The insanity of the start-up world

ImagesWhen I started out my career I landed a job in Macys training program.  The first three months were dedicated towards training with your peers.  We learned how the organization worked although like most things it isn't until you are in the thick of things in real time that you understand how the organization truly works.  So I like to think of the first three months as an opportunity to find out where the bathroom is. 

After the initial three months each of us were placed in a store as a department manager.  I was placed in Kings Plaza as the cosmetics manager.  Perhaps because of my background in retail that they gave me that job.  I was responsible for about 100 people with a co-manager who was 20 years older than me.  I was the only non-professional cosmetics department manager in the entire chain.  Professional managers are people who did not go through the training squad and have been hired as permanent managers through the store management. 

I was in my 20's and I worked like a dog.  I actually took pleasure in clocking in an 80 hour work week.  It was like a badge of honor.  That work ethic has continued with me through my career but the reality is that as I get older it is exhausting. 

The start-up world is constant.  Emails come from people in the early hours of the morning until late into the night.  Weekends might be a change of pace but the working world does not stop.  New ideas, new companies, shifting concepts, business challenges all come fast and furious.  It is never ending.  I love the intellectual stimulation of it all, the constant thought process, the whole shebang but it is exhausting.  If there were only 36 hours in a day…oh what I could do. 

There are just times when you need to recharge your batteries and rethink how long can I work at that level.  Not sure i know the answer.  I love to play hard and work hard.  So I am taking it down a notch this summer.  July is ending up a little busier than I would have liked but I am hoping that in August I will be able to put a very different head on and only focus on what I need to focus on. 

Let's see what September brings…

Comments (Archived):

  1. johndodds

    It ocurs to me that this is not so much a symptom of the start-up world as one of ubiquitous instant communication.

    1. Gotham Gal

      don’t agree. i know people who are not in the start-up world and they absolutely do not work like people in this industry.they might have constant flow of information on their phone but the way that the start-up scene takes over your mind and body 24/7 is not like anything else.

      1. Varsha

        Completely agree!

      2. Marjan Ghara

        I think people are generally much “busier” because of the instant communication. But you are so right, there is such a velocity and momentum in the start-up space that one has to work so much harder just to keep up! How are you planning to slow it down? I assume it starts with the deliberate shut down of email for a few hours?

        1. Gotham Gal

          trying to not respond as quickly would be a start. taking time off from the computer, like hours and days. that kind of stuff.

          1. Marjan Ghara

            Ok! We will miss you!

          2. Abdallah Al-Hakim

            responding quickly to emails and other items is a double edge sword because people then expect it all the time from you. There are times when this is warranted but my feeling is that very few things in life are so urgent that need to responded to right away. FYI. I am guilty of responding quickly and I need to change my habit to only urgent emails 🙂

  2. Deirdre

    All consuming… I agree. I love it and thrive on it. But it is exhausting and can be draining. I have noticed that the few times that I am able to go do something else for a day or two, I come up with new, creative insights about the business. So-called “down time” is essential to the creative process of building businesses.I will confess to fantasizing about taking a completely different direction (in 20 yrs when I am ready to “retire”)… and then I think about learning something new and something discrete. I think about getting up at 3am and going to apprentice to a Baker… and baking bread for 8 hours and then coming home at 11am to do something else.. like read, exercise, tend the garden.

    1. Gotham Gal

      i dream about opening a food shop with baked goods, salad, sandwiches etc. my son asks me at least once a month…when? when? when?

      1. Laura Yecies

        hmmm…the hours in the retail/restaurant business are pretty brutal also

        1. Gotham Gal

          true true but it is a very different mental game.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            When the recruiting business was slow and I needed a mind shift to be more mentally available for kids, I had a part-time business selling on eBay (along with recruiting part-time). It was so much fun! Not as mentally challenging, and hard work at times, but still fun and meaningful.

      2. AG

        This is one of my dreams too. If you need more encouragement, I think you’d have a fantastic place–you know what people want, you have great taste, and you know what works and what doesn’t. I think location would be key. It’s hard in the West Village/Tribeca area to stand out.

        1. Gotham Gal

          Thanks. Its in my long list

      3. William Mougayar

        Wow. I had no idea that thought comes to your mind.

      4. Mario Bucolo

        siclian recipes in partnership? 😉 like the almond pastes?

      5. Donna Brewington White

        Will you still blog?

        1. Gotham Gal


    2. Donna Brewington White

      So, will you still blog?edit: (sorry for the double question, both times in the wrong place, moving much too fast and multi-tasking)

      1. Gotham Gal


  3. falicon

    I believe my wife is like you…in her investment banking days, I believe she took great pride in her 80+ hour work-weeks…since moving into the publishing industry (after the meltdown) she has been able to taper it down to an average 50-60 ‘working’ hours (which doesn’t count all the kid, house, and family stuff she does as well — amazing)…but even as she readily admits that she’s enjoying ‘less working hours’, she often thinks that she should/could be challenged more at work and could be doing ‘more hours’ (and toys with the idea of going back into a more ‘demanding’ role/company)…as you’ve mentioned many women these days are, she is constantly thinking about the battle ‘to have it all’…I, on the other hand, take great pride in putting in as FEW hours as possible (and still achieving as much as I can)…but as a developer/hacker who just loves to build and understand stuff…I probably don’t ‘officially’ count all the hours and energy I spend ‘working’…to me ‘work’ is all the stuff I don’t really want to, but “have to do” to accomplish the stuff I really want…I limit that as much as possible so it rarely feels like I’m truly ‘working’…

    1. Gotham Gal

      i like your breakdown of what work is and what it isn’t. trying to limit myself to more things i want to do is definitely key but in general i want to do too much!

