I left my corporate job and joined a 5 person start-up 9 months ago.
I joined a start-up that was made up of only 5 people at the time. It has now been 9 months and thinking back, I’ve come to realize how similar my journey has been to a romantic relationship. One of the biggest realizations I had when I joined this start-up was that most difficult obstacles were not the business challenges, but rather the emotional challenges.
Stage 1: The Honeymoon Phase
Love. You stay up at night to talk to them until 3:00 a.m. even though you’re old enough to know that you’re going to be a zombie at work the next day. You constantly sneak their name into random conversations you have with your friends just so you can hear it. It’s the blissful stage of sleep deprivation, yet you’ve never been this happy before.
Start-up. I didn’t sleep. I would come into work before 7:00 a.m., leave for a quick dinner, jog and be back at the office in my sweaty work-out gear until 2:00 a.m. I was running on 4–5 hours of sleep, and for the first time in my life, I had a new penchant for caffeine — it was the adrenaline. I was free from the corporate world and working with young, smart people who were equally as passionate as I was. I dove into the world of start-ups and crammed my days with coffees, conferences, blogs and books. I was running off of no sleep, but if you ask any of my friends, they probably would all say that they’ve never seen me so happy.
Stage 2: Becoming One
Love. During this stage you two become inseparable. You start taking your significant other out to company parties, family events, and slowly but surely, people start associating you with your partner. Double dates become triple dates because you start connecting better to those who are in relationships. Oh, and you leave your toothbrush at their place.
Start-up. My personal life and start-up world became one in the same very quickly. “Time-off” from mental and physical exertion didn’t exist. I was always working. My mind was always thinking about the challenges I was facing or new ideas for our innovations. Even during social settings, my mind was unconsciously searching for an opening that would allow me to bring up my start-up in the conversation. The people I connected with most were people who understood what it felt like to be in a lean start-up, thus my social circle started adapting to fit with my sensibility.
Stage 3: Getting To REALLY Know Each Other
Love. As you spend time with your partner, you begin to discover their flaws, take each other for granted and get into petty fights. You can’t hide things in a relationship. There are a lot of highs, but there are as many lows. It’s not easy being in a relationship… It requires work, effort and persistence.
Start-up. Start-ups are usually very small, hence you have to spend the majority of your day with very few people. Within a couple of months, my start-up co-workers got to know me better than my corporate co-workers who had known me for 2 years. My start-up colleagues saw me vulnerable, confused, hurt, and at the brink of giving up. My weaknesses and strengths were quickly visible to everyone and I had never felt so exposed in my life.
I couldn’t hide behind colorful PowerPoints and political shields anymore. We were a lean start-up, and when I failed, the whole company felt the impact. There was one time when I woke up at 7:00 a.m. and sat in bed for 2 hours staring at my phone because I was scared to see the e-mails that were waiting for me from my clients. There were times when a single e-mail from a client would quickly suck the energy out of me for the rest of the day. Failure was something that felt extremely personal because in a 5-person company, there really was no one else to blame even if you tried.
Stage 4:Compromise And Mould
Love. At this stage, most people either separate or become stronger together. Couples either learn how to fight right or they simply discover that they just aren’t compatible enough to be together at this time in their lives. For those couples who stick together, this is when they learn how to compromise and mould to each other.
Start-up. There came a moment when I made peace with the ambiguity and challenges of being part of a start-up. When shit hit the fan, I wasn’t as stressed as before. I started accepting that there were always going to be challenges in the start-up industry, but I had a solid team that would continue to support me. It took a while to arrive to this stage, but eventually, I did. Half the battle was finding it in myself to let go and enjoy the crazy ride.
Joining a start-up and leaving the corporate life is a significant leap of courage. It’s not only a change in your career path, but it transforms your lifestyle as well. Regardless how experienced or smart you are in the corporate world, the jump will be scary and will toss your world upside down. Your friends won’t be able to entirely empathize with your stress, and there will be times when you literally cannot get out of bed to face the world. You’ll probably forget to even shower. Nonetheless, the feeling of growing a business with your bare hands and doing epic shit in the world is all worth it in the end.