The Painful Unspoken Truth About Building Something You Love

I met Jason when I was 18.

My friends and I were underage, and in exchange for a ride to a mutual acquaintances’ party, he agreed to buy us liquor.

I would say the rest is history, but it’s not.

Jason was and is my best friend, even through the building of my blogs. Even through the late nights stooped over a laptop on the couch.

Jason knew me as I went through the growing pains of my late teens and early twenties. He loved me before I loved blogging. Before I loved writing online.

We married in July 2014. He proposed before I decided I had enough of my job and quit for a temporary contract.

When we tied the knot on July 19, he stood at the altar, as did I, unaware of what the future held for my career.

Three weeks after our wedding, I came across the catalyst for my deciding that I wouldn’t renew my contract with the company I worked for.

He was already knee deep in our marriage when I sat down with him to discuss my plans to cancel my contract, to grow those side businesses I was ever starting, and to pursue a location independent career.

Supportive at first, he gave me his stamp of approval. He cheered me on when I decided that, the day after I left my job and after my 26th birthday, I would leave for Europe for an extended trip, not seeing him for weeks on end.

Then, I became shrouded by the dark cloud of entrepreneurship.

When I want something, I make it happen, and when I’ve committed to something I’m like a dog with a bone. Nobody is taking it away from me.

I started to build Unsettle, waking up at 5:00 AM to work on this thing for two hours before getting ready and going to work.

On my breaks, I would work some more.

I’d get home, and after scarfing down some food, would sit down on the couch with my laptop on my lap and spend three, four hours pounding away on my keyboard, researching, taking courses, writing.

In the background, there was Jason. Wondering what he’d agreed to. Where his wife went, how he could get her back.

He took on my side of the cooking, the cleaning, the pet parenting responsibilities. He got groceries and worked on the house.

He would ask if I wanted to go for a walk, go on a date, or just sit and chat and I’d wave my hand, dismissing him.

He sat at the wayside watching me slip into the entrepreneurial vortex, largely ignored and alone.

We’d argue about how much time I spent on my laptop. He saw it as evil – as the monster that was taking his wife away from him.

The Inevitable

After three months of furiously working on Unsettle, my relationship with Jason came to its most tense point yet.

We fought more than ever, and spent so little time together that he told me he thought I was avoiding him.

Entrepreneurship was eating me alive.

I spent time with some friends, sure. I had weekly power hours with my cousin and took breaks when my family would come to town.

But the truth is that unless somebody scheduled time with me, it wasn’t happening.

And Jason never scheduled time with me. So he was neglected.

The Sad Irony of it All

As our relationship slowly unravelled around us and my businesses thrived, a sense of irony struck me.

When I started Unsettle, when I quit my job and then didn’t renew my contract to work on the side businesses, there was one driving factor:

To build an awesome life for both Jason and myself.

I did the “perfect day” exercise, where I envisioned living in a little house on the lake in the town we got engaged in. I pictured Jason having to work only when it was something he said “hell yes!” to. I wanted to grow my side businesses to the point where they could support the both of us.

I pictured slow mornings with him, kayaking and eating breakfast together, building a life together, spending more time together.

In pursuit of that, the opposite happened.

The dogged determinedness that is admired in entrepreneurship lit the match that was held to the wick of the dynamite that was my marriage.

I know that I’m the type of person who goes all in.

Where other people have addictive personalities for mood-altering substances, I have an addicted personality when it comes to growth.

But I don’t think I’m alone in this.

And it’s easy to read my story and think to yourself, “well, I would never do that”, but it’s a different ball game when you’re in the trenches building something you’re passionate about.

The high when you reach those subscriber milestones. That hit you feel when big names notice you. The rush you get when people offer you more money per hour to do what you love than you’d have made in an entire day before.

It’s addictive. It will pull you in. And, like any addiction, it will suck you dry.

If you let it.

 I’m happy to report that Jason and I are better now than ever. But I hate to think about what would have happened if I didn’t have a come-to-Jesus moment and change things for good.

So my advice to you?

When you find that one thing – that one thing that you’re so passionate about doing that the word “passionate” becomes obvious, rather than a cliche? That one thing that keeps you up all night and makes it easy to get up a 4:30 AM?

