Saturday, March 16, 2013

Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur

Relationship books? Me? I never would have thought so.  It just goes to show the power of selling to a niche.  As a genre, it's not something I've ever been much interested in, and in terms of my own life, I feel like I've done a pretty good job navigating my own path (with a lot of help from the example set by my parents): I'm happily married to a wonderful woman with two great kids.  But when I saw this book, I figured it'd be worth the time and the money if I learned anything that would make our lives better.

The book was good; I got a few ideas from it, and would recommend it to others.  But I think it could have been more.  Or perhaps a book is not the best format: the authors, Brad and Amy interviewed a number of other entrepreneurial couples, and it's pretty clear that there is no One Formula for what works.  For instance, the authors do not have children, which is a huge difference.  They realize and acknowledge that, and dedicate a chapter to the subject via interviews with people who do have kids, but to be honest, I feel like you could write a whole book from the point of view of a couple with kids, and include a chapter for those who don't: "you may not realize it, but you have a crapload of time, and no one really depends on you for such basics as eating, sleeping, and hygiene - enjoy it!".  Maybe some kind of internet group/forum/mailing list might be a useful addition.  I felt like I wanted to compare some notes with the people with kids, rather than just read what they wrote and leave it there.  How do you manage weekends?  How much time do you work?  Do you have any plans for 'the future' when the parent working less gets to "take their turn"?  Did you have to curtail your startup because of your family?

Also, the book is a bit conditioned by "survivorship bias": Brad is an extremely successful entrepreneur and investor - in terms of money, he's set for life.  That does not happen to everyone.  What about the couples that tried... and failed, perhaps going back to regular jobs?  How much did the failed attempt cost them in terms of their relationship?  Maybe it made it stronger?  At what point do you give up?  Brad and Amy do interview people who are in different situations than their own, but since they're the authors, it's natural that their voice is the strongest throughout the book.

The book conveyed some important messages like communicating a lot, and communicating well, but those were, paradoxically, the more 'universal' bits of advice that matter in any relationship.  As someone who is, by nature, not really an entrepreneur but who has taken some steps in that direction, I would have been more interested in advice that's specific to those going "off the beaten path" of life working a steady "9-5" style job.

One thing that's easy to overlook, but I liked was a thorough bibliography and suggestions for 'further reading'.  If I were interested in reading more about certain subjects, I would not have the faintest idea how to select a book, so their suggestions are appreciated.

A further point that one might wish for: some statistics.  That would not be easy, because to even get them, you'd have to define "entrepreneur" or some other set of people, and then find out if you could even obtain data on them.  Still though, it'd be interesting to see.

If it sounds like I'm being harsh, it's mostly that the book got me to thinking and wishing I could talk to other like-minded individuals about these issues.  The book is good, and I would recommend it.  For a few dollars and a few hours of reading time, if it improves your relationship at all, I'd call that a huge win.