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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 22, 2014, 03:30:25 PM

Title: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 22, 2014, 03:30:25 PM
I'm one year into a position that is a very unique situation. I'm making $90,000/yr and am due for a raise this week. My target number is $120,000 and I very well maybe able to get there. We'll see.

It's a completely unhealthy, always-on, fast-paced position. Technically I get three weeks paid time off, but I've had zero time off in the last year and I don't see that changing in the next year to come. Trust me, if it was okay to take the time I would. I get called late at night multiple nights a week, I get called and have to work many weekend weekends, texts at 3am. There's no way to change this. It's the CEO. I can't plan a life outside of work, because heaven forbid I'm in a movie or something and don't answer my phone. There's never a time to "check out" completely. I have my phone with me at all times and at any given moment I have to stop what I'm doing and handle some (most of the time imaginary) fire.

The flip-side, is I have a very senior role in a very fast-growing company. There's a long list of people who have made millions (without hyberbole) by working for this CEO. I report directly to him and am on track to get stock options, large bonuses, a huge resume builder and frequent large raises.

I'm fucking miserable. This job is unnecessary stressful because of the anxiety issues from the top down. There's too much work and not enough time to do it an nobody cares. If it was physically possible to work 24/7 I still wouldn't be able to handle the work load (and I'm an efficient and fast worker).

Another consideration is my husband is a full-time student working on a change of field. He's been struggling to find full-time employment after a layoff last-year, than another layoff after starting a position with a different company back in January.

I keep waffling. Some weeks I'm fine, other weeks I feel like my heart is having a physical reaction to the stress!!! Today is a bad day. I don't want to miss-out on this opportunity to be able to retire in two years because I make a big payout here, but I also don't want to jeopardize my health and sanity. It's not a sure thing that I will get millions, but I've done extensive research on previous businesses my CEO has been involved in and have talked to many people who are now retired at a young age because they stuck with it in his past companies.

I'm kind of just venting and curious to see what kind of response I get. Maybe there's advice for managing? I get regular massages to help deal with the stress and have tried Yoga, but it's not really helping.

I keep thinking I can do anything for a year. Well I made it through a year and it was tough. Now I'm thinking I can do one more year at least. But it's already proving to be harder than the first time around...

EDITED TO ADD: It would be fairly simple for me to find a job paying $50,000-$60,000/year that would be less stressful. (I get the occasional head-hunting call) I could also full-time freelance fairly easily as I've done this in the past. But I like the idea of killing it for a couple of years and being done. So I've put myself knowingly in this situation
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: gimp on September 22, 2014, 03:37:45 PM
What do you actually do? What's your job description?
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: oldtoyota on September 22, 2014, 03:38:12 PM
I am having a similar issue. Wow. Your story is my story. My post related to this topic is called Lean in or Lean Back--something like that.

What will you get money wise out of a year of working with this CEO? How much more $$ will you have saved up than if you got a less stressful job somewhere else?

It sounds to me like you have to weigh earning less against stress and earning more. Also, a job that pays less can still be wildly hectic, though that might not be quite as bad if you were lower on the totem pole.

Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 22, 2014, 03:41:37 PM
What do you actually do? What's your job description?

I don't want to really get into the fine details of what I do. I touch on many aspects of the business and manage and hire many people.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: maizeman on September 22, 2014, 03:50:43 PM
You are going to be the best judge of the maximum amount you can handle.

Given the potential for a million+ payout you describe at the end of your post, I'm assuming you work for some kind of start up and you have stock options that'll vest in the next couple of years. You _can_ get rich this way, but keep in mind that serial company-starters like your boss end up in that role by being very good at convincing people that whatever their latest idea is will pay off and be worth millions. Sometimes the companies really do make it, but the same skills that make him good at convincing people to invest in his companies are the skills he's using to sell you and any other employees on the high value of your ownership stake in the company.

I still remember the time a former boss decided to launch a start up on the side and then had the business guy he brought in start poaching away employees from his day job. The guy had his reality distortion field turned up to 11, and while you were talking with him it seemed perfectly plausible for you to take a cut in pay and walk away from a position with good job security for the chance to own a (very small) piece of a company that might be worth $100M someday. Very glad I got completely out of that situation while I could. The start-up hasn't gone bust (nor is it worth $100M yet) but my friends who ended up working there make it sound a lot like your company: constant stress, no way to block off personal time that won't be interrupted by calls from the boss, more work assigned each day than could be done in a week...
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: RetireAbroadAt35 on September 22, 2014, 03:54:06 PM
It sounds to me like you have to weigh earning less against stress and earning more.

It sounds like the OP has already done this and is now regretting the decision?

Quote
freelancerNfulltime:
I don't want to really get into the fine details of what I do.
I'm all for protecting your privacy but how can we help when know almost nothing about the situation?

It sounds like you've thought through all the options.  Now is probably the time to reconsider them and choose a path forward. 

My suggestion would be to find a way to make the current gig livable.  Second best would be to find a new gig that is both livable and lucrative.  Third option is to take a pay cut to get your work/life balance under control.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: Gerard on September 22, 2014, 03:56:50 PM
Wah, this is a particularly bad situation, because you're not actually earning enough to build up the buffer to get out on your own terms... your future good CV won't pay tomorrow's rent. So, first off, virtual hug to you and your partner from a random stranger on the internet.

