We Can't Stay Out Of The Game For Too Long

"It's been almost a year since I worked on my last startup, but I'm already starting to realize that I feel kind of "out of shape" as a Founder. Is there any real cost to being out of the startup game for too long?"

August 9th, 2023   |    By: Wil Schroter    |    Tags: Emotional Support

Startup Founders are like top athletes — if we don't keep working that startup muscle daily, we get out of shape fast!

Normally while we're building our startups, that's not a problem — we get all the "exercise" we need in the form of unrelenting stress and anxiety (hey, it's burning calories, right?)

But seriously, being active in our startup keeps us relevant, connected, and engaged in our business worlds. The moment we disconnect, whether it be from a sale, a wind-down, or even just a career change, we start letting that muscle atrophy, and it's very hard to get it back in shape.

We Lose Our Relevance

When we're in the middle of building our startups, one of the things that we can take for granted is how relevant we are at the moment. We're aware of everything from our market trends, to industry intel, to the fundraising climate. We have to be because our startups depend on it.

Yet when we dial back and get out of the game for a while, all of that inherent knowledge quickly wanes. Trends that we used to help set are now things that are passing us by. People who used to call us first to help solve a problem or set up a partnership don't think about us anymore. We're a ghost.

So much of our relevance comes from playing the game itself. Our connectivity to the lifeblood of our industry and the startup experience as a whole is entirely built and maintained by actually being neck-deep in it. Over time we go from insider status to outsider status, and that's never where great startups are born.

We Lose Our Relationships

Being in the game also means being inherently connected to everyone else in the game. That network goes much further and broader than most of us realize until we opt out.

There are so many people that we simply have no reason to be in touch with anymore. Investors, co-workers, customers, and even social media at large can become an alien entity to us almost overnight. How many social media accounts do you follow of Founders who no longer work at the company you once loved?

Those relationships weren't just about being friendly but about being relevant. The moment we're not running a startup, there's no business relevance for an investor to stay in touch or a customer to grab dinner with us. The longer we stay out of the game, the faster those relationships whither, which can become years to develop.

We Lose Our Minds

If all of the other aspects of relevance and relationships didn't affect us, the one that always does is our "mindset." Every act of building our startup is developing and evolving our mindset. It's challenging our thinking, testing our skills, and openly sharing our ideas with smart people.

We just can't do that in a vacuum sitting at home. Our mindset stays sharp when we are constantly challenged with our work and, more so, challenged externally.

So yeah, being the startup game is stressful and crazy, but being out of it for too long is also a problem. We all need to come off the field and take a rest from time to time — that's healthy. But we also need to be able to get right back into the game sooner than later if we plan on competing.

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About the Author

Wil Schroter

Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes BizplanClarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.

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