When you’re lucky enough to find that thing, remember why. 

What’s it all for?

Because..

[Tweet “If you neglect your “why”, building your dream becomes redundant.”] So write it down. Why are you doing this? Why do you want it? Know your why.

Write it on a Post-It and stick it to your mirror. Set a reminder on your laptop or your phone. Paint it on your wall, if you have to.

Just remember it.

And the best part about this? The best part about remembering why you’re building what you’re building? Is that it will sharpen your saw. You’ll see more progress and faster. Every milestone will be so much better. And you’ll actually be able to do what you love without sacrificing other things and people you love.

So Unsettle on. But don’t Unsettle from why you started.

 

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57 Comments on “The Painful Unspoken Truth About Building Something You Love”

  1. Pete

    Priorities:
    A very interesting story, I have had a very eventful life and many times overlooked situations that required attention. Excuses are easy to invent and can inflict pain even when the intention is otherwise. Commitment is a very heavy word and without planning can destroy when blinded by selfish ambition.

    It is pleasant news that you have managed to satisfy the gremlins.

  2. Chris

    Thank you for the reminder, Sarah. That must have been difficult to write. I was on the edge of my seat at the end. I’m glad it’s a happy ending!

  3. Paul

    Great post. It’s refreshing to see that we (referring to my wife and I, though the “we” could also refer to your readers) are not alone in our struggles to balance what we have with pursuing what we want.

  4. Sarah

    Great post, it takes guts to be this personal and it’s something I want to do in my own writing as well. To be personal and still have a strong message and lesson to share is even better, so thank you for this!

  5. James

    As one who has been down this path I want to commend the two of you for facing this harsh reality when you choose the entrepreneur path. You have actually just cleared a very important hurdle so in many ways you are now on to a much richer and fuller life. I applaud the two of you.

  6. Fig @ Figuring Money Out

    Great and honest post on a topic a lot of people avoid! Building a business or a blog takes a ton of time and dedication. It’s easy to ignore the people in your life that you think will always be there. But taking people for granted for a long period can make them leave. I’m so glad you recognized that and changed course before it was too late. Good job on focusing your priorities to include all the things that are important to you.

  7. Terence

    I feel your pain, Sarah.

    Something similar happened to me last year, too. I was dedicating too much time to my blog at the expense of my family time. I eventually burnt out late last year.

    This year, the priorities have been set straight, with regular reminders (similar to what you suggested). 🙂

  8. David

    Great post. Thanks for getting vulnerable. You are spot on. This same thing happened to me. When you’re working on your passion, there is always more to do, it never stops. And when you’re working for yourself, there’s not external structure there to stop you, or at least remind you to not be at work.

    This is more important than many realize. You go into entrepreneurship with the idea that you will be more free, but unless you remind yourself every day what that freedom looks like, you’re likely to wind up chained to your desk.

  9. Matt

    Great post — thanks for sharing your personal story!
    I suspect that all of us can relate on some level.
    The tipping point for me was when my four year old daughter, watching me crack open my laptop one Sunday afternoon, looked at me and sighed, “Dad, are you gonna work *now*?!”
    I shut it. “Uh, nope. I was just checking something … all done.”
    Since then I’ve learned a lot about time management — lists, and meditation, have been invaluable.

  10. Athena

    I’m glad you wrote this. I’ve been a long time follower of yours for years and it was interesting to see you leave on such a long extended trip shortly after you got married. No one knows what goes on though behind the scenes and why people do what they do. It’s hard to focus on building a life you want and making time for everything and everyone in it.

    I recently went back to school this last semester and between balancing my full time job, the Plutus Awards, the FinCon after party and just living, I had little left for other things and my relationships have suffered. It’s great when you have understanding people though, you can admit your mistakes and remember your why.

  11. Renee Buffington

    This is a reminder to all altruistic and entrepreneural endeavors. Too many times I’ve seen the detours – even if you don’t look for them – that appear to take you away from what you want a goal or outcome to be. We sometimes swerve to meet others’ objectives unintentionally.