Next... you're probably in too deep to know how bad things are, how much you can handle, and how likely you are to do better. And we're too far away to know whether your misery is proportional to the situation. Your self-imposed goal (get rich, get out) and your partner's unemployment are creating a situation where you feel you have even less control than you actually do. And it's self-reinforcing -- the longer you stay and the worse you feel, the more you need that big payoff to justify what you've put up with so far (in a sense, because you're always on, each year you stay in this situation is the equivalent of two or three years somewhere else, because you have no recovery time).

Have you been to a doctor lately? Are there empirical markers of your stress and burnt-out-ness? If so, might that be evidence that you need to leave?

Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: Left on September 22, 2014, 03:59:35 PM
so... can you outsource part of it? If it isn't confidential, could you hire someone? Even if you have to "foot the bill" yourself for the assistant, tell company you will give up $30k of your $90k to get an assistant (that only answers to you since their paycheck is from your cut), and this leaves you at the $60k "less stress" job but with potential for the bonus/etc or do you already have assistants?
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: MikeBear on September 22, 2014, 04:02:51 PM
Ask for a MASSIVE raise in pay. Like $250k.

You'll either get it if they value the position and you, and can retire all the sooner, or they'll dump you, and your problem is solved either way.

If you find out they DON'T value the position to pay that much, then why should you destroy your life giving them everything and not having a life of your own?
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 22, 2014, 04:03:14 PM
You are going to be the best judge of the maximum amount you can handle.

Given the potential for a million+ payout you describe at the end of your post, I'm assuming you work for some kind of start up and you have stock options that'll vest in the next couple of years. You _can_ get rich this way, but keep in mind that serial company-starters like your boss end up in that role by being very good at convincing people that whatever their latest idea is will pay off and be worth millions. Sometimes the companies really do make it, but the same skills that make him good at convincing people to invest in his companies are the skills he's using to sell you and any other employees on the high value of your ownership stake in the company.

I still remember the time a former boss decided to launch a start up on the side and then had the business guy he brought in start poaching away employees from his day job. The guy had his reality distortion field turned up to 11, and while you were talking with him it seemed perfectly plausible for you to take a cut in pay and walk away from a position with good job security for the chance to own a (very small) piece of a company that might be worth $100M someday. Very glad I got completely out of that situation while I could. The start-up hasn't gone bust (nor is it worth $100M yet) but my friends who ended up working there make it sound a lot like your company: constant stress, no way to block off personal time that won't be interrupted by calls from the boss, more work assigned each day than could be done in a week...

You're exactly right. The only caveat to my situation being, they want to pay above market rates. While I'm currently underpaid due to my role and responsibilities, I have been given three salary increases since I have started and I'm supposed to continue to get them until they get me to market rate and then past market rate as investor funding comes in. I'm making more than I would likely make if I went back to what I was doing before. My thought is my stock options times zero is still worth zero, but based on track record it's a better than 80% chance it will come to pass.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: Exflyboy on September 22, 2014, 04:03:50 PM
In general your working what 16 hours a day and making $90k?

So in reality you have two $45k jobs back to back..

Get the hell out of there and go get a 60k job, my guess would be with the experience you have you might be able to get more than that.. possibly nearer your 90k

Now, how much has the company grown, do you see signs of it taking off?.. if so stick it out one more year.. if you can.

Frank
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 22, 2014, 04:04:59 PM
It sounds to me like you have to weigh earning less against stress and earning more.

It sounds like the OP has already done this and is now regretting the decision?

Quote
freelancerNfulltime:
I don't want to really get into the fine details of what I do.
I'm all for protecting your privacy but how can we help when know almost nothing about the situation?

It sounds like you've thought through all the options.  Now is probably the time to reconsider them and choose a path forward. 

My suggestion would be to find a way to make the current gig livable.  Second best would be to find a new gig that is both livable and lucrative.  Third option is to take a pay cut to get your work/life balance under control.

Even without the details of my job, I thought I could get some interesting feedback and so far I have, which is helpful even just to have a sounding board from a group of people with similar goals (early retirement)
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: Seņora Savings on September 22, 2014, 04:08:36 PM
How much money do you need?  Is the prospect of being a millionaire who doesn't have a social life because you're constantly on-call appealing?

I think that the things you're sacrificing now (your life, hobbies, health, maybe your marriage) are not worth retiring a little bit earlier unless you have time sensitive retirement plans.

Also, investigate your other options.  It seems unlikely to me that your current job is twice your market value with the chance of becoming a millions.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 22, 2014, 04:08:46 PM
Wah, this is a particularly bad situation, because you're not actually earning enough to build up the buffer to get out on your own terms... your future good CV won't pay tomorrow's rent. So, first off, virtual hug to you and your partner from a random stranger on the internet.

Next... you're probably in too deep to know how bad things are, how much you can handle, and how likely you are to do better. And we're too far away to know whether your misery is proportional to the situation. Your self-imposed goal (get rich, get out) and your partner's unemployment are creating a situation where you feel you have even less control than you actually do. And it's self-reinforcing -- the longer you stay and the worse you feel, the more you need that big payoff to justify what you've put up with so far (in a sense, because you're always on, each year you stay in this situation is the equivalent of two or three years somewhere else, because you have no recovery time).

