I never want to see another burnout again.
I could stop here. This is a strong enough reason for me to be writing this book.
But I probably will see another burnout whether I want it or not. I have watched friends and loved ones start companies, build services, run startups, make art and sit in a cubicle until they drop. They take on too many projects, get high on the amount of customers, never learn to say no or simply realize they should be doing something else – and get tired. I was no different until I learned the hard way.
Recognizing the signs early doesn’t mean you could help or stop anyone else from going down that road. Many smart, passionate, hardworking people seem to have to go through the forest themselves. What you can do, though, is to help them make some firewood while they’re there and carry it out into the open. Learn from the experience and share.
I’ve talked to many entrepreneurs who have been through a burnout experience and noticed they can’t take the same amount of pressure they could before. It changes your system. It’s a much more holistic experience than most people think when they read the celebrity stories by the yellow press. The truth is you won’t be the same for a long time, if ever.
You learn about your limits. Many entrepreneurs didn’t think they had any until they ran into that wall. The hubris that is needed to make your crazy vision a reality most likely will not let you see it. Until you slowly open your eyes and realize you’re laying on the ground and cannot move.
We don’t want you to have to go through that.
Whether you’re a founder, an employee, a leader, a wannabe founder or a creative freelancer, you can find ways to hack your work to make it more fun. Add a little laughter to your days. Well, maybe chuckles first. We believe that anyone can change the culture they live and work in. You don’t have to be the authority. Like in hacker culture, ideas and execution are what matters. Titles don’t.
We’ll focus on small organizations (all kinds, even though we may call them just “companies”) because we believe culture should be designed from day one. If you weave it into the beginning of the company’s story, it will make growing pain that much easier to handle. We’ve seen and experienced so many companies that kind of forgot to do it, didn’t see the value or didn’t know how to, and are paying the price in time and money (difficulties in recruiting top talent, for one).
That’s a vicious loop, the beginning and the end: great culture starts with great people and attracts more great people. Nonexistent or unhealthy culture attracts no one or people who just need a job, any job. They tend to hire other mediocre people not to feel bad about their own mediocrity. Most large companies are built this way.
The founders define culture with their personalities and ways of working. That’s why we as founders need to work on ourselves. Most people just bring their working habits from their previous jobs without thinking through whether they fit the new company or not. That’s why there are startups that try to operate the same way Fortune 500s do. We forget to ask why. It’s time to start again.