      1. falicon

        I suffer greatly from wanting to do too much too…but I like to think of that as a ‘problem of success’…so good thing to be drained by 😉

        1. Gotham Gal

          i figure you only go around once…

          1. falicon

            Very true…unless Buddhism has it right (which, I think, would be awesome btw!)As an aside, that is exactly why I step up to coach/volunteer in just about anything and everything my kids want to be involved in (now there’s an area that I’m often WAY too over-committed — if there is such a thing in your kids lives)… 🙂

  4. Rohan

    An arrow needs to be pulled back to travel at speed after all. :-)Hope you enjoy pulling back..

    1. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      I like that line

  5. Guest

    When I first moved down south I came upon a saying, “your plate is full…” and I have, after 20 plus years realized, that people who take on too much, people who are busy, people who fill their lives with a chock full of responsibilities, are always the same people.You worked 80 hours as a twenty year old and you are working 80 hours today and most likely you will be working 80 hours, in some form or fashion, as an 80 year old.That’s who you are, all you really have to do is make sure that it is your passion that is filling your plate not that your plate is being filled by the irresponsibility of others….

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Wow, Carl, this is so true. This is why I don’t think I will ever retire.

      1. Gotham Gal

        me neither.

      2. Guest

        Some people live for the weekend, others can’t wait to get back in the saddle on Monday…Know yourself and accept yourself; I know I will never retire because I love being part of the energy of living and to me the idea of your stereotypical retirement just seems worse than death.Now, I will probably take on a second career, or write a book, or work for a charity, but I am going to get up everyday until the day I die and go out into the world and do whatever I can to make a difference.I love to garden but the thought of having more time at home to garden actually strikes fear in my heart, like, you mean do this everyday? :)No thanks!

  6. LE

    “So I am taking it down a notch this summer.”There is a neighborhood in northeast philadelphia called Oxford Circle.Back in the day it was probably similar to many neighborhoods in NYC, row and twin houses, primarily jewish, hard working (today of course, well you can imagine what happened if you know what I mean). Children of the people that lived there all grew up to be professionals – doctors, lawyers, business people because of the creature comforts they were denied by their parents (many immigrants..)But the parents are now what I call “waddlers”.They retired from their banal jobs and waffle around with nothing to do (kids are off with their own life, it’s a real Harry Chapin type thing going on). I guess some of them go to Florida and spend time there. They eat at the Jewish deli every day but the sabbath or when they have a doctors appointment.But you can see physically and mentally how they have all wasted away. Why? Because they have nothing stimulating going on in their life at all. And it shows in how they walk and how they look (it’s like they all have hip problems or something) and the things they say.So while I think it’s good that you are taking it down a notch from everything you’ve written (l guess??) I don’t think you will be happy not being the hard driving person that you are. I’m not saying you would become a waddler with hip problems. But you did say this:”I love the intellectual stimulation of it all, the constant thought process, the whole shebang but it is exhausting. “So really the only problem that you have to solve is making it a little less exhausting, not changing the base behavior.@wmoug:disqus – you’re challenging my will power with those engagio emails.

    1. Gotham Gal

      i agree. just make it a little less exhausting.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      I think she is just talking about slowing down for a month or so.Good points you made. However, do you think those people who retired and have hip problems, were happier when they were working?It pains me that people have to do work that they do not enjoy. A subfactor to why I do what I do (although the true focus is more on helping companies find people rather than the other way around — the latter is a by-product). Work is too important a part of someone’s life and takes up too much time, to not be enjoyable to some extent. It’s not that I think life is all about pleasure — I don’t. But I do think it should be about fulfillment. Maybe the fulfillment came from what doing the work accomplished in their lives, in their kids, not from the work itself. But I always admire those people who can find a sense of enjoyment even in menial tasks.

      1. LE

        “However, do you think those people who retired and have hip problems, were happier when they were working?”No because they had sucky jobs. Not that they had a choice I’m not judging just stating the fact. That is not the case with Joanne and Fred and hence the difference. As Mike Wallace said something like “why would I retire what else could I do that would be this exciting?” (or similar not an exact quote).”It pains me that people have to do work that they do not enjoy.”Opportunity, intelligence, motivation all play into this. Many times people end up doing things they don’t like because of the direction that their parents push them into. In the end it all comes down to the guidance one is given and whether they accept that or not.But parents guidance can be off the mark. Google “Marc Vetri”. He is a famous chef in Philly who I grew up next to. His parents totally didn’t recognize his ability (although they are certainly basking in his success now) . And his father refused to help him in his career choice (I have an exact quote on this which was said to me at a time I went out to dinner with the father..)So Marc went off on his own and became a big success simply because his parents were so far off the mark with him and didn’t understand his abilities (so in that case the delta in thinking worked to his advantage oddly enough).

        1. Gotham Gal

          being in touch with your kids abilities is key. pushing them in to something else that they don’t enjoy or aren’t great at will just come back to bite them in the end.

          1. LE

            Same parents raised this daughter:…Mother was a part time attorney and tried and lost elective office at one point. No surprise the daughter did what she did.As an aside, this was a mixed marriage at a time when it wasn’t as prevalent. Barbara similar to you, Sal similar to Fred. People didn’t take Barbara that seriously. She in fact did all the legal work for Sal’s chain of stores and helped him greatly. She didn’t get much credit, people thought she was just a “wife” with a law degree. Nobody wanted to give her work because they felt she didn’t need the money.Their other son is also creative he produces reality TV shows in California.

        2. Donna Brewington White

          Will google him.Trying not to do this with our kids. We recognize talents and abilities and want to encourage, but not limit.It started when my oldest at two decided that his favorite color is orange. Not a color I particularly like unless its in food. But I’ve been buying orange for him all of his life.