5 Startup Lessons From My Newborn

Posted: October 27, 2013 by Tim Metzner in Culture, Leadership, People, Uncategorized

Over the last 16 months I’ve had the fortune of being a 2-time new dad and new startup founder. I’ve learned a ton from both (including following either path is not for the faint of heart,) and recently realized there is much overlap in lessons learned from both worlds.

1. The right partner is everything.

Finding the right co-founder or spouse makes all the difference in the world. In fact, choose poorly on this front and eventual failure is all but certain. Things might not blow up right away, but as soon as times get rough (and they will), you’ll learn how well you chose.

So do yourself a favor and be diligent about the things that you can control. Pick a partner who complements your strengths, understands and accepts your weaknesses, and is ready AND willing to jump in the trenches when it’s time to do battle.

2. Output is important.

Every new parent tells you one of the most important things they do is meticulously monitor their output. Are they creating enough dirty diapers (both #1 & #2) to show that they are eating enough and making the transition out of the womb?

Tracking Owen’s dirty diapers, I realized the similarities to measuring early output in a startup. When launching, it’s easy to focus on the wrong things — branding, 3-year business plans, the perfect logo. Founders tend to avoid anything uncomfortable, or anything that might disprove their great idea. For this reason, focus on doing the right things to help you test and learn as quickly as possible.

3. Sleep: Take it when you can get it.

Most of us underestimate the value of sleep. Experienced parents advise you to “sleep when baby sleeps.” So when your baby decides to snooze, you seize the opportunity to get a bunch of stuff done (using both hands.) Before you know it, you’ve been non-stop since baby fell asleep and now it’s feeding time. The same happens with startups. At the end of the day and everyone has gone home, you know you should shut down.  You can’t help but think, “this is super productive time, I should just keep cranking for a while”– four hours later it’s the middle of the night and you have an 8am meeting.

Had you prioritized sleep, you’d likely be more productive today. If you get that next item checked off your list, a new one pops up. Just accept this.

4. Unplugging is underrated.

I’m terrible at this. My idea of a great family vacation includes getting up early (before everyone else) to get stuff done. The same thing happens as a parent. We love spending time with our kids, finding fun activities on the weekends, as we should!

But to be the best mom/dad/founder you can be, YOU NEED A BREAK. Taking a night off without the kids or laptop is not just selfish “me time,” it might be the best thing you can do for your family/business. Patience, understanding, and persistence are all vital to being great. So how do you keep your energy and enthusiasm up for this? Schedule weekly time away from work/family. Spend time with your spouse or co-founder doing non-work/family stuff. Schedule regular time alone for reflection, fun, and just relaxing–even if it’s just 30 minutes a week.

5. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey.

After the arrival of our first son, my wife and I were trying to figure out life as new parents when I turned on some music and start singing and having fun with Nolan. My wife instantly remarked “Oh yeah, we’re supposed to have fun with him — aren’t we!?” As new parents there is an incredible sense of responsibility. Those first days can be overwhelming and stressful, which is why a sudden burst of fun refreshes your soul.

The same applies to startups. Starting a company is just crazy overwhelming. Startup entrepreneurs undergo a ton of pressure and stress that often causes them to work their butts off without taking any time to celebrate.

But guess what… you should! It’s OK to have fun and celebrate success. In fact, You’ll have a healthier culture (both work and family) if you make it a habit .

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