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We held an AMA with Brad Feld, Managing Director at Foundry Group, and co-founder of Techstars, where we discussed Mental Health Awareness & the Startup Community.

This post is the second in a series, which includes a transcript of Brad’s answers to audience questions in this AMA. To sign up for our next AMA, check the schedule here.

Work-life balance is a beast of a thing. Most entrepreneurs I know are heavy on work, less on life. What’s the key for startup entrepreneurs to find more balance? Furthermore, how can we balance the trend that startup founders and their teams are expected to burnout to realize success?

I think the word ‘balance’ is the wrong word. I think the starting point is readjusting how you’re thinking about the issue.

I like to use the word ‘harmony’ instead of ‘balance.’

The reason I like to use the word ‘harmony’ instead of balance is that if you think about improv jazz, it approximates how a startup works. You don’t have a predetermined set of things that you’re going to be playing. You’re working with a group of people, your team, and things are changing constantly.

If you try to get harmony between work and life, that actually feels achievable. It’s not that there has to be a balance, it’s that they have to be intertwined, playing off of each other, and feeding off of each piece. As a result, I now try to use the phrase ‘work-life harmony.’

There will be periods of time as a founder where work totally dominates and there will be periods where life totally dominates. You can’t schedule when those things will happen. You can build your own rhythms as a founder in how you work and in your personal life, but lots of exogenous things that you will have no control over will happen, and they will fuck with whatever those rhythms are. 

The ability to be flexible and adaptive by striving for harmony versus balance is so much more powerful. There is no measurement.

I think with work-life balance, people think it’s objectified. With harmony, you’re not thinking about it that way. You’re just kind of trying to have this generally positive experience even when the shit is hitting the fan and things are really difficult.

You’re allowing it to evolve with you, rather than trying to force it into something.

You can listen to the answer here.

Techstars put together a list of resources for anyone who thinks they may be suffering from mental health issues, or anyone who wants to learn more about the topic. You can find them here. 

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Brad Feld
Managing Director at Foundry Group, and co-founder of Techstars. You can connect on Twitter with Brad @bfeld.

  • This answer really remembered me about several excerpts of the book The Road to Character by David Brooks. Even though he calls the path to conquering our dreams as sometimes a “struggle”, he portrays it very graciously and positively. The same way Brad explains his vision of harmony in our entrepreneurial lives. As a conscious decision and attitude towards how we experience the ride, taking always away the good out of even the “darkest” times. If those hard moments when “the shit is hitting the fan and things are really difficult” are not flipped and understood as a piece of a larger process, they will probably lead to doubt and nihilism. Let our paths with it’s rough patches be a boost. “…notice this phenomenon: When people remember the crucial events that formed them, they don’t usually talked about happiness. It is usually the ordeals that seem most significant… It is not the struggle itself that makes all the difference, but the way it is experienced”. Thanks for sharing the answers, looking forward to the next ones. 🙂

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