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The Pros and Cons of Startup Life

"Startup Life" is definitely not for everyone. Neither is working from home. So "working from home for a startup company" must require some sort of special gene. The kind that allows people to be unstructured enough yet disciplined enough at the same time.
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"Startup Life" is definitely not for everyone. Neither is working from home. So "working from home for a startup company" must require some sort of special gene. The kind that allows people to be unstructured enough yet disciplined enough at the same time. Call it insanity or passion or a mix of the two, let's just say it's the type of lifestyle that can work out beautifully or terribly depending on the person and his or her personality, objectives and preferences in a particular phase of life.

In my case, I guess being a Gemini must help a bit. The sign is symbolized by twins, which represent "the ability to relate to opposing visions simultaneously, to possess dexterity and a talent for multi-tasking" as well as "an easy ability to adapt." As if that weren't enough, I'm convinced that being a 31-year-old woman, with no children, married to a hotelier who changes cities every few years, also fits the description of those who might just have that special gene -- or at least, the need to cultivate it.

I'm sure everyone who either lives or has lived the Startup Life would agree that many sacrifices have to be made. Some have abandoned very stable and promising career paths in order to invest in this higher-risk alternative route. Often times, the stress and the long hours of work can be brutal, and we all know -- and are frequently reminded by our friends and families -- of "the usual victims": proper sleep, exercise, healthy eating, and time with friends and family, to name a few. Combining that with working from home can be disastrous if you are not disciplined enough to un-glue yourself from the computer and the chair in the living room from time to time.

But, there must be something extremely great about this kind of life, otherwise why would so many people pursue it? Women, specifically, seem to be considerably attracted to Startup Life. According to recent statistics from American Express Open, the number of women-owned startups in the U.S. rose 50 percent between 1997 and 2010. In my opinion, there are two main reasons for this, and they are: flexibility and passion.

In a world that is increasingly frontierless and full of options, we (and I hope I can speak for other women, although generalizing) crave and value independence and flexibility. I grew up in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), moved to Miami at age 9, went to college in Philadelphia, moved back to Miami, then back to Brazil, then to San Francisco, then back to Miami once again, and then to New York, where I currently live -- and sometime in between all of this, I even spent some time in Madrid. I know it sounds like a lot of zig-zagging, but it seems like this kind of moving around is more and more common in our generation. And, to make things a bit more interesting, so are marriages between individuals who lead this sort of life. So all of a sudden, a career that allows for a high degree of flexibility starts to look ever so appealing.

In my experience, working for a forward-thinking company that is not very hung up on where its employees are located physically, and is instead more concerned about getting the right people on board, has made it a lot easier for me to reconcile personal and professional goals. Doing work that I love, and being able to do it from anywhere in the world (time zone permitting), has given me a level of flexibility that is invaluable. Perhaps for other people, it's a different type of flexibility that matters most, such as being able to take care of a child or simply being able to run different errands throughout the week, while compensating with work at odd hours of the night or during the weekends. Regardless of our specific motives or how exactly we manage to orchestrate the different aspects of our lives within 24-hour days, I believe Flexibility is a benefit that many of us seek.

The second (and I would say most important) reason why some of us are seduced by Startup Life is passion. Passion for the adrenaline, passion for making things happen, for creating something from scratch, for pushing our own limits time and time again. Passion for intense teamwork, for making a difference in other people's lives, for being an important part of something that could grow to become much larger and, if all goes well, for helping to write a little piece of history along the way (or so we hope!). It's really an amazing feeling, and I guess it has a lot to do with why Startup Life can be absolutely loved by some and perhaps just not the right fit for others. It's also why some people looking from the outside might call us "startupers" a bit insane, to say the least, but then again, insanity and passion go hand-in-hand.

I think of my sister, a doctor in her second year of residency. When she comes home after 36 hours of back-to-back surgeries and is absolutely vibrant about all of the new "procedures" she was able to learn (and insists on describing them in detail, despite everyone's plea for a summarized version), I realize how great it is that everyone has different passions in life. We all carry different genes, whether we are born with them or develop them over the years. Obviously, I still have a lot to learn, but what I've been realizing more and more is that we just have to find what makes us happy and what works for us. The caveat is to make sure to recalibrate from time to time in order not to lose track of our long-term goals and the things that really matter to us. But of course, the Ancient Greeks already knew this centuries ago: "know thyself" (γνῶθι σεαυτόν) and "nothing in excess" (μηδέν άγαν). These two phrases, inscribed at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, are still among the best advice I believe anyone could give.

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