  12. NZ Muse

    Oh Sarah. I come at this from a totally different angle, but I so empathise. For us it was me working my ass off because he was unemployed and job hunting, and I had a FT job plus side hustles. I killed myself to bring in money (you know, to support us BOTH) which left no time for our relationship, which was already under strain. And it nearly broke us. I’m glad you guys made it through.

  13. Chris

    Awesome post Sarah – a good reminder that we need to stay aware of all the aspects that make up the balance in our lives, and remember that we are solely responsible for maintaining the whole rather than just a part, even if that one part is a big one. It’s too easy to get consumed by whatever our primary focus is at any given moment. When we expand ourselves out and allow ourselves to experience and draw from all parts of our lives, that one thing will be so much more complete, since it will have so much more to draw from.

  14. Deborah Gillham

    Thank you for posting this reminder Sarah, I will try to remember the ‘WHY’ factor. What a co-incidence that I was up at 4.30 this morning doing some research for my business ‘That one thing that keeps you up all night and makes it easy to get up a 4:30 AM’. I’t’s all about balance isn’t it. x

  15. Gen Y Finance Guy

    I absolutely know the feeling. I have built a lot of side businesses over the years. I have been very lucky to have such a supportive wife. Overtime I have gotten way better at finding a nice balance of working on things I am passionate about and keeping the passion in my marriage.

    As my wife is my #1 passion. Sometimes that gets lost in the hustle.

    Great post.

    Cheers!

  16. Mike

    Great post Sara!

    After going in head first on a few online start ups I too had to learn this the hard way. I have that same addicting personality that you speak of. Once I set my mind on something that I want to achieve, nothing can get in my way. I always thought that the cost of being successful in business came with the price of losing friendships and relationships with your loved ones. But time and time again I needed to remind myself why I’m doing all of this. It’s all for them! Thanks again for the reminder!

    -Mike

  17. Carly Ottaway

    What an honest, thought-provoking read. Thank you for sharing this look behind the scenes of entrepreneurship. It’s not just one person that is going “all in,” it’s often a whole family. I feel grateful everyday to have the support of my husband as I launch my own business. He’s the one cheering me on from the sidelines, encouraging me to chase my dreams and picking me up when I get knocked down. This is a wonderful reminder to keep seeing him, even when my work is taking up my vision.

  18. carly

    Wow. This is so powerful for everyone. I think any person can relate, whether they neglect those closest to them for a blog, job or hobby. Your husband sounds like a great and supportive guy and I’m glad you two are on the up and up. Any modern couple can get caught in this whirlpool.

  19. Kristen

    Sarah- Thank you for your honesty. Too often the lives of folks making great things happen online seem ‘picture perfect’. Your opening up about the dark side is helpful to all of us who feel the deep drive to create …sometimes at the expense of really important relationships. Loving your site. So happy you’re marriage is back on track:-) -K

  20. KW Stout

    I can completely relate to this, as it’s something I’ve had to work on myself. I’ve always had a tendency to get obsessed with projects I’m working on and completely neglect my social life with friends and loved ones.

    While it may be seen as a flaw, I’ve found it to help me make tremendous progress in short amounts of time. But there’s no venture worth destroying your personal life over.

  21. Andrew M. Warner

    Hey Sarah,

    This is an awesome post and story that you shared. A lot of what you said, resonated with me. The late night. The getting up early. The only making time if something is scheduled.

    I’m engaged and everything I’m trying to do … trying to build … is so things can be better and life wouldn’t have to be so darn hard. But as I read through your post, I saw some things in what you said, that I know I’ve done in the past. But, not any more.

    We make time for each other and I schedule time ( a set time) to do work on my blog. She knows how important this is to me so she’s very supportive.

    Thank you for sharing your story. And glad to hear your situation is back on track. 🙂

    – Andrew

  22. Sarah

    Hey Andrew.. thank you for leaving such a thoughtful comment 🙂 I’m so glad you guys take time for each other. It’s so important!

  23. Sarah

    Hey Kristen – I definitely don’t think it’s helpful to anybody to pretend our lives are perfect, because real life is far more valuable to readers. It was a hard post to write but so worth it 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting!

  24. Sarah

    Hey Carly, You’re right – with all of the distractions and our ability to do what we love, it’s an easy trap to fall into. I hope our story will help prevent it for others. It’s a lot of needless stress.

