Getting off the treadmill

August 21st, 2015

Speaking of jwz, last night he weighed-in on the continuing trend of companies pushing the culture that to succeed in tech you must never sleep. He did so by pointing to a bunch of his older blog posts on the subject. I recommend you read them. Ultimately, though, this is his message:

Instead of that, I recommend that you do what you love because you love doing it. If that means long hours, fantastic. If that means leaving the office by 6pm every day for your underwater basket-weaving class, also fantastic.

Since he helped build Netscape and was neck deep in that culture (and made money because of it) his actions from the 90s are sometimes used against him. However, fortunately for him his words are forever recorded in the documentary Code Rush where he very plainly says that he got lucky. Most of his friends that were doing the same thing didn’t. Sleeping under your desk isn’t a formula for success otherwise all of them would have won.

While I’ve worked at startups for most of my career I’ve never subscribed to this mentality even when my own bosses were pressuring me to do so. My position at a few of the companies were threatened if I didn’t work more hours. I never gave in and I’ve never been fired from any job in my life.

Some people that I’ve worked with over the years simply could not believe I wasn’t in the office before 9am or that I would leave work before 6pm to make it to a religious meeting. Almost all of those people have less than stellar family lives, health, or the ability to do anything but work. I never looked at any of them with envy and I’m fairly certain that when they end up looking back at these decades that have passed they’ll regret not seeing more sunlight or the faces of their friends and family.

Over the last two years of building and rescuing Plain from the brink I would say that I have worked pretty hard and have definitely felt the stress of the start up choices I’ve made. Even during the worst of our time with Plain, however, I took time to kayak and go on vacation. It seems counter intuitive to workaholics but keeping a work-life balance even when you’re up against the wall may be the thing that keeps you moving forward. Working longer hours is almost never a solution to any problem. Having a clear head, less stress, and working smarter almost always is.

To that end, in fact, I think I’m going to go even further the other way. Recently Kyle and I have been throwing around the idea of a 32-hour work week. Other companies have done it and seen success. Today (Friday) I’m writing this from my home office and I plan on working a little bit this morning and then heading to kayak with Eliza. Kyle is at an amusement park with his family. Perhaps Kyle and I can somehow make it work and give ourselves even better lives and do even better work as a result.