benz or an Acura, they will remember if you were around for them.

  156. krista says:

    Hard workers such as this need to be isolated people. They cannot be someone who is easily distracted, however if they do have a family it is sad to see that the family may be neglected. But, this sort of thing happens all the time it depends upon the individual how big their thirst for growth is and the deadlines they give themselves. However, especially in men risk of a shortened life line is much higher.

  157. ajonespua says:

    Definitely agree with this article, takes a great degree of focus to be this dedicated.

  158. laurensedger says:

    I love this. It actually endorses the youthful dreams I keep banging on about and getting slammed down about. Slammed down beacuse I am not ‘realistic’, not in ‘the real-world’. Fuck the real world I’m going to be what I want to be and people are most definitely going to read about it in history. Screw the real world, we only ever complain about that. We all need to stop winging about how things are harder, how we are disadvantaged, grow some balls and either do something about it or get over it.

  159. Jefff says:

    Ha! Your VC investors are off on their yachts and sleeping in, while the geek programmers work your butts off for the dream that your pittance of founder shares might pay off big someday. If your “fabulous idea” wasn’t merely an incremental improvement over something that’s already out there, you wouldn’t feel so threatened that somebody else is having the exact same idea and might get to market first because they stayed up later and worked harder. Startups are a lottery, but you can’t win if you don’t play!

    • Jeremy says:

      What’s with the obsession with being first to market, anyway? This isn’t a race. There is no finish line. Chances are good you don’t even have a decent map of where you’re going, even if you think you do.

      No number of 80+ hour work weeks will save you if you’re wasting time building the wrong thing and a competitor isn’t.

      Besides, if you want to produce good code faster, why not hire better programmers? The difference in productivity can be dramatic as it is, but the best part is great programmers can do things that weaker programmers, especially overworked weaker programmers, just can’t pull off at all, no matter how long you give them.

      Imagine that! You can compete by actually being better at building software than your competitors! Maybe then your programmers can all put in their 8 hours for the day and then go enjoy the rest of their lives.

      Or are we all just out to see who can build the next Twitter clone the fastest?

      • When you bring a new product to market it has to be the best. The product must be the premier brand for the market it competes in. You must be obsessed with bringing the best features, functions, and innovations to your product to be the pinnacle of products in the market. Your product brand must be the ultimate icon of your market by which all other competing brands are measured. Success is achieved with vision, effort. pain, sweat, tears, and courage. Steve Jobs epitimized the very best of achieving success..

        • egreg says:

          It’s very simple.

          Money scales. TIme does not.
          Whenever possible, Work Smarter, not Harder.
          People live lives. Companies create products.

          A company should keep it separate, and focus on hiring better developers, instituting better practices, etc. And making people work like slaves until they burn out is hardly the best practice — it is a last resort. Any company that does this as a matter of course is part of the problem, not the solution. And before you defend slavery, think about why you are so for it.

        • Jeremy says:

          Sure… and I’m not saying startup founders should expect to put in their 9-5 every day and then leave. Your employees aren’t founders though, and unless they stand to gain like founders, it’s unreasonable to expect them to work like founders.

          I’d also argue that vision and talent are far more important than maximizing work output per employee. (I’d also argue that ridiculous hours don’t maximize work output, but others have already made that point, and I’m amazed some people still believe differently.)

          See also: http://www.despair.com/incompetence.html

          Besides, it’s a lot easier to sell people on a 40 hour work week than an 80+ hour work week. You might even get more programmer for your money, and those programmers might even stick around after they realize what they’ve gotten themselves into!

          Apple’s also a great example of how it’s not a features race.

          In terms of features checklists, the original iPhone looked like a joke. Sure, it had a great Web browser, but it was hobbled by its wonderfully speedy EDGE connection unless you happened to be in Wi-Fi range. The phone came with a handful of apps, but there was no way to get 3rd party apps on the thing.

          It couldn’t even copy and paste until iPhone OS 3. My *Treo* could copy and paste! My Treo could run third-party apps, too!

          My Treo could even multitask, come to think of it. In 2004.

          If a team if 10,000 people slaving away 20 hours a day even managed to come up with something like the iPhone without Apple’s eye for design, would they have recognized it for what it was?

