Your Priorities

CJ does a handstand

Truth be told, the idea of everything being in balance on a daily basis is a myth. - Dave Ramsey

Based on what I've learned from talking to people over the past decade, there is no clearer path to misery than attempting to live the lie that is work/life balance.

Achieving perfect work/life balance is impossible -- for starters, there simply are not enough hours in the day for us to exercise, walk the dog, have meaningful interactions with our kids, read a book, learn something new, eat good food, help others, meditate, nurture our relationship with our spouse, be sexy, drink a good wine, watch a great TV show -- oh, and do our full-time work. You won't ever be in perfect balance and you're going to drive yourself, and the people around you, nuts if you're always trying to get there.

Recently I was talking to a founder I met at the Business of Software conference this year about being out of  balance.

Business is going well for this guy, but he is frustrated about one thing: his success is causing him to be so busy that he doesn't have time to do the very thing, his passion, which led him to start his company in the first place (his company makes software for CrossFit gym owners & athletes).

I don't think anyone can achieve perfect work/life balance, especially if you're running a startup. Stop trying. Think of it this way: if you even have the luxury of contemplating work/life balance in the first place, you're ahead of 90% of the world's population. Maybe 95%.

Is there a middle ground between the guy who decides that "life is too short" and moves to Brazil to surf full-time, and the guy who works 20-hours days? I think there is but it starts with killing the work/life balance myth.

So how about this: instead of aiming for perfect balance, try prioritizing your days based on the top 3 things you care about.  My top 3 priorities are cliché, but true. They are:

    1. Family

    2. Me + Friends 

    3. Work

Using these priorities to guide my daily decisions has really helped me feel like I could better pay attention to all the areas in my life that need to be nurtured without feeling guilty that I was letting someone down or something slip.

Free yourself from the myth of work/life balance and focus on what matters most to you.

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What Matters

It's easy to get caught up reading about the startup that codes from the beach, or the other startup that was featured  in [insert name here], or that other startup that raised a bunch of money and was valued at a billion dollars (in make believe money that is).

Blah blah blah. Those are not accomplishments that matter. Raising money and getting a high valuation is not a milestone worth celebrating -- it's a reason to get to work. Don't waste your time reading about them. Don't waste your time trying to emulate them.

What matters is creating something that people love. What matters is solving a customer's problem.

What matters is:

  • Shipping,  not talking or reading or dreaming. #shipit

  • Learning every single day, no exceptions.

  • Becoming a craftsman -- always trying to make the thing you made just a little bit better; never saying "It's good enough."

  • Building a team you love.

  • Changing people's lives for the better, making a positive difference, making someone smile when they use that thing you built.

And who matters most are the people you do it alongside: the friends, the colleagues and, most importantly, your family.

On this Mother's Day weekend I hope you're focused on what really matters. I know I could not do what I do without the endless support and encouragement from my friend, partner, and wife, who also happens to be an amazing mother to our children.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there, and thank you for putting up with us!

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Why I Hire People, Not Skills

Note: This post was originally posted on on April 13th, 2011 but never cross-posted on my own blog.

I find this post to be even more relevant today at HubSpot as we transform our team into the greatest engineering team I have ever seen; I hope you find it useful.


Companies change. Products evolve. Approaches get thrown out the window. The centrifugal force alone of that kind of rapid development is enough to throw anyone off center. Throughout my experience, one guiding rule on team building in fast-moving companies has emerged: hire people, not skills.

It can be tempting when you’re first growing to hire someone specifically to fill a gap in your company’s skillset. If you hire someone for skills alone, however, they may lose balance as the company grows, when those skills are no longer as central or get placed into a different context. Each time I have built a team, personal traits – not professional skills – have been what propelled the company forward.

So, what traits matter? The answer is going to vary by company and founder, but I look for the following:

Cultural Fit (45%)

Fit is arguably the most important of any qualification. Start-ups can be very hard, and they become impossible if you don’t love the people around you. Getting the culture right is critical. No matter how stellar a candidate’s skills are, if they don’t fit well with your team, it won’t work out for anyone involved. Be careful here though: fit should not signal conformity. You do not need 12 identical personalities. You need a mix of people with differing perspectives but shared values. You need at team that is cohesive because of its differences.

Scrappiness and Drive (35%)

At Performable, we include scrappiness in the job description. We seek out people who have toppled challenges with very limited resources. This is not just about being lean. It is about the character of the team. The four most powerful words coming from a new hire are: “I’ll figure it out.” Find someone who you can trust to say that and follow through on it, and you’ve found a true asset.

This kind of drive is different than traditional ambition. Ambitious people will succeed at any task laid before them. They will personally excel, quickly rising from manager to director to vice president. A scrappy person who is driven does not rely on titles or defined responsibilities. He or she will push the company forward even when no one’s looking. Driven people move through the responsibilities on their lists, but also keep a constant eye on how the company as a whole can do things smarter and better.

Intelligence and Experience (15% and 5%, respectively)

Intelligence and experience are valuable, but a scrappy person who fits well on the team can learn fast. In a start-up, jobs are always changing. So when you think about intelligence and experience, make sure you are thinking about it in terms of a genuine hunger to learn and level of life-experience that enables the candidate to easily adapt and evolve.

Discovering these traits in candidates may come down to a gut feeling for many, but some of it can be illuminated by carefully posed questions and by getting a candidate outside of the typical interview set-up. Whenever possible change the setting, meet candidates outside of the office, at events or out for coffee. Get them talking rather than answering. Find out what it is that makes them tick.

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