There have been many thousands of pages dedicated to successful entrepreneurship, but rarely a word spoken about leading a successful entrepreneurial life until the release of “Startup Life.” In what I consider to be the first must-read book of the year, Amy Batchelor and Brad Feld artfully tackle the subject with an astonishing level of transparency and authenticity. No subject is off-limits, including emotional struggles, sexual intimacy, financial decision-making, and family planning.
The best part of the book is the practicality. They discuss irrational meltdowns and how each handles the situation. They describe the frustrations of a constantly tethered digital life and advocate for rest days, quarterly unplugged vacations, and “life dinners.” They explain the difference between “sleep at night” money and “f$%& you” money, why the distinction is important, and how to set financial boundaries.
“Startup Life” sparked me to examine my own desires, actions, responsibilities, and purpose. Here are a few of my takeaways:
1. Priorities: Our lives are an accumulation of decisions that seem small, but have major ramifications. When it comes to family, health, God, philanthropic endeavors, and the business, what’s the priority, and why? Priorities are easy to set without specificity and consequence, but life doesn’t happen in theory.
2. Motives: Brad and Amy discuss extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation, as well as extroverts versus introverts. Are you more motivated by recognition or achievement? Are you energized or drained by interactions with others? Understanding what drives your actions – and why – will allow you to be far more effective and fulfilled.
3. Friendship: A recurring theme in the book is the value of real friendships (not Facebook friends). Real friends truly care, give generously, provide transparent feedback, and are the anchors of life. When entrepreneurs get focused, it can be easy to let friendships slide (I certainly did). Make friendship a top priority, regardless of age, stage, or business goals.
4. Habits: The brain loves habit because it provides a quick response to what would normally require lots of thought. What we do, and in what order, is largely preprogrammed. This can either work for you or against you. Think strategically about what habits you want, establish systems to ensure they get formed, and before long, you won’t even have to think about them.
5. Philanthropy: I love the quote “Getting will make you a living, but giving will make you a life.” Amy and Brad talk in detail about the joy they derive from philanthropy, and how to properly establish your own philosophy of giving back. As I look back over the past five years, most of my highlights have surrounded helping others. If you’re not used to giving back, I’d highly encourage you to try it out.