Have you been to a doctor lately? Are there empirical markers of your stress and burnt-out-ness? If so, might that be evidence that you need to leave?

Thanks for the virtual hug :) You've done a good job of articulating the circles my brain is running in. I have a good buffer of $50,000 total savings. I can easily save another $20,000 at least in the next year.

I haven't seen a doctor, but I handle stress really well so the fact that it's getting to me, means it is bad. I'd like to find some better ways to manage the stress maybe I haven't thought of. One thing I know I could do but I struggle with is give up caffeine and exercise more. But I'm mentally exhausted all the time.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 22, 2014, 04:11:27 PM
In general your working what 16 hours a day and making $90k?

So in reality you have two $45k jobs back to back..

Get the hell out of there and go get a 60k job, my guess would be with the experience you have you might be able to get more than that.. possibly nearer your 90k

Now, how much has the company grown, do you see signs of it taking off?.. if so stick it out one more year.. if you can.

Frank

The company is growing fast and has met all internally set mile-markers of success, we have people who are coming to us to invest. Like names of people easily recognizable to those who are familiar with venture capitalists.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: darkadams00 on September 22, 2014, 04:11:38 PM
Questions that I would be asking myself if I were in a similar situation:

1) Do I thoroughly enjoy the work that I'm doing? If so, then the job is not the issue. The long and uncertain hours are the problem.

2) Will this job impact my financial future in a positive and significant way? My time and stress limits are worth a lot to me, so I want to be reasonably compensated if a job tries to extract more of my time and add more stress to my daily life than I'm comfortable handling. I am definitely comfortable turning down a job if I don't feel the exchange is fair. I will work longer and enjoy all of my time--both while working and afterward--before I put myself in a torture chamber to shave off a sliver of employment time, i.e. reach retirement a year or two earlier. I enjoy my work and don't envision loving retirement more. I'll just be spending my time doing something different. None of my time will be miserable.

3) How much of the financial income/benefit package is guaranteed (i.e. salary/commission) and how much is uncertain (i.e. bonuses/options)? I would definitely factor this uncertainty into the equation. I'm cynical about financial uncertainties, and over the years even some of my better friends have failed to deliver even though I thought there was an implied agreement. Past performance is no guarantee...and all that. And bosses in a start-up are partially salesmen by definition, even if that selling means selling the future to present employees.

Finally, a word about personal time. I go to church weekly. Under no circumstance will I answer a phone call, text, or email during church. My phone is a company phone, and I understand it comes with a bit of "on-call" expectations, but I let my manager know up front that there were a few situations when I would answer ASAP but not immediately. That's just one example. Also, I WILL take some vacation time--no questions. I don't know every vacation day six months in advance, but I expect a company to be in good enough shape to survive without me for a few days/weeks during the year. I would not accept less. I know what it is to work 80+ hour weeks in a start up, but there were vacation days along the way as one would expect. To be fair to my employer, this year I missed two days for sickness--the first days I've missed for illness in more than seven years.

...and I make more than you've listed here with an expectation of my income to continue to increase at a fairly good clip in the future.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 22, 2014, 04:14:56 PM
How much money do you need?  Is the prospect of being a millionaire who doesn't have a social life because you're constantly on-call appealing?

I think that the things you're sacrificing now (your life, hobbies, health, maybe your marriage) are not worth retiring a little bit earlier unless you have time sensitive retirement plans.

Also, investigate your other options.  It seems unlikely to me that your current job is twice your market value with the chance of becoming a millions.

How much money I need is far less than what I make, but if I can truly stuff a lifetime of earnings into three years than it is worth it. Than I can retire and be completely done. It would be easy to find another job making $20,000 to $30,000 less than what I make now, but not so easy to find a job paying me $120,000 which is what I should be at soon here.

My marriage isn't at risk, but I definitely think my health and social life is. I don't see my friends hardly ever and my family intermittently.  If my health is at risk now, I would want to know if it's something I can "bounce back" from. If it's not permanent damage that's fine. I guess I should probably go talk to my doctor and see what they think.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: davidlobsterwallace on September 22, 2014, 04:15:11 PM
I know that quantifying it may seem too cute by half, but it also may help put it into perspective. Sometimes numbers allow me to remove certain emotional and cognitive biases... So think about these four questions:

(1) How miserable this job is on a scale of 1-10? Be honest, and ask yourself on a day that's pretty representative.
(2) How likely are you to actually end up with the mega-payout, based on the research you've done and what you know about your situation? Be very honest with yourself. Also consider the possibility that you burn out, get sick, etc.
(3) How long will it take to get that payout, if it occurs?
(4) Would you be financially okay with the more humane job you describe that makes $60-70k/year?

Multiply (2) by the mega-payoff to get your expected value from the job. Then think about being miserable at a level of (1) for (3) X years. This is the real cost of that payout. Now think about factor (4). If you actually need it, then... you need it. It's hard to know your exact circumstances from your post. But it also sounds like this job is physically and emotionally wrecking you. It's your life and you can't buy it back.

