239: How to Balance Marriage and Startups
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In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten discuss some approaches to make your personal life healthier. Why? How you’re doing at home affects how you’re doing at work—bottom line. When there is a misalignment of expectations among partners, this can lead to conflict and at worst, a breakdown in a relationship. Therefore, there must be a strong focus on relationships and understanding your partner’s expectations because your life doesn’t get put on hold for business. Tune-in and discover ways to strengthen your personal relationships, so that both your personal and professional life can flourish.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
- 00:03 – Today’s Startup Chat is about dealing with personal issues at your workplace
- 01:08 – A client of Steli’s is going through personal issues with his marriage which is affecting his work
- 01:30 – They went on a hiring spree because they had just raised capital; however, things are going downhill since the founder is not able to give his work the due justice
- 02:43 – Ultimately everyone has to follow their own way – There is no tailored solution that can be applied to every situation
- 02:54 – Don’t bring home work and don’t bring work home
- 03:16 – Focusing on your relationship and expectations helps keep personal problems at bay
- 03:16 – Hiten’s wife has been actively involved in all his businesses so far – his home and work life have been closely intertwined
- 03:55 – While he pushes like anything from Monday to Friday, Hiten does not take any work commitments on the weekends
- 04:42 – This arrangement works fine since Hiten loves to go out and meet people, while his wife prefers to stay at home
- 05:10 – Since both partners have their respective needs met, this leads to a balanced relationship
- 06:08 – Rather than fussing over your work-life balance, focus on your relationship and expectations – make sure you are meeting each other’s expectations
- 06:33 – Different people have different coping mechanisms to deal with their relationship struggles – go for a walk, engage a therapist or simply talk it out
- 07:40 – Having a high level of comfort in your relationship ensures that you can talk things out in a moment of conflict
- 08:32 – Avoid cultivating a startup mindset that short-term suffering will lead to long-term gain – you can’t pause life while waiting for success
- 09:44 – Knowing your life partner intimately, and supporting their choices will lead to a life where you are honest with who you are, and what you want with each other
- 10:15 – A sacrificial mindset is not sustainable and might eventually breakdown your relationship
- 10:42 – Constantly strive to be better at your work and your relationships; sacrificing a few years of your life in the hope of getting a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is a delusional concept. This will only harm your relationship
- 11:40 – A conflict, if not nipped in the bud tends to magnify, and in the worst case even breakdown a relationship. These concepts have been discussed in Episode 067, The Ups and Downs of Cofounder Relationships and Alignment
- 11:57 – Learning how to deal with conflict is crucial to maintaining any type of relationship
- 12:22 – People are more negligent in dealing with conflicts in personal life than in professional life
- 12:31 – Need to iron out any misalignments with your partners regarding where you are, and where you want to go
- 13:10 – Professional success has no meaning if your personal life is in doldrums; find success in both these spheres of your life to be truly successful as a human being
- 13:48 – Start a difficult conversation with, “The story I am telling myself…”
- 14:17 – Can imply that what you think might not be true, and that there might be more information that you need to look at
- 14:57 – End of today’s episode
3 Key Points:
- Strive for a balanced relationship—be open and honest about your expectations as well as your partner’s so that you’re in alignment.
- Avoid cultivating a sacrificial mindset in the hope of getting a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – this will only harm your relationship.
- Learn to deal with any and all conflicts with your partner. A conflict, when not nipped in the bud, tends to magnify over time.
Hey everybody this is Steli Efti.
This is Hiten Shah.
In today’s episode of The Startup Chat I want to talk to you about a little bit of a touchy difficult subject, which has been some of our favorites in the past and some of the most impactful ones, which is how to deal with personal issues, family issues within your startup and within your work. The reason why this comes to mind is that a founder that is not quite, I wouldn’t say is a friend of mine, but is a founder that has been in touch with me for, I think, over two years now. We’ve talked a number of times. He always kept me in the loop on his progress with his company by email. I feel like I know this guy. I feel like I’ve helped him and advised him. I feel like he had some really good success. He’s going through a tough phase and he recently sent me a really long and heart-breaking email basically saying that he’s going through a lot of personal issues within his marriage and that it dramatically impacts him at work and that it creates this amazing amount of pressure, where he finally felt like his company’s growing and he’s hiring people and they’re raised money and things have gone really well and how he feels like he’s making all these mistakes. He’s not really showing up and he’s calling in sick and things are starting to go bad in his startup. It creates this downward spiral where the promise he has in his personal life are affecting his work. Now, the work is becoming more stressful and more problematic, which compounds his issues personally. He was just asking how to deal with this. Not that I know, but I think the question, “How do you deal with personal issues? When somebody is really sick or maybe death in the family?” We’ve talked about this before. Or in this case, just having marriage challenges. How do you deal with this within the context of running a startup? I don’t know if we have answers, but I thought it’d be interesting to explore this difficult topic with you.
