Raising a baby vs raising a startup

A friend of mine recently asked, “What do you find the same about raising a baby and building a company?” To be honest, the question caught me off guard. It felt like a question I should easily be able to answer, but I kept struggling to come up with a decent response. Each is a time sink and will destroy your sleep, but saying “you get busy” or “they’re both hard” felt like lousy responses.

There is definitely a process of learning involved in both fatherhood and entrepreneurship, but to me, they are still very different. Figuring out what works for your child takes a bit of trial-and-error, but the general practices are well known and eventually things fall into place — even if it means having to try over and over, or waiting until your baby gets older and matures. Our first child has been a crazy challenge, but given that we as humans owe our entire existence to cave people, I’d say that parenting is still a relatively intuitive practice and hard to completely screw up.

Entrepreneurship, on the other hand, does not come quite as naturally. It’s a process of learning that requires you to challenge, and potentially disregard, what you thought you knew. You have to question everything, and you’ll often find yourself on a lonely island on which everybody is questioning you. Even with the right methodology, knowledge, and passion, you might just be at the wrong place at the wrong time. In other words: babies generally grow and thrive regardless of parenting styles, whereas startups tend to fail even when led by strong entrepreneurs.

Reflecting back on my friend’s question, I realize now that maybe I was too caught up in the mechanics. Yes, progress might not come as automatically with a startup as it does with a baby that is naturally growing, but there is a way in which the two are very similar: it’s the manner in which you approach them. Here’s the best way I can figure out how to say it:

Raising a baby and raising a startup both require making difficult sacrifices in order to enrich your life in a way that would otherwise not be possible.

Having a baby changes everything. We barely sleep, go weeks without watching TV, and generally can’t do anything on a whim anymore. It requires constantly putting someone else ahead of our own selfish desires. Yet, it’s completely worth it. There is a type of love, and a part of life, that I never knew existed until we had Dilan. And I can no longer imagine life without him.

Similarly, quitting a good job to start a company can be a a brutally challenging experience. It’s the act of trying to create something out of nothing, and there are a million ways you can fail. It’s the choice to be continually uncomfortable. I really believe it is the hardest thing I could have chosen to do. Yet, it’s also incredibly fulfilling. It gives me a tremendous sense of purpose and satisfaction. And I can not imagine spending my life doing anything else.

When I think about this way, I realize how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to answer my friend’s question.

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