"Creating an amazing startup company is valuable and meaningful, but it is only one aspect of a whole life."
Anytime two people are in a relationship there are certain challenges that come with the territory. Two working adults, for example, have to navigate each other’s schedules and commitments and other life decisions. Add in the variable that one of them is an entrepreneur and the waters start to get choppy.
Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor are all too familiar with this dynamic. As an extremely successful tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Brad and Amy spent many of their 20+ years together figuring out how best to be in a relationship with one another. Startup Life is an amalgam of lessons learned, personal anecdotes and food for thought about relationships and entrepreneurship.
The Big Idea
It Doesn't Have To Be "Business As Usual"
"Conventional wisdom says that entrepreneurs can’t have work-life balance... We completely reject this notion."
The unspoken rules of startup life and culture are that you put in 12 or more hours per day, that you are always available by email and never take an unplugged vacation. These are just some of the cliches that come to mind when you think “startup entrepreneur.” Some of these may even apply to jobs outside of the startup community these days. Brad and Amy are quick to point out that this doesn’t have to be the reality. If we’re to really zoom out of the minutiae of daily life, we’ll see that “the actual long-term priority is to have a good life,” not to just have a good business.
This process starts with understanding your true values and priorities. Aside from knowing what these are for your own benefit, it can make navigating and building a relationship easier. Brad and Amy share that striving for the “perfect” relationship isn’t necessarily the end goal. Rather, strive for deep alignment in your values because these are what most fundamentally matter to each person.
Communication Is Everything
"Each of you has an obligation to be brave when it comes to initiating communication and work through issues."
It is common relationship advice and it holds steadfast in an entrepreneur’s relationship, too. It is the tool that will get two people through a tough spot. It is what will help to deepen the relationship. Communication is everything. Brad and Amy share many examples from their own relationship where good communication has helped them.
Understand the other person’s personality plays an important role in this. For instance, are they an introvert or an extrovert? Are they an optimist or a pessimist? When you understand the perspectives that your partner brings to the table, you can more aptly meet them where they are in the conversation.
Make An Effort, Always
"The effort that you put in creates increasing returns."
All of us lead full lives that are dictated by packed schedules, obligations and commitments. The key in a relationship is to actually make time and make an effort for the other person. As unromantic as it might seem, sometimes we just have to put these times in our calendar in order to make them happen. That’s exactly what Brad and Amy do. They have a few suggestions around opportunities to spend time with one another on a regular basis.
Four minutes in the morning – This is an opportunity to get connected and grounded from the start of the day. Usually it’s spent talking about the day’s schedule and when the partners will see one another again.
A good-morning and good-night call – If you and your partner can’t always be in the same place, make time for a morning and evening call. Traveling and time apart can be stressful, but making an effort to connect in this way is an important way to foster your connection. Also “knowing that you’re going to hear an ‘I love you’ at least once a day is a happy thing.”
Life dinner – Brad and Amy set a specific time once per month to tackle more challenging or difficult topics. It can be used to talk about goals for the upcoming month and assess the previous month, in addition to giving constructive criticism and feedback.
Much of Brad and Amy’s advice and life experience is food for thought for a relationship in any context. Their intentional approach to building a life together is nothing short of inspiring and made me think about how a relationship doesn’t have to be a hap-hazard experiment. It can be deeply meaningful when you take ownership of it and put in a robust effort.
How can you begin to shift your thinking about priorities to put your relationship at the forefront?