If you’ve ever been a graduate student you’ve probably heard this refrain (and understood immediately what it meant):
Grad school is free time with guilt.
For those of us trying to bootstrap a business, this phrase should ring a very special, personal bell. Our free time can either be spent working on the startup that we love or idling. If you are passionate about the journey you’ve chosen, you should be familiar with the feeling of guilt you experience when you are not making the optimal use of your free time. I know this feeling very well.
When bootstrapping, you are at once painfully aware of the fact that you have very little time to waste and painfully at the mercy of your own motivation. Having no one to bear down on you, no one to impose the deadlines, and no one to assign you performance targets can give you a false sense of security that can prove deadly to the very business you are trying to bootstrap. There are no external motivators. Everything we do in our spare time is self-imposed.
Truth be told, I just wasn’t passionate enough about Computer Science PhD at Berkeley. When the time came to choose between sticking around for another 3-4 years or entering the job force with Masters, I had little reservations about moving on. I couldn’t feel more differently about LinkPeelr, just❤liked, and all other bubbling ideas that keep me up at night. These are the things that no one is forcing (or even motivating) me to do, and yet I invest a large portion of my free time doing them.
At the end of the day, true passion is not a form of motivation. It’s a whole other category that renders the art of (self-)motivation irrelevant. It’s what gets you out of bed on an early Saturday morning to work on things that barely let you go to bed on Friday night.
Free time with guilt? Yes, please.