The startup world is full of people addicted to work. The addiction often carries a heavy toll of lost friendships, broken relationships, bad health, and a dearth of other interests. All that matters is the next high from work. The next deal, the next milestone, the next round of funding.
If you had a similar addiction to cocaine or alcohol, people would call you sick and ask you to get help. But in the startup world, this addiction is praised by many. You’re a hero for putting in all your chips of life for that off chance that you’ll hit a royal flush.
What’s worse is that most of these addicts know intellectually that plowing through 14 hour work days is not actually a very productive way to get ahead. That more time doesn’t mean more valuable work done. Jason Cohen addresses this in Sacrifice your health for your startup. He recognizes that sleep deprivation is not helpful, but still sees it as a badge of honor. That the extra work is probably not quality product, but somehow still needs to happen.
He talks the talk of reason but walks the walk of an addict. Desperate to find a justification for his ways: You need to be nothing but work because you have to wear many hats. You need to have a single-tracked obsession with work because the nirvana of “financial freedom” is just a few highs away.
Being addicted to your work might be slightly better than a coke habit, but it follows the same pattern of abuse and escapism. And most importantly, it is not a requirement for success. You do not have to become an addict to run a startup. Be passionate, be obsessed, but don’t let it be an excuse for consuming your life.