[I'm in a job like that sometimes feels like you describe yours, and here's my calculus: The payout is $1m/year, with about a 10-15% shot, at a misery level of 7, for 6-7 years. When I think about the expected returns as $100,000, it starts to look WAAAAAY less worth it.]
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: RetireAbroadAt35 on September 22, 2014, 04:19:39 PM
Even without the details of my job, I thought I could get some interesting feedback and so far I have, which is helpful even just to have a sounding board from a group of people with similar goals (early retirement)

The more you can share the more valuable the advice is that you will get.  For example, maizeman guessed that you were working at a startup.  Suddenly the advice got more specific and meaningful.  Just something to keep in mind as your threads unfold.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: flyfig on September 22, 2014, 04:32:41 PM
My sympathies. This opportunity sounds like it will be very positive and at the same time, will rip your soul if you let it. I don't think anyone can answer the question of "stay or go" except for yourself and your husband. If you decide to stay in (the money and early freedom for some hard time) focus on taking care of yourself and staying optimistic. You can't change your CEO or peers. A little meditation or exercise helps me (high pressure, high paying job). Also, don't beat yourself up on not maintaining your social life. You can only do so much at any one time and if now is the work like crazy time, then so be it. Good luck and happy thoughts to you.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 22, 2014, 04:54:11 PM
so... can you outsource part of it? If it isn't confidential, could you hire someone? Even if you have to "foot the bill" yourself for the assistant, tell company you will give up $30k of your $90k to get an assistant (that only answers to you since their paycheck is from your cut), and this leaves you at the $60k "less stress" job but with potential for the bonus/etc or do you already have assistants?

I wish, that would help a lot. I have an admin and direct reports, but a lot of my job involves making decisions that require research and planning and uninterrupted hours to create these plans. Unfortunately I get no uninterrupted time during the normal business hours, so I have to stay late to get this type of work work done.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: dandarc on September 22, 2014, 05:00:28 PM
Boss has no boundaries, so if you want to stay with it and stay sane, you've gotta create and enforce them yourself.

No idea if this is the case in your situation, but a lot of times, there is more perceived downside at work to enforcing your boundaries as to personal life than there actually is.  Try one time not answering the phone, then waiting 30 minutes or an hour before calling back - you might be surprised at the reaction - probably won't be fired over this.  And if you do, there's your answer as to whether to stay or not.  If you get a late night call, and in your judgement it can wait till morning, say so, hang up, and turn the ringer off if they call back again.

Expecting long hours for short bursts from employees from time to time is reasonable - a full year or longer of this is just not good for anyone involved.  And giving you paid time off that you can't use is BS.  Will they at least pay it out to you if you want cash instead?
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 22, 2014, 05:02:03 PM
Questions that I would be asking myself if I were in a similar situation:

1) I don't really enjoy the work. I am managing a team of people doing the work I enjoy doing. It's adjacent to what I enjoy doing. But I'm really good at it.

2) Possibly. It has the chance to shave 20 years off my work life. Though I believe I could on my own create my own business to do something similar.

3) My salary is guaranteed, and guaranteed to grow at least twice a year. My CEO is definitely a salesman and I know he's selling us the opportunity all the time. But so far everything they've said will happen has. For example when I started there were no benefits. They said that would be fixed, and it was just because the company was brand new, and they did fix it very quickly. The bonuses have come, but they're small right now, $1000 here and there. But they're supposed to grow to be $20,000+ next year. The board has already approved a certain % of stock and dividends for the employee fund. I have been promised a special separate stock percentage which is supposed to happen in about 4 months to reward me for my commitment thus far and the critical role I play at the company.

I have been flat out told, I am expected to be available by phone at all hours of the day, no exceptions. I have to answer the CEOs calls at all times no matter what.




Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 22, 2014, 05:03:00 PM
Boss has no boundaries, so if you want to stay with it and stay sane, you've gotta create and enforce them yourself.

No idea if this is the case in your situation, but a lot of times, there is more perceived downside at work to enforcing your boundaries as to personal life than there actually is.  Try one time not answering the phone, then waiting 30 minutes or an hour before calling back - you might be surprised at the reaction - probably won't be fired over this.  And if you do, there's your answer as to whether to stay or not.  If you get a late night call, and in your judgement it can wait till morning, say so, hang up, and turn the ringer off if they call back again.

Expecting long hours for short bursts from employees from time to time is reasonable - a full year or longer of this is just not good for anyone involved.  And giving you paid time off that you can't use is BS.  Will they at least pay it out to you if you want cash instead?

I am all about boundaries. I have always set them in previous jobs and with clients in the past very successfully. Creating boundaries here means being passed over and or fired.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: jpo on September 22, 2014, 05:10:05 PM
This is a long read but totally applicable to your situation.

http://www.livingafi.com/2014/08/the-job-experience-hell-year-12/1/ (http://www.livingafi.com/2014/08/the-job-experience-hell-year-12/1/)
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 22, 2014, 05:10:18 PM
Thanks for this formula, I'm trying it out.

(1) How miserable this job is on a scale of 1-10? 8

(2) How likely are you to actually end up with the mega-payout, based on the research you've done and what you know about your situation? Be very honest with yourself. Also consider the possibility that you burn out, get sick, etc. 65% likely

(3) How long will it take to get that payout, if it occurs? Two or three more years

(4) Would you be financially okay with the more humane job you describe that makes $60-70k/year? Yes


The mega-payout is between $3,000,000 and $6,000,000. I would say it is 65% likely that I would get that much. (80% likely I will get a good amount of money at least) The time it will take is on the conservative side 4-5 years, but there is NO way I can do this for that long. The hope is as we grow we'll be creating less from scratch and hiring more so it won't require the same level on input from me after the next year or two.