        • Steven Brown says:

          Hi Jeremy,

          You’ve just echoed the observations of Frederick Brooks Jr. who wrote “The Mythical Man-Month” and “No Silver Bullet”. These are hallmark publications which deal with Information Technology Application Engineering Project Management which are even more critical these days when dealing with Agile Software Development and IT Delivery Services. My blog’s post talks about dealing with IT workloads for both human resources and computer processing resources at http://wp.me/p1WXVG-40.

  160. Hey Michael,

    I totally get your point but I think it’s important to consider that not everybody wants to live the startup life as you describe it.

    Some of us are happy doing what we like to do. I’m an open source programmer, I do some coding, I do some writing, and I do some consulting. I earn enough to live comfortably with my family in nice place and don’t need millions of dollars or be in the cover of Wired or Time magazine to feel I’m succeeding.

    To me, a simple thank you from somebody who’s got a problem resolved using some idea or code I shared is more than enough.

    Making a dent in the universe is not a requisite for living a good life.

    Cheers!

  161. trialsinfood says:

    interesting. what are your thoughts on biotech start-ups? i’ve been working in one for almost 8 years. is it still considered a start-up at this point? i’ve done the long hours, cried a lot and gotten dermatitis and carpal tunnel along the way. yet, we are still here.

  162. Tiparillo says:

    “And realize you’re part of history.”

    HAHA thanks for the laugh. One thing that hasn’t changed in 30+ years, Silicon Valley’s bloated self importance.

  163. The Hook says:

    Sleeping at work? Sounds like fun…

  164. 4qrsolutions says:

    Great article! It is one thing when you fall asleep working for someone else but quite another natural moment when you are the start-up driven by passion and just too tired to be of any use to anyone. There is truly more to life.

  165. woodss says:

    So sad that most people in the comments on here (and especially the poster) seem to have forgotten what is important in life. Fuck money. You get one shot at enjoying this place we call Earth and you’re working in a stuffy grey office while there’s a blue sky, warm breeze, nature and exploration outside? LOL.

  166. epgunn says:

    Do you honestly think people are going to be talking and thinking about Zynga forever? Or that people put in these hours out of some idealistic desire to be part of history rather than in hopes of a monster payoff from an IPO or buyout? Where’s your clear-eyed perspective, Arrington?

  167. liaolily says:

    If the vision entices, what one needs is just do it as one could.

  168. I say, if you don’t like what your doing or how you are doing, figure out how to change it. You can still be a part of history without having give up you own personal history.

  169. Ben Slivka says:

    It is fun to see this article (looks to be from fall, 1996) after all this time.

    For the record, I started what became the Internet Explorer team in early October, 1994, and led it through the release of IE 3.0 in August, 1996. We started work on IE 2.0 and 3.0 in parallel in July, 1995, after finishing IE 1.0. I worked between 80-100 hours per week for 17 of the 23 months that I worked on IE.

    The way I logged 100 hours in a week was to arrive at the office at 9:00 a.m., work until ~3:00 a.m., go home for ~4 hours of sleep, get back by 9:00 a.m., work until 9:00 p.m., go home for a solid 9-10 hours of sleep, and then repeat for weeks on end.

    During this period I also built a home and my third child was born. And I still somehow managed to read the Seattle Times, Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, and The Economist reliably.

    My wife did refer to me as her “mythical husband”… :-)

    This was the most fun I had during my 14 years at Microsoft…and no one forced me to work these hours. I joined Microsoft in 1985, I had vested stock options, and so I felt a true sense of ownership and responsibility — to my team, my fellow employees, MSFT shareholders, software developers, and Windows customers.

    To this day I am proud of the work that the IE team did and of my small contribution to the role that IE played in expanding the web and the Internet.

    So were those long hours worth it? You bet!

  170. musingsnyc says:

    It kills me that these individuals choose to experience the unique and creative space they get to work at in such a negative light. Perhaps part of the problem is the way start- ups have been romanticized in the media, “20 something rising to the top of the Internet mountain, from basement of his/her parents home to a plush, funky office.” The start- up blues could also be the shock that activities other than throwing around a frisbee at work all day at work are required to lift a start- up off the ground. Whatever it is, I think you summed it up perfectly, “Work hard. Cry less. And realize you’re part of history.”

  171. I think the “we’re part of history” can be a bit of hyperbole. A lot of start-ups are quite banal. And some “successful” startups like Zynga are cynical at best. What have they done to change the world for the better?

  172. suhail says:

    a good read, i agree with the author.

  173. Tim Sell says:

    What a load of crap. When guys talk about how many hours they work, they might as well just flop their dicks out.
    But hey, if you’re convinced it’s meaningful, whatever.

