Patrick Woodhead


Don’t Become A Startup Addict!

Confessions of a “Startup-aholic”

Where do I start?

From the beginning I guess.

I never thought it would get as bad as it has.

I guess that’s the case with all addictions…

The Up

It all started out with the gateway drugs, you know, the usual stuff. Medium blogs, Slack communities, Meetups, Product Hunt upvotes. Nothing out of the ordinary.

At least, that’s what I thought.

I thought it was controllable, I thought, hey, it’s OK to do a bit of this stuff. Everyone does.

But after a few weeks, I was no longer satisfied. I found myself wanting to try a bit more, you know, just out of curiosity really.

So I started listening to Y-Combinator podcasts on my way to work.

And on the way back.

And whenever I could squeeze one in, really.

Sure, I was aware that I was beginning to spend a lot of time taking Startup. And, looking back, I suppose it was at this point that it really began to affect my social life. And my family life. Everything really.

But I couldn’t help it. Startup was so damn addictive! I just didn’t have time for anything else in my life.

Before I knew it, Startup was the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last thing on my mind before I went to bed. And most times in between.

I couldn’t get enough of it. All the learning materials and stories about earning. It just felt so damn good!

I was in complete denial.

I should’ve stopped there, I should’ve walked away and forgotten the day I ever tried Startup in the first place.

But I did the opposite.

I did the unthinkable.

I went from being a user to being a dealer.

I started a startup.

The Superuser

For a few months, I felt on top of the world.

But then the side effects began.

I started to sleep less. A lot less. It does that to you, Startup. It changes your sleep patterns. Once you’re into Startup that deep, you never sleep properly again. You only go halfway under, unable to get the Startup kick completely out your system.

You’re only ever one Slack post away from being jacked up to the nines on Startup all over again.

I developed a certain superciliousness when talking to other people who weren’t as addicted to Startup as I was. I guess I just felt like they didn’t get it, they didn’t know how empowering it really was.

I started to “mansplain” to people about incentivisation, growth hacking techniques, the difference between a UX and a UI designer, and what product-market fit actually means. I was convinced they all wanted to know.

I developed an insatiable desire to check Google Analytics. Like, all the time.

Taking Startup put me in a mindset that was skewed so far into the future, that I forgot about my past and present.

I started to see everything in my life through Startup goggles. You know, like beer goggles but when you are high on Startup instead of beer.

Every time I looked at my shoes, all I saw were the “bootstraps”.

Every time I saw a plane take off, all I could think about was how much “runway” it had left.

The Event

I should’ve seen it coming when I had an Asana ticket telling me to call my parents, but I kept moving it to the sprint backlog.

Or when I told my girlfriend that our relationship was a “vertical” that I just didn’t currently have the “bandwidth” for.

Or even when I was spending my Friday evenings getting to know Docker and AWS, instead of actual human beings. My friendship group reduced to a Kubernetes cluster.

Then one day it all changed. It was after a 22 hour Startup bender, mostly spent coding. I don’t remember any of it.

They said, when they found me, I was typing nonsense into a text editor, committing it word by word to the master branch.

They said I also had two other apps open. On Slack, I had sent myself the same Giphy 150 times. On Google Analytics, I was looking at minute-by-minute page hits of a side project I hadn’t even launched.

When I arrived at Hospital, I was so out of it that I thought the doctor was talking to me in Javascript. My only memory of her was saying to me something like

setTimeout(() => {return “to work”}, 2019);

Who knows what it could mean.

A few weeks later, I was back at my parent’s house. I had gone through two weeks of Startup withdrawal and was starting to feel myself again. I went for a walk around the neighbourhood and stopped for a break on a well-known bench amongst the autumn leaves underneath an ancient conker tree.

All around me lay smooth shiny brown young conkers, escaping from their spiky green shells, just like they had been doing every autumn for thousands of years.

In that instant, I felt myself recalibrate back to the present and back to some semblance of reality.

And now I’m here with one message.

Don’t take Startup.

The author is a co-founder of Pilcro and actually loves Startup!

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