On paper it seems worth it, but days like today it seems really appealing to go find a more normal job.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: dandarc on September 22, 2014, 05:12:42 PM
Boss has no boundaries, so if you want to stay with it and stay sane, you've gotta create and enforce them yourself.

No idea if this is the case in your situation, but a lot of times, there is more perceived downside at work to enforcing your boundaries as to personal life than there actually is.  Try one time not answering the phone, then waiting 30 minutes or an hour before calling back - you might be surprised at the reaction - probably won't be fired over this.  And if you do, there's your answer as to whether to stay or not.  If you get a late night call, and in your judgement it can wait till morning, say so, hang up, and turn the ringer off if they call back again.

Expecting long hours for short bursts from employees from time to time is reasonable - a full year or longer of this is just not good for anyone involved.  And giving you paid time off that you can't use is BS.  Will they at least pay it out to you if you want cash instead?

I am all about boundaries. I have always set them in previous jobs and with clients in the past very successfully. Creating boundaries here means being passed over and or fired.
Well, I'd suggest cutting your lifestyle as much as possible, so you can hit FIRE ASAP regardless of if the startup pans out or not.  Since you're working all the time, there is no free time to spend money any way.  Say between you and your husband you can get to where you take home 150K - if you can find a way to live on 30K, and you're at at least 0 net worth, that's about a 5.5 year plan - without a mega payout.  If these pay raises materialize, even faster than that.  Make cutting your household's budget your way of 'sticking it to the man'.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 22, 2014, 05:45:59 PM
This is a long read but totally applicable to your situation.

http://www.livingafi.com/2014/08/the-job-experience-hell-year-12/1/ (http://www.livingafi.com/2014/08/the-job-experience-hell-year-12/1/)

Just took the time to read this. It's 80% exactly my situation. Good grief.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: mozar on September 22, 2014, 06:01:12 PM
You say this job will cut 20 years off your working life. If you post your expenses and savings here we can help you with calculations. Are you saving 60k  a year and starting from zero? If so, if your goal is 600k then you still have about 7 years, not two or three. When you say it will cut 20 do you mean instead of working 30?

You say that your current job pays you less than market but you can't get a job making more money? I'm confused.

I think it would help to not focus on what you are missing in life and focus on getting through everyday and working on getting enough energy to think.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: brizna on September 22, 2014, 06:40:24 PM
Sounds like you're a very early employee at a tech startup handling most of the non-product and operational aspects of the company.

I would only put up with this for a *significant* portion of the company (5-10 percent of the company (seriously)) with at least a quarter of that vesting within a year. It would also depend on the funding status of the company and the liquidation preference of the equity and how fast I would be able to cash out once vested (equity at a private company is hard to sell) and what the rules are for exercising options after leaving the company (think huge tax bill).

Anyway, good luck. I think your 65% chance thing is wildly optimistic unless you're already positive cash flow and growing steadily or not positive cash flow and growing wildly. Then again I'm old (in startup age (32)) and have little patience for that crap anymore especially with the odds of success being so low.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: Elderwood17 on September 22, 2014, 07:25:14 PM
Wow - that sounds a bit like my situation, but more severe for less money.  I am paid about right for the market, but the environment has helped me increase my savings rate! 

As others have said, you need to balance your desire for FIRE with sanity and balance for today.  I found once I started setting some boundaries my immediate supervisor was actually pretty supportive.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: ender on September 22, 2014, 07:59:46 PM
Would you work two fulltime jobs that each were $60k/year simultaneously?
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 22, 2014, 08:08:44 PM
Would you work two fulltime jobs that each were $60k/year simultaneously?

I would not. That's a good way to look at it.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: chasesfish on September 22, 2014, 08:25:56 PM

Sounds like you're a very early employee at a tech startup handling most of the non-product and operational aspects of the company.

I would only put up with this for a *significant* portion of the company (5-10 percent of the company (seriously)) with at least a quarter of that vesting within a year. It would also depend on the funding status of the company and the liquidation preference of the equity and how fast I would be able to cash out once vested (equity at a private company is hard to sell) and what the rules are for exercising options after leaving the company (think huge tax bill).

Anyway, good luck. I think your 65% chance thing is wildly optimistic unless you're already positive cash flow and growing steadily or not positive cash flow and growing wildly. Then again I'm old (in startup age (32)) and have little patience for that crap anymore especially with the odds of success being so low.

Your last paragraph nails it - I don't think people in their 30s will put up with this crap unless it's cash flow positive and are getting some financial disclosure to go with the equity.

That being said, it's probably worth the original poster getting their salary up with this company then translating that experience to something more secure


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: darkadams00 on September 22, 2014, 08:36:15 PM
I have been flat out told, I am expected to be available by phone at all hours of the day, no exceptions. I have to answer the CEOs calls at all times no matter what.