Yeah. I love it. The best piece of advice I’ve heard on this and I think it goes both ways. It’s the best piece of advice, but it’s not like … Everyone has to follow their own way, but I think it’s still the best piece of advice, even though I’m putting that caveat on it before I even say what it is. I know you’re probably pretty good at doing this. I know I am, which is don’t bring work home and don’t bring home work. What I mean by that is I’m not telling you to compartmentalize your life. That’s not the advice. This is what I mean by, “Hey. It depends on how that feels for you and what that means.” I’ll get personal for a moment to explain this. For me, my home life- I’ve known my wife since we were both 15. She’s watched every single business I’ve started. In most of my businesses for the longest time I worked with her brother and now I have another business partner too. She also does a lot of things for our businesses and has forever. Our work and our home is very intertwined in a way that most people I would say aren’t in today’s world where there aren’t as many as what many would call family businesses. All of our things right now that we work on are family owned, so to speak. One way to think about it for us and for me is I set a structure where, and my wife did too, where I am committed to being home on Saturday and Sunday as much as possible. I don’t put anything on my calendar as much as possible. That means probably 90 to 95% of the time my calendar on the weekends is empty. Then on the weekdays I tend to be really impacted with meetings and what most would call work. On Fridays about 60, 70% of the time I’m home for dinner. Otherwise, no one will probably see me Monday through Thursday unless it’s a rare Monday through Thursday where I start later in the morning or I’m able to come home earlier and see the kids to bed. Now, that works for us. One reason is we know who we married. We know who are partners are on both ends, right? My wife loves being at home. My wife doesn’t like to go out and hang out with too many people, new people, she doesn’t know, but she knows that I get a lot out of that and I enjoy doing that. It’s a very balanced, not balanced life by any means, but it’s a balanced relationship in terms of she has her needs met, I have mine met. For me, that’s how it works. We’re both also working on both all of our businesses in different capacities. She’s working very heavily on one of them and she manages expenses and finance for all the rest of them. We keep doing more, so there’s always more to do for her. She’s not someone who can just be a stay-a-home mom, so she works from home. All of our companies are remote. She is working as much as I am, even with the kids and all that. We have a little bit of help from my mother-in-law most of the time. That’s how it works for us. The reason I’m giving that example is it’s worked for us. It points out how anyone listening to this is probably like, “You two are weird.” That’s just not how most people think about things. You’re just like, “That’s absolutely correct.” Anyone else that has a “You two is weird, too.” If they’re not, then they really haven’t really figured it out. They’re taking a framework like, “Oh, you need a work life balance or any of that.” You don’t need any of that. What you need is your relationships to be healthy so my advice is focus on the relationship. Focus on people’s expectations and making sure you’re meeting each other’s expectations including if you have kids and other people in your family are meeting their expectations, too. It’s not just about your spouse or your partner. That’s the same for a co-founder relationship, to be honest. I just go back to you want to solve the problem, it’s a relationship problem. You need help, there’s therapists. There’s hypnosis. There’s mediation. There’s couples counseling. There’s going out on a walk and just talking about life, not work. There’s a lot of these tactics, and again it has to do with who you are and how you cope with relationship sort of struggles.
It’s interesting. We’re going on a different track than I originally thought, but I love this one as well so we might make this a two part episode at some point. Talk about not so much what are you doing in a moment of crisis. What you’re describing is much more how do you set things up so your family life and your company life, how can they coexist. How can they be in harmony by creating expectations, by communicating, by setting up a foundation that’s really solid where expectations are met, right?
I started that on purpose though so I still think we’re one topic, and the topic is about crisis. The reason I say that and I’m glad you’re bringing that up is you can’t have some sort of way to resolve a conflict unless you know what the other side looks like. To me, what I’m describing is an iterated approach which might change in a year or six months or when things change a little bit though we’re very comfortable, my wife and I having this conversation. You have to find a way to have that conversation especially in moments of conflict if you haven’t set this up yet. There is a way to do it. I guess, for me, I shared that because I want people to feel like there’s a way to do it. I don’t want them to feel like they need work life balance or they need all this bullshit I hear with generic advice. This is relationships, and no two relationships are the same.
