System of a Down blaring on my stereo, I scrawled this on my bedroom wall at some point in my angsty teens. I noticed Id always played video games better when I was on my last life. Back when video games were hard, youd get a finite number of lives before it was game over and there was nothing like being on that last life to sharpen your focus.
I didnt realize at the time just how important that idea would become to me, but it hit me within the first few months of founding Reddit. Ivewrittenabout what transpired, but only recently have I started talking about the effect that losing my motherafter a three year long battle with brain cancerhad on me.
Last week was the 10-year anniversary of her passing. I called my dad like I do every year on this day and we caught up, shared memories, and remembered her. A lot has changed in the last year; she would have been so happy at my wedding. (We had it on her birthday.) Mom would be giving my wifes mom some serious competition forJuniors biggest fan. Shed also be really happy for me to be back working alongsideGarry TanatInitialized.
This seemed like a good time for reflection. As entrepreneurs, we are all so busy crushing it that physical health, let alone mental health, is an afterthought for most founders. It took me years to realize that the way I was feeling when working on Reddit was the only therapy I hadwas depression.
It was a thick fog that always lingered, muting good feelings and amplifying bad feelings. It showed up just before my mom was diagnosed, because my then-girlfriend had a serious accident while studying abroad; and it settled in for the next few years. I dont recall when it went away, but it was sometime after mom passed. I felt lighter again. Someone turned the volume back up on life.
I havent felt it in a long time and Im grateful for it, but it doesnt take losing a loved one to feel this way, especially with the pressures of entrepreneurship. When youre struggling, talk to someone. It can be a professional, a family member, or even a stranger can be helpful in getting you into a better headspace (thats one reason why we invested in7cups).
Were all a work in progress.
I only got an executive coach three years ago and its easily been one of the most valuable investments Ive made in myself professionally, and personally. We often push founders to executive coaches and consistently check-in with them in good times and bad to make sure theyre taking care of themselves.
And why shouldnt executives have coaches? The greatest athletes in the world all have coaches. Theyre the only professionals who have real, quantifiable, undeniable wins and losses. The rest of us are bullshitting each other by keeping score using revenue numbers, headcount, or valuationsathletes actually win or lose every day they go into work.
Id argue every profession, especially if youre trying to be the best, should have some form of coaching. And that makes me bullish on a company likeTorch, providing those services at scale. One day, it will seem absurd to be an executive, or even a manger, andnothave a coachas absurd as itd be to see a basketball team take the court without their coaches courtside.
Youre going to need to keep growing as a leader and getting outside perspective and guidance is a natural part of the process. Take care of yourself because youre not getting uploaded to the cloud anytime soon. And when things do get hard, which they will, you especially need to prioritize your well-being.
Yourself. That starts with exercise and wellness for your body and your mind. I waited until I was going to be a father to start taking this seriously. That was idiotic. Moderate the garbage youre putting into your body and commit yourself to a healthy routineyou dont need any equipment to do a wide range ofbodyweight exercisesor go for a run. Founders especially will forget this because were so busy out-grinding one another.
Your environment has an outsized effect on your outcomes. Its not just the people you surround yourself with (remember: youre the average of your five closest friends) but also the places where you spend your time. Your work, your home, that amazing spot where you finally use some of your vacation time get yourself out of situations and away from people who are not making you better. You only need an internet connection to change your perspective in a minute (see the community atr/getmotivated).
Our time is all going to be up at some point and when youre (hopefully) looking back on it, the people and experiences you have in your life will be what you cherish or regret. I know because I saw it firsthand and getting that privilege at 22 meant I could live those years of boundless energy and optimism with some of the wisdom of someone much older.
Youve got one life remaining, dont squander it.