Choosing between my mother or my startup

By Jon Lee

“Mom, fuck off.”

I don’t actually say it, but I might as well have. My nasty glare and unyielding silence make it clear that I don’t want to talk.

She knows I’m busy. She knows I’m stressed. She knows I’m frustrated and don’t have the time to talk.

But that’s the problem. I’m assuming she knows, but she doesn’t.

She doesn’t know because I’ve never given her a chance to.

As founders, we lack empathy and take people close to us for granted.

The long hours we work, the seemingly endless list of things we need to do, the number of hours spent responding to emails. All of these make it incredibly easy to lose touch with who we are.

We call it the life of a founder and expect others to conform to our schedules, but in all honesty, it’s just an excuse to feel busy.

We become so preoccupied with the idea of being busy that we shun those close to us and treat their affections as nothing more than mere distractions.

Running a startup isn’t easy — it’s an emotional rollercoaster. One minute, you’re high off success, but what about the other fifty-nine minutes? They’re spent wallowing in despair, constant self-doubt.

You might not expect it but the loneliness of being a founder will catch up to you before you know it. It’s the downslope of the rollercoaster, the low moments when you wish you had someone to talk to, that it wasn’t just you vs. the world.

I’ve spent years, trapped, infatuated by the idea of overnight success pushing away those close to me.

I made everything I do a secret, not because I didn’t trust those close to me, but because I felt like it would’ve been a waste of time to explain — they wouldn’t have understood anyway.

And that might be true, but does it actually matter?

The truth is, they don’t care about your startup. They don’t care at all.

Growth, traction, investments, these are all empty terms that mean nothing to them.

The only reason they ask about your startup is because it’s the only way they know how to connect with you.

It’s their way of finding common ground to talk to someone who’s continuously distancing him/herself.

All they want to do is be there for you, to understand what you’re going through because, in their eyes, you’re their startup.

Our startups seemingly become our lifework. What we don’t realize is that to them, we are their lifework. We are their startups.

So show some empathy. Reconnect with those close to you. Take the time to explain. At the end of the day, you’re someone’s son, someone’s daughter.

It doesn’t matter if they won’t get what you do — just let them hear you talk. Because if you don’t, even when you have all the money in the world, you’ll have no one to share it with.

Thank you Mom, for always being there. I love you.


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