  25. Sarah

    “It’s not just one person that is going “all in,” it’s often a whole family” – I love this, Carly, because it’s so true! Thank you so much for reading.

  26. Sarah

    Thank you, Mike 🙂 I just don’t think I can be successful in business without being successful in my personal life, and this whole situation made me realize that. Thank YOU for commenting!

  27. Sarah

    I love that you just called your wife your #1 passion. I wish I had put it so eloquently!

  28. Sarah

    Hey Deborah!! I think being so excited that it’s easy to get up at 4:30 AM is a great thing! As long as you always remember your “why” 🙂

  29. Sarah

    Yeah, E, that’s really, really tough. And I’m glad you and your husband made it through, too. Did your husband end up getting a job?

  30. Sarah

    Hey Athena – I’m glad too. It was hard to write but it became almost necessary. The trip portion of it would have been ok – and I think actually was good for us – but what preceded it was troubling. That’s a lot to have on your plate, girl. Be sure to take a break sometimes. Because sometimes, relationships have to suffer and it is great to have understanding friends and family, but you lose yourself in the equation.

  31. Sarah

    Hey, Matt – that’s a really powerful tipping point. And I’m glad it spoke to you when it did. I need to get back into meditation..

  32. Sarah

    Thank you, David. I definitely agree with this. And there’s something different about being a full-time entrepreneur and a side entrepreneur. Something changes.

  33. Sarah

    I’m so glad you were able to get back on track, Terence! Reminders are always helpful, aren’t they?

  34. Sarah

    Thanks for reading, Fig, and for your comment – I think we all fall into taking those people for granted.

  35. Sarah

    Hey James – one thing that posting this made me realize is how many people who have also gone through this. Hopefully you came out on the other side as well!

  36. Sarah

    Oh, man, Sarah – it was SO nerve wracking to press publish. But it’s rewarding too. It’s both nice to know you’re not alone and nice to know that your words help others. Thanks so much for leaving a comment 🙂

  37. Sarah

    It’s definitely a happy ending, and I plan to keep it that way 🙂 Thanks for popping by, Chris.

  38. Melanie @ Dear Debt

    Thanks for writing this! I’ve seen firsthand how this can happen too. I always remember that I didn’t quit my job to work all the time — I quit to have flexibility and enjoy love and passion. Don’t let yourself forget the things that are most important to you and people that have been rooting for you all along.

  39. Jaco Alberts

    Great article Sarah, and I respect the fact that you are willing to share it with us, calling things as they are. I agree with your emphasis on the importance on remembering the “why”. I believe that when you forget the “why” in your passion, the passion then becomes an obsession, and that can be dangerous and unhealthy. Obsession kills passion and steals the joy you once had.

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  41. Ritu

    Incredible post! I have a similar story where my partner just didn’t have the entrepreneurial spark that I do and sadly, I judged him for it. Well, we are not together now and I blamed this on the entrepreneur addiction. You are right, it can suck you dry. So I got off that train vowing never to get back on again. But I’m feeling the itch rising up again and maybe that’s what lead me to this post. Thanks for writing this and I’m very happy that you two made it through. x Ritu

  42. Janine

    Thanks for sharing this. Been there, nearly destroyed what I had through the career I then gave up to pursue my writing, blogging & business. Happy to say I did revisit my personal ‘why’ and we are now getting married after 10 years. I acknowledge I will always have ‘all in’ tendencies so I need to keep pinching myself every step of every way!

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  44. pat

    Your invigorating story reminded me not to sacrifice others. Finding that balance is tough. Congratulations.

  45. Nirwal

    I know how it feels. I have been there too. In 2012 when I was passionately working on a previous online project these same issues came up with my previous GF. We had a break up. And it broke me. I couldn’t get back my desire for entrepreneurship until recently. Emotions makes us who we are. And people give us emotions. Always and always make time for people who matter to you. Sincerely Nirwal.

  46. Sarah

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Nirwal. I’m sorry to hear about you and your girlfriend. THat’s a hard lesson to learn.

  47. Lux

    Much needed. So timely! I need to remember my “why” and keep at it especially when distractions attack. Or rather when I entertain them.

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