  174. vipinnagpal says:

    I have just read the first para of it. I have just one question for you. How come you were working so f**king hard and the next day you had time to write such an awesome blog?

  175. Life in Silicon Valley is stressful but also challenging. We recently wrote a story http://academy.justjobs.com/stop-whining-take-ownership where we motivate people to take ownership of their lives. I hope it’s inspiring. – Erich

  176. Steven Brown says:

    @Tim Sell … Not too classy Tim! You need to recognize that people react differently under stress! Understanding personalities and talents is important not just for managers but for any one who works as part of a team. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.

  177. Steven Brown says:

    @vipinnagpal … The blog was an obvious attempt to decompress from the stress and anxiety the author was trying to deal with. Decompression is an important tool when dealing with highly stressful situations. It expunges the toxins building up our body chemistry and brain. It allows us to refresh and re-vitalize ourselves and to regain focus on our objectives. It is vital to how we handle workload management.

    If you understand how the brain works you realize that it needs a break from a stressful workload, in essence a time-out, to allow it to re-energize and re-focus. As the number of hours of stress begin to take their toll they sharply impact our productivity causing a downward spiral in productivity. This spiral needs to be broken and the mind given time to refresh. During this down time our sub-conscious actually gains access to thought processes which may have impaired our ability to logically and logistically think a problem through to a solution.

    Patience with oneself and others is a critical behaviour for successful team building.

    • vipinnagpal says:

      I always thought a nice sleep was the best way to re-charge the brain. I guess I was wrong!

      “Patience with oneself and others is a critical behaviour for successful team building.”

      Thanks

  178. Pedro says:

    What a shit advice. We only have one life and it’s stupid to spend half of the life working 24/7 only to make more money and create something that most of the people will not remember a couple of months later?

    Work and money isn’t everything. We live to travel and to make real connections with family and friends, no putting a shit like in a Facebook page.

    • Brade says:

      Agreed! Funny how the person writing this makes his coin by simply standing by whilst the entrepreneurs and engineers work themselves to death. I’m glad there are successful companies out there like 37signals and Treehouse that have the opposite point of view. Free time is a beautiful thing.

  179. Steve Noble says:

    I slept on the floor outside the “router room” (I will not qualify it as a data center) at a startup in 1996 because one of the serial cards in my Cisco 7000 would stop working randomly, requiring me to OIR it (online insertion and reboot).. I ran WhatsUp Gold on a laptop and it would start squealing when the card died.

    To all the complainers.. this is how it works. I spent years in the same mode, If I was awake I was on IRC talking to the engineers about whatever issue was going on.. if I was asleep, I had enough devices around me to wake me so I could drive the .8 miles to the datacenter and do whatever I needed to.

    If you love what you do, do it. If you don’t love what you do, get another job.

  180. Start up Vet says:

    What a load of crap. How many of us have had to endure the amazing stupidity of bat-shit CEOs and their legion of fascinated followers only to be led down a dead end path? Very few of those in start ups ever get the payoff promised – either in money or in being “part of something”. These companies use and abuse people, and waste other people’s money only to go under most of the time. The promise of riches and fame are false. Stock grants are a lottery ticket. I don’t mind working hard, but I don’t want smoke blown up my skirt while someone at the top gets his jollys being king of the mountain. Until the mountain becomes a sink hole, that is.

  181. Jerm says:

    I hope that everyone knows I am not this person, that I have a greater and better vision of self inside me. But I don’t fight without this shit n I must see this through.

  182. John Locke says:

    The fallacy of the article is that there’s only one way to fame and fortune, by permanently off burning off your life energy because if you don’t, you’re some sort of tech p***y. Yeah, taunting and double-dog-daring stopped working with me a long time ago. Not so in the Valley, apparently. And what everyone says is correct, stock equity is a lottery ticket: it’s wasted effort if your startup fails to make it (Which is a whole other discussion).

    Life is too damn short to waste it on something you don’t believe in. “To make money” isn’t an adequate reason to throw in with an idea you’re not truly passionate about, or live like a crack fiend, even if the other brogrammers are doing it.

  183. Thanks for this. I referenced the article in a blog about startups and ‘faking it’. If you’d like to read it, you can do so here: http://subimage.com/blog/2013/10/27/fake-it-until-you-make-it

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 14,880 other followers

%d bloggers like this: