Much has been written and said lately about the sometimes fetishized startup work culture. The two camps seem to divide along the lines of “hustle hard and be proud of it” on the one hand and “scientific studies prove that working endless hours does not create useful results — plus: You should have a life” on the other.
I believe (and have written before) that the reality lies (as so often) somewhere in the middle. Generally speaking, I think you should protect your sleep, have a social life (as it has many benefits), eat well and work focused. Moreover, sometimes you have to burn the midnight oil — as this is just the reality of startups.
There is one big fallacy which most of us fall for — let’s call it the “working hard vs. smart fallacy”. The story goes something like this: It takes a young locksmith more than an hour to unlock a door. He is working hard, trying his best — and once done; he gets a nice tip for all his (visibly) hard work. As the locksmith gets older and more experienced, he also gets faster — what took him an hour only takes him a minute after years of deliberate practice. However, once he can open doors in minutes and even seconds, people stop giving him tips — as they feel he did not work hard enough.
We all too often mistakenly value the subjective quality of work (how hard we work) instead of the output (what we achieve). Which is stupid — as all that matters is output, not input.
Focus your energy on doing smart work and turn your attention to outputs instead of falling for the fallacy of looking at inputs and derive your judgment and value from those.