I don't write a lot of personal, or rather, just personal posts on this blog. Normally that's because I figure that the days of writing journals (web logs) have ended. These days I write posts that I hope help people.
But as I sat to write a different post on membership sites for associations, I couldn't get this post out of my head. So I'm writing it. If it's too personal, feel free to skip it. Tomorrow I promise you'll get a WordPress post.
I also almost never start a story at the beginning. I start in the middle or towards the end because it's more exciting. But today I'll start at the beginning.
When I was 30
I've told you about the time I sold a company by the time I was thirty – thought it would bring me joy and only discovered there was no parade the next day. That was a formative day. But that year was also formative in other ways.
I'd realized that all I was doing was working. Non-stop. 20 hour days, 5-6 days a week. All for the cause of starting, growing and ultimately selling companies. First it was one I didn't own. Then it was one I did.
But it was empty. And if you'd asked me at that time if I cared about my health, sleep, or even living beyond the next year or two, I would have – honestly – told you I didn't really care. The way some people didn't care about themselves and did drugs, that was how I was with work.
And then I met her
Through some friends, I ended up joining e-Harmony and after 4 hilarious dates with others, I finally met Melissa. And fell in love. All while building another startup, and then another.
But suddenly I had a life outside of work. I had a reason to sleep a bit longer, eat a bit better, and take breaks from the computer. And so we married and started life together.
And honestly, I started having a life.
Leaving my 5th Startup
In my fifth startup, in the middle of a run at building a new product – a huge re-platform – we had our first child, Emily. I literally left the hospital 6 hours after her birth to present our product at a Board Meeting.
Within months we launched the product and then my wife asked me something.
“I'd like you to work in a single place where we don't change health coverage for five years.”
That meant leaving the startup. And it meant not stepping into another one. It meant working elsewhere – where I could assure her of that level of stability she was looking for.
But I'm a startup guy!
I wish I could tell you that there was much gnashing of teeth and stress about the decision. I was a startup guy, after all. This is what I did. This is what I knew.
I create products and companies where none exist. That's me.
But there was another part of me. The life I'd started embracing, outside of work. With a wife. And a child.
And I had come to a new realization. I was more than a startup guy. I was a husband and a father.
So I chose her.
Over the years…
Over the years I have had countless options to leave the stable world of enterprise software development and go back to startups.
With each year I get more gray hair, and some teams like that. And each time, the decision isn't just a decision about what I like. It's not about my passion for software. Or my passion for growing something from nothing.
Instead, it's a passion for our partnership.
With each choice I make to put her first, I have more passion for our relationship.
And with each decision, I realize that I can still find ways to do startup things in other ways.
I coach. I advise. I help. And I write. All are ways to get the itch scratched.
Am I sad of what I've missed out on?
Tonight we sat down to talk about more options and opportunities. And I watched her say she'd go anywhere and do anything to support me – especially if the opportunity would really fuel me.
But I saw in her eyes the fear and stress and sadness that would come with leaving the home we've been creating here in San Diego over the last two and a half years.
And I realized something: I am not my job. I am not what I do.
Oh I'll surely miss out on some things. And I'm not saying you all should do the same. Decision making is tough. But I won't miss out on the things I choose for.
And I choose her. Again. Today and every day.