Maintaining Healthy Relationships While Working at a Startup

The thing about putting your all into your startup is that, technically, then you don’t have anything left for the other important facets of your life. This week, Mattan tackles why maintaining healthy relationships are important, and how you can (re)structure your time to push your business forward without leaving your friends behind.

The universally acknowledged and unpleasant truth is that when you’re running a startup, you’re going to be working unbelievably hard. Harder than you ever thought possible. It’s tempting to see the huge time commitment you’re making as a binary choice between relationships and work. But that doesn’t have to be true. Maintaining a good work/life balance is just that: balance. Here are three tips to help you keep all your plates spinning:

1. Relationships Are An Important Investment

Don’t simply write off your relationships in favor of taking care of, er, business. While relationships require energy and attention, you’ll eventually get that commitment back in the form of support, help, introductions, and resources. Those outcomes shouldn’t be why you’re investing time and effort into family, friends, and significant others — but they are an inevitable benefit.

2. A Change Is Gonna Come

That said, with so much of your time taken up by a startup, something has to give or change in how you invest time and energy into relationships. Think of new channels and mechanisms you can use to keep in touch with people. Perhaps consider putting together a friend update newsletter. Even the gesture of shooting a quick email to people you care about will be appreciated.

3. Constant Vigilance!

A key ability in managing your startup commitments, personal wellbeing, and other relationships is knowing when and how to say no. You can’t take every meeting, and you can’t see every movie, and you can’t always go out for drinks. Set aside one day, or a specific amount of time per week, for meetings/coffees/socializing, and then ruthlessly prioritize how you spend it. You have to be honest about your time commitments, both with yourself and with everyone else.

Still, remember that first point about relationships being worth the effort. Even if you don’t have the time to meet with someone, do still reach out out to them. People will appreciate that you’re thinking about them. All relationships are, are communication over time. So keep the lines of communication open and keep track of your time. The rest will, so to speak, balance out.

Why I Do Startups (Plus Startups vs. MBAs)

Why do I do Startups?

When you’re running a startup you certainly don’t do it for the money. Paper valuations, even those worth millions, end up coming out to $0 most of the time (90% of startups fail).

And I certainly don’t do it for the stability (there is none).

So why do I do it?

It’s kind of selfish. I do it because I love what I’m doing at any given moment — all the stress, uncertainty, and anxiety around finding product market fit.

I get off on constantly having new problems to solve.

Maybe it’s because I’m trying to escape boredom. Boredom scares the shit out of me. Doing the same thing every day sounds like hell.

“I’ve got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom.” — Thomas Carlyle

But I also think of the act of running a startup as building the life I really want to be living.

That means a life in which I’m constantly learning, facing new challenges, and then achieving and conquering those challenges. The feeling of going from being totally underwater and drowning, to occaisionally being able to come up for air, to swimming, and eventually surfing — that’s an amazing feeling and I’ve grown quite addicted to it.

The more experience you have trying new things and figuring it out, the more confidence you build in yourself and your ability to tackle bigger and greater problems.

Like in improv comedy, after you throw yourself on stage enough times without any lines, you learn to trust yourself in new and unexpected situations. There’s no way to put a value on that. It’s priceless.

It’s about trusting yourself. Knowing that you can be thrown into an uncertain situation and knowing that you’ll be alright.

Trusting that you have the ingenuity to figure it out. I believe everyone has that ingenuity but few people are willing to let themselves be scared enough to figure it out.


People often talk about stress as something negative.

But stress can also perceived as something positive — a challenge, a new obstacle, something exciting. Weightlifters and runners talk about stress, but they perceive it differently. It’s a stress that makes you better, it’s a stress that makes you stronger.

Being at a startup is about constantly learning, and improving things like leadership, your ability working with people, and your ability to master yourself.

Developing new skills is never boring.

That’s why I do what I do.

Startups vs MBAs

Of course, some people go back to school to get an MBA. I considered it for a while.

When you get an MBA, you spend 2–3 years, pay $200k, and you get a degree. You read case studies, interview business leaders, and learn frameworks for tackling problems.

Harvard Business School relies heavily on case studies — business situations that are dissected as white papers. But these case studies are simplifications. They only show a small part of the whole picture. As Ben Horowitz would say, that’s not the hard thing about the hard thing.

If you only ever study case studies, then you’re missing out on the nuances of the situation — the people, your biases, the holistic picture — the things that are really hard that you can’t learn from a book.

To me, deciding between going to business school versus starting a business is a no-brainer. I think the best way to learn is to do something yourself. The problems you run into are the kind you never would have anticipated. The speed at which you learn those problems is so much faster.

And also you don’t end up with student loans. (Ideally, you get paid to learn.)

Plus, interestingly, entrepreneurs get paid more if they go back to the workforce (as long as they’ve been running their companies for at least 2 years). The set of experiences you get are so unique and valuable.

Starting a business is the future of education.

That’s it for today’s #FounderFriday. If you have questions, post them below or email founderfriday at

What is Meditation?

Key Takeaways

We suggest a quick meditation technique known as Mindfulness of Breathing. Here’s how it works in three steps:

  1. Sit comfortably. You don’t need to do any special pose, just sit in a way that is relaxing.
  2. Bring your attention to the physical sensation of the breath. Breathe in. Breathe out. And just observe the breathe.
  3. Don’t worry if your mind wanders — it’s part of the process. Each time your mind wanders just return to your breathe (step #2).

Additional Resources