Yeah. The other thing is oftentimes you have this sense of sacrifice in startups especially where it’s this notion of, well, he’s starting his startup now and it’s going to be really stressful, and we’re all going to have to sacrifice for a few years. Then this magical, successful –
Oh, my god.
Life will change, and it’s going to be the way I always dreamed it would be. It’s like, A, … I love your reaction like, “Oh, my god.”
There’s this expectation that we are short term suffering to get to some kind of a long term end goal that’s much nicer. A, that end goal might never occur. B, you don’t know how long it’s really going to take. C, you can’t just pause life. Of course you can make some decisions today for tomorrow, but you want to set up a life that’s sustainable. Then what happens the startup is a success or a failure. What happens afterwards many times your spouse, your wife will want to start the next thing. Then you’re going through that again. It’s like I go back to what you said earlier which is we know each other. We know who we married. We know who we are. I like these things. She likes those things. How do we make our life compatible, how do we make each other support each other, how do we design a life together where we’re honest with who we are and what we want versus this making compromises that are not sustainable or making sacrifices either internally and quietly or externally and loudly that are not realistic. Like, “Oh, yeah. I’m going to suffer the next five years for the rest of our life.” Bullshit. The rest of your life is most likely going to look like the next five years. Eventually, it’s going to break down. It’s not going to be sustainable. It’s not going to work out that way.
Yeah. You’re hitting on a big point. I think people don’t realize there is no temporary pain for the other side. There’s a constant amount of work you have to do on your relationships, as well as your work. I think getting delusional about it and thinking you have to sacrifice for a few years, and then you get this pot of gold at the end of the rainbow style thinking, I’ve never seen that really pan out. That means you’re just making your family and yourselves go through kind of these tough times that you’re making up. Your better approach is to think about how do you have sustainability in what you’re doing on both sides of work and family life, or making sure you have that sort of outlet where you’re not just working all the time if that’s not what you want or what you can sustain with the relationships you have.
Yeah. All right, I feel like this is a good point to wrap this episode up. I mean, man, family life, personal life, these are very emotionally charged topics. They are difficult oftentimes because most people don’t communicate honestly. They don’t attack conflict when it’s small, and it kind of grows over the years to something that’s very difficult to deal with. We’ve talked about these things in co-founder relationships and conflict resolutions. Those are two episodes you can look up that we’ve talked about in the past where one-on-one conflict resolution doesn’t matter if it’s your co-founder, a teammate, or you husband or your wife. Learning how to deal with conflict, learning how to communicate in conflict is so crucial to maintaining any type of relationship. These things come up again, and again, and again as we talk. I find that especially in people’s personal life, they seem even more negligent than they are in their professional lifes for some reason with communicating honestly, with attacking conflict, with dealing with misalignment which is another thing we’ve talked about. This is a . I’ve talked about a startup team being aligned. I think the same thing applies in personal life, in your family life. Is your family really aligned, is your partner and you really aligned on where you want to go and what you’re doing? If there’s misalignment, there’s going to be tension and friction and there’s going to be conflict eventually. Learning to deal with these things head on and personal life will obviously dictate the quality of your life overall and with that, I think, will have a big impact on how you act in your professional life and how well you can do with your startup. If your personal life is a mess, it’s going to be … I mean, some people pull it off. I find that if your personal life is a mess, it doesn’t matter if your startup is a success. Your life will suck so try to figure out both of these things is going to be crucial, I think, for long term success of you as a human being. Yeah, I think-
I got a-
I got a quick tip I learned recently.
I don’t remember where I got it from. It’s some book or some quote or something and I was like, “Damn, that’s good.” When you’re communicating about how you feel and it has to do with the other person, one of the best kind of ways to do that because it’s the most honest truth is when you start by saying the story I’m telling myself so I think-
Ooh, I like this-
It’s really powerful. I learned it and I still don’t use it enough, but what I realized is it’s one of those things you can’t abuse. You cannot abuse it because all you’re saying is this is what I’m telling myself. That implies it might not be true. That implies there might be more information you don’t have. That implies so many awesome things that kind of put people’s down, even your own. If I’m just telling myself a story, that’s cool because that’s not necessarily a reality. When you really think about it, what is a reality? It’s just whatever’s in your head anyways. The story I’m telling myself about this is and starting off like that I found to be one of the most effective ways to have difficult conversations.
Beautiful. I love it, so powerful. All right, brother, I think this is it from us for this episode. We’ll –
All right, bye-bye.
See you, bye.