That would settle it for me. I would have to see such a huge sum of guaranteed money beginning next month that the CEO would almost certainly not agree. I have been a part of two start-ups that were very successful (e.g. one went from < $20M in sales annually to > $135M in sales in just a few years), so I know that the "you don't have a life" is not essential to a successful start-up. In the first two years, I worked some crazy nights and weekends but only in spurts. I volunteered more than my boss requested because of deadlines for new deliverables and the overall interest I had in the success of my work. During those two years, I did schedule vacation around project deadlines, but I still had about 4 weeks off and several long weekends to make up for those crazy deadline crunches. Since those two years, my hours have significantly decreased while my pay has significantly increased at a rate much higher than industry average, but I have always felt respected by my boss. In the years I've worked here, he's never even asked "why" when I let him know I planned to take time off.

Yes, this environment might be different from what many people experience, but I've worked with project teams from over 40 clients, many of them Fortune 100 companies. The majority of those clients operated in similar fashion.

If your current personal life is less important, or your payoff is just that good (making $90K now but almost certain to reach $3-6M in 2-3 years??? if it sounds too good to be true...), or you don't have a better alternative to meet your financial goals--then this might be a good plan.

Good luck with your choice. Whatever your decision, make it when you're feeling good about your workday/week, not when you're scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: Bob W on September 22, 2014, 09:00:59 PM
To be honest you seem to stressed out relative to the task.  Ask yourself if you're a big league player or not.  No shame if you're not.  If you are, lace up you shoes and kick some butt.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 22, 2014, 09:08:20 PM



Your last paragraph nails it - I don't think people in their 30s will put up with this crap unless it's cash flow positive and are getting some financial disclosure to go with the equity.

That being said, it's probably worth the original poster getting their salary up with this company then translating that experience to something more secure


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

Because of my role, I have access to all our financials so I know all the investments that have been made to date, all that are expected to come in, all revenue and expenses. We are not cash flow positive but it is close.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: Tyler on September 22, 2014, 09:15:06 PM
I am all about boundaries. I have always set them in previous jobs and with clients in the past very successfully. Creating boundaries here means being passed over and or fired.

Boundaries are only as effective as your willingness to enforce them.  Even if that means walking away.

Stepping back, I truly feel for you.  I once worked for a similar boss (when I first read your story I thought for a moment I knew where you worked because it must have been the same place), and was absolutely miserable.  I knew he was overpaying me based on my experience and that I'd never make anything close to that anywhere else.  Even then, I eventually decided it wasn't worth it and I resigned.  The VP tried to talk me out of it with the promise of a future much better job if I stayed.  I held my ground and left.  It took me a few months to mentally recover.

But here's the thing -- It turns out that my mental barrier about my worth to another employer was completely false.  I was worth much more to other people than my abused self thought possible, and my next job included a substantial raise.  Maybe I could have hit it really big by sticking it out with the nightmare job, but I have never regretted my decision a single day as my happiness and health has been worth far more to me.  Today I've been able to reach same FI goal in a much more satisfying and guaranteed fashion -- by saving. 

So when evaluating your options, be careful not to put up unnecessary mental barriers.  And don't idolize promises far in the future to the point where you are blind to other paths to the same goal.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: chesebert on September 23, 2014, 08:53:37 AM
Thanks for this formula, I'm trying it out.

(1) How miserable this job is on a scale of 1-10? 8

(2) How likely are you to actually end up with the mega-payout, based on the research you've done and what you know about your situation? Be very honest with yourself. Also consider the possibility that you burn out, get sick, etc. 65% likely

(3) How long will it take to get that payout, if it occurs? Two or three more years

(4) Would you be financially okay with the more humane job you describe that makes $60-70k/year? Yes


The mega-payout is between $3,000,000 and $6,000,000. I would say it is 65% likely that I would get that much. (80% likely I will get a good amount of money at least) The time it will take is on the conservative side 4-5 years, but there is NO way I can do this for that long. The hope is as we grow we'll be creating less from scratch and hiring more so it won't require the same level on input from me after the next year or two.

On paper it seems worth it, but days like today it seems really appealing to go find a more normal job.
I have seen companies fail after Series A all the way through D at different stages. You really never know until you make it to the end. I have decided I might want to join one of those start-ups AFTER I FIRE but definitely not before :)
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: skunkfunk on September 23, 2014, 09:29:23 AM
I say GTFO. I work a job with sub-optimal pay but with realistic hours and workload myself, and wouldn't dream of leaving due to the high possibility of landing at a much higher-stress job. I'll do it if I get laid off or something, but otherwise, I say negotiate with one of those headhunters. Someone may be low-balling, you might get better pay than you think. Or not, but leave anyway.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: Vilgan on September 23, 2014, 11:33:30 AM
Having been in the startup world myself, and seen the process to a successful conclusion, I would make the following comments:

1) The true "success" story is incredibly less likely than people will make it seem. The financials can be great, you guys can be tripling in revenue every 9 months, but so is everyone else. You can be revenue positive, that matters less than it might seem. I obviously don't know your business, but the NUMBER ONE responsibility of the CEO is to make the rosy perfect ending story seem like the most likely outcome. I'm sure he does other things and is involved, but his primary job is to convince employees and investors that riches are likely and that giving him money (investors) or working long hours (employees) will result in a big payout. There is a ridiculous amount of luck involved even if you guys have no competitors and are in a market with some serious demand. A very likely outcome (more likely recently) is that about 2-3 years after your Series A your investors will start looking for a way to cash out and to try to find a buyer. They'll structure the payout in a way that the investors make money, the founders make money, and everyone else gets a little but not millions. Most startup "success" stories result in investors and founders being very happy and everyone else making a fairly trivial amount of money, even on 9 figure deals.

