The Parallels between Political Activism and Startups
I stumbled on this post by my good friend Sanjay Anandaram and was struck with how much it resonated with me – especially as I recently had a conversation along very similar lines with a young and passionate political-activist. Substitute “political activism” for “startup” and see if this resonates with you…Excerpts from “Balancing life and work“:
“My wife walked out of the house last week. I’ve known her for seven years and we’ve been married for five years and now I feel our relationship is purely transactional. I’m consumed by my startup and think about it every waking minute. I am obsessed with it and want to make it a roaring success. My wife works in the financial services industry and she too works long hours. We moved to Bengaluru from Mumbai so that our quality of life would be better. She travels on work and so do I. I get back home late and she’s either in bed or on her laptop. I keep responding to emails and SMS messages as well when I’m home. I don’t want to lose out on any business opportunity. She wants children and I am not sure I’m ready to be a dad till my startup is done. Am depressed and lonely. But I cannot give up on my startup dream. What should I do?”
So said the 31-year-old CEO of a startup. And he wasn’t the first such person saying this to me. I have rather unfortunately been at the listening and counselling end of such laments increasingly over the past couple of years. It seems that the pressures of a startup (or political activism) are putting (can put) enormous strains on personal relationships…
A personal digression: In the month that my son was born and my mother passed away, I decided to quit and do a startup. The urge was uncontrollable and I took the decision without consulting my wife! I was in Silicon Valley and she was in India (we had decided to have our son in India). She was surprised and understandably upset but then was fully supportive. I travelled several times from the US to India during those initial days. Those were the days of emotional roller-coaster rides. After several months, my son and wife joined me in the US (visa issues delayed the family reunion!). The startup went through ups and downs—emotional and financial. It wasn’t easy but the support from my wife was always there though not always visible or expressed!
The point of this digression was that it is crucial to ensure the following:
That the partner or spouse understands how important the startup (or what you are doing) is for you and they support it wholeheartedly.
Openly talk about the trade-offs and sacrifices both have to make.
That you understand how important it is to have that support and therefore make efforts to show it.
Spend time with the family and don’t keep checking messages during this time. Consciously keep aside time. My time, your time and most importantly, OUR TIME. Be religious about this. You don’t have to respond to every message in the next nano-second. You will be surprised that the world still spins on its axis if you don’t!
Be open and discuss things. Take interest in the other person’s activities. Remember to take pleasure in the small things, e.g. just hang out together listening to music.
It is important therefore to remain grounded in one’s beliefs and values. With a rapidly growing consumerist mindset, there’s this pressure to enjoy the next great car, house, gadget and vacation. The startup (or political activism) doesn’t offer one the luxury to splurge on these..
Therefore before you jump into a startup (or political activism), think about why you are doing it and be clear about your motivations.
Paraphrasing Sanjay (in the context of activism), politics and political activism is not a cool thing to do or a get rich quick scheme. And as he says,
It is a vehicle to make your passion and dreams come true. And it is very critical that those who you want to share your life with understand this. As you should them.
P.S. The parallels between political activism and start-ups actually stretch much beyond the points mentioned above. I hope to explore these in a forthcoming post. In the meantime, comments and thoughts welcome, as always.