Is passion sustainable? A look into my start-up lifestyle

A few days ago, I got sick. For the first time in close to  a year I couldn't breathe through my nose. My eyes were puffy and irritated, my nose couldn't have been stuffier. I actually laid in bed Sunday morning (and if you know me, you know I do not lay in bed. Much less sleep past 5:30am). My 80-90 hour work weeks have caught up to me.

Yes, I was eating well, exercising, and sleeping OK. It's just that the last month or so has been stressful - mainly emotionally. I've had to think through problems I've never solved before. Make decisions and run with them. It's been a source of unintended stress - unlike anything I've felt before.

I've been on auto-pilot.

I've seen a couple of friends. I've eaten more chocolate in the past month than I have this entire year. I can't sleep. The train that passes by my apartment wakes me up at 3am. So, I'm up. When I get to work, I can't keep my eyes open - and it's only 10am! Simply put, I've been in a fog.

You should see my notepad.

I have two colors. Black is for what I intend to do each day. Red is for the tasks I add to my list after my week is planned. (the joke "What's black and white and read all over?" comes to mind). You can imagine, the red pen makes an appearance quite frequently.

I'm not complaining. I have chosen the path I'm on.

I'm a non-technical founder of tiny software start-up. I can't connect to MySQL databases. I can almost make things look pretty. I'm a far cry from coding in standards-compliant HTML5. I hack-away at CSS from tutorials I find online. Basically, I let the guys who actually know what they're doing, do it.

And that leaves me with everything else: sales, marketing, copywriting, customer support, hiring interns, conversion optimization, accounting, product management, live chat (coming soon), face-time with local business people, fundraising, and a whole slew of other things.

I love what I do. But passion only takes you so far.

If you ask me what my favorite part about entrepreneurship is, it's the idea & launch phase. The first 6-12 months when you're high on passion. You think your idea is the greatest thing to hit the market, and you build wire-frames until the cows come home. You throw resources into an MVP and see if anyone bites. If someone does, awesome. If someone doesn't, scrap it and move along. I'm in love with the agile process. I love putting stuff out there and seeing what happens.

Then, there comes a point where you realize:

Holy shit. I've got a business to run.

This is the hardest part about being a founder. You need to push through the worst lows and the highest highs. You're never on cruise control. That's why entrepreneurs need help. That's why you have an advisory board to help you through the ho-hum business decisions. Plus, don't forget your support network of friends who understand your schedule and time commitments. And they make you have fun, too.

How I infuse fun back into what I do:

With Green Mountain Mustard, I'm constantly introducing new, limited-edition flavors. I'm staying small. And I'm profitable. With Gredio, my software start-up, it's about doing something different every day. There are a million problems to solve, business planning, user phone calls, and more. I tell you, if you love to build, launch a web app - you'll never stop being creative. And that's what's so fun about my start-up. After all the sickness, the long nights, and my burning eyes, it's worth it.

It's worth it to be a start-up founder.

It's worth it to gain incredible experience.

It's worth it to meet amazing people.

And it's worth it to build your dream.

Ernest Hemingway said it best: "When you stop doing things for fun, you might as well be dead".

Think about that quote. I'll catch up with you Thursday.