2) Not all startups abuse their people the way yours is obviously abusing you. I've also seen people set up boundaries successfully while others thought it could never be done and let their boss walk all over them. If you want to make X before you start slowing down your pay raises, then put up with it for a while and then set up boundaries once you are at a higher pay rate.

3) You have experience in that world now, learn how to relate your skills and it should be possible to make more money elsewhere than you were able to before. Also, it is easier to start higher when you can confidently speak about not wanting to take a paycut and have it be the truth.

Good luck. Only you can decide what matters, but I think it is important to understand the odds and the odds of millions and being able to retire in a few years are almost certainly a lot lower than you think. How are you going to feel if you slave away for crazy hours for 3 more years and then the company is sold and you get check for 25k?
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: CommonCents on September 23, 2014, 11:46:10 AM
Ask the people who worked with him how they managed the no vacations, 24/7 call, and setting boundaries.

Are the constant demands on you from him (which you have to respond immediately you say) or from others, and his are infrequent?  If he's not the one always bugging you, then work on setting boundaries with others.

How long before your husband gets a job?  It can be nerve racking to leave before that happens.  How long after that before you expect things will either improve or cash out?
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 23, 2014, 12:01:41 PM
Having been in the startup world myself, and seen the process to a successful conclusion, I would make the following comments:

1) The true "success" story is incredibly less likely than people will make it seem. The financials can be great, you guys can be tripling in revenue every 9 months, but so is everyone else. You can be revenue positive, that matters less than it might seem. I obviously don't know your business, but the NUMBER ONE responsibility of the CEO is to make the rosy perfect ending story seem like the most likely outcome. I'm sure he does other things and is involved, but his primary job is to convince employees and investors that riches are likely and that giving him money (investors) or working long hours (employees) will result in a big payout. There is a ridiculous amount of luck involved even if you guys have no competitors and are in a market with some serious demand. A very likely outcome (more likely recently) is that about 2-3 years after your Series A your investors will start looking for a way to cash out and to try to find a buyer. They'll structure the payout in a way that the investors make money, the founders make money, and everyone else gets a little but not millions. Most startup "success" stories result in investors and founders being very happy and everyone else making a fairly trivial amount of money, even on 9 figure deals.

2) Not all startups abuse their people the way yours is obviously abusing you. I've also seen people set up boundaries successfully while others thought it could never be done and let their boss walk all over them. If you want to make X before you start slowing down your pay raises, then put up with it for a while and then set up boundaries once you are at a higher pay rate.

3) You have experience in that world now, learn how to relate your skills and it should be possible to make more money elsewhere than you were able to before. Also, it is easier to start higher when you can confidently speak about not wanting to take a paycut and have it be the truth.

Good luck. Only you can decide what matters, but I think it is important to understand the odds and the odds of millions and being able to retire in a few years are almost certainly a lot lower than you think. How are you going to feel if you slave away for crazy hours for 3 more years and then the company is sold and you get check for 25k?

This is all really great feedback. I well aware there is a large amount of manipulation coming from the CEO, and you say - that's his job. I just had a meeting with the CFO to go over some of my concerns and salary.


I have passed up previous opportunities to work in start-ups as anything more than a contractor because I am a very skeptical person. I never believed in these company's ability to make it big. So far, I was correct on all those "opportunities" none of them would have made me any money.

This one seems different based on the past cash-outs of the partners and past revenue of the previous companies. Which is why I'm willing to put myself in this situation. I think this dialogue on this thread has been helpful. It's been nice to hear other people's experiences since this is my first time truly in a start-up as an employee and I am learning a lot. I live in a lower-cost of living area than where most people involved in start-ups are. The average salary for my previous position in DC, San Fran or NY are $100,000-$140,000, but here the average salary is $50,000-$70,000. So while $120,000 is lower than what a lot of people on this thread have commented on as market-rate, I wonder if they live in a higher cost of living area.

While today has been a better day than yesterday, I was looking at job listings yesterday and found a managerial role that I am more than qualified for. Depending on what my salary adjustment ends up being at the end of the week I will probably apply for it just to see what my options are. I feel like I'd have a great shot at is, since the owner of that company called me up a few months asking for me to take on a book of work for them.

Thanks for everyone's responses, I appreciate having the sounding board of complete strangers to provide some perspective.

Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 23, 2014, 12:06:11 PM
Ask the people who worked with him how they managed the no vacations, 24/7 call, and setting boundaries.

Are the constant demands on you from him (which you have to respond immediately you say) or from others, and his are infrequent?  If he's not the one always bugging you, then work on setting boundaries with others.

How long before your husband gets a job?  It can be nerve racking to leave before that happens.  How long after that before you expect things will either improve or cash out?

The other people who are in my situation or were previously in my situation just did it. There's no setting boundaries unless you want to left behind. You can chose to take a less active role, but than you miss out on the potential high-salary and stock benefits. There's no happy medium.

The demands are purely from the CEO(s) (There is more than one company, so I report to two CEOs, each similarly demanding) - though the main CEO is the bulk of the stress. He calls me multiple times a day and probably sends me on average 40 emails a day.

My husband is struggling to find a job. I can not predict when he will find one. He thought he had finally landed a great job last month, but on his first day they told him they had to put the job on hold and he was going to be brought on as a temporary freelancer. His last day at this freelance job is the end of the month. I suspect at minimum I'm looking at year before the job balances out and probably closer to two.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: Gone Fishing on September 23, 2014, 12:10:12 PM
Get those options locked in if they are the real payout. Your slice of the pie will only shrink as time goes by.   I was promised options/grants when I took my current job.  Right before I was to get my first round, (which would be worth a nice stack of cash right about now) the program was scrapped and I was given a paltry $500 raise instead (and no annual raise) due to "market conditions".  Not quite as bad as Dr. Doom's gift card, but not much better.

If you really want to stick with it, you might consider visiting the doctor and asking for some pharmaceutical help.  Although I wouldn't do it, and it does come with risk, plenty of folks have sucessfully reduced stress to a more managable level with medication.  The impression I get is that it only works for short term stressors, maybe 6-12 months, not chronic stress that someone might experience over multiple years. 
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: okashira on September 23, 2014, 01:19:23 PM
Get those options locked in if they are the real payout. Your slice of the pie will only shrink as time goes by.   I was promised options/grants when I took my current job.  Right before I was to get my first round, (which would be worth a nice stack of cash right about now) the program was scrapped and I was given a paltry $500 raise instead (and no annual raise) due to "market conditions".  Not quite as bad as Dr. Doom's gift card, but not much better.

If you really want to stick with it, you might consider visiting the doctor and asking for some pharmaceutical help.  Although I wouldn't do it, and it does come with risk, plenty of folks have sucessfully reduced stress to a more managable level with medication.  The impression I get is that it only works for short term stressors, maybe 6-12 months, not chronic stress that someone might experience over multiple years.

OK, this is some seriously dangerous advice. If she doesn't "need" it, stay away from the pills.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: retired? on September 23, 2014, 01:46:35 PM
You are not being paid enough for the stress you describe.  i.e. I know many jobs that pay more for less stress.  How old are you?  I know many younger people will put up with more at the start of their careers (as I did).

Granted, you are "holding out" for a potential large payout.  My recommendation is to get more certainty on that potential payout.  Also, how many ventures did this CEO start that did not pan out.

Good luck.  My guess is that you can get a similar paying job with much less stress (i.e. prob don't need to go down to 45-60), but no big payout potential.  Also, how long before you know if that payout is going to happen or not?

Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 23, 2014, 02:01:53 PM
Get those options locked in if they are the real payout. Your slice of the pie will only shrink as time goes by.   I was promised options/grants when I took my current job.  Right before I was to get my first round, (which would be worth a nice stack of cash right about now) the program was scrapped and I was given a paltry $500 raise instead (and no annual raise) due to "market conditions".  Not quite as bad as Dr. Doom's gift card, but not much better.

If you really want to stick with it, you might consider visiting the doctor and asking for some pharmaceutical help.  Although I wouldn't do it, and it does come with risk, plenty of folks have sucessfully reduced stress to a more managable level with medication.  The impression I get is that it only works for short term stressors, maybe 6-12 months, not chronic stress that someone might experience over multiple years.



OK, this is some seriously dangerous advice. If she doesn't "need" it, stay away from the pills.

I'm not interested in taking any drugs. I'm interested in ways to naturally decreased my stress (stop with caffeine, ways of changing my thinking, etc..) Though several of my coworkers take anti-anxiety medicine(s) to cope.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 23, 2014, 02:06:08 PM
You are not being paid enough for the stress you describe.  i.e. I know many jobs that pay more for less stress.  How old are you?  I know many younger people will put up with more at the start of their careers (as I did).

Granted, you are "holding out" for a potential large payout.  My recommendation is to get more certainty on that potential payout.  Also, how many ventures did this CEO start that did not pan out.

Good luck.  My guess is that you can get a similar paying job with much less stress (i.e. prob don't need to go down to 45-60), but no big payout potential.  Also, how long before you know if that payout is going to happen or not?

I am in my late 20s. I make considerably more than my peers. My CEO has had two failures, and many more successes.

I will know in a couple of months if they're going to follow through with my specific stock promises outside of the employee pool. I will know in a year more clearly what the likelihood of a big payout is. I don't know how long before I know if it's a definite.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: Gone Fishing on September 23, 2014, 02:13:57 PM
Get those options locked in if they are the real payout. Your slice of the pie will only shrink as time goes by.   I was promised options/grants when I took my current job.  Right before I was to get my first round, (which would be worth a nice stack of cash right about now) the program was scrapped and I was given a paltry $500 raise instead (and no annual raise) due to "market conditions".  Not quite as bad as Dr. Doom's gift card, but not much better.

If you really want to stick with it, you might consider visiting the doctor and asking for some pharmaceutical help.  Although I wouldn't do it, and it does come with risk, plenty of folks have sucessfully reduced stress to a more managable level with medication.  The impression I get is that it only works for short term stressors, maybe 6-12 months, not chronic stress that someone might experience over multiple years.



OK, this is some seriously dangerous advice. If she doesn't "need" it, stay away from the pills.

I'm not interested in taking any drugs. I'm interested in ways to naturally decreased my stress (stop with caffeine, ways of changing my thinking, etc..) Though several of my coworkers take anti-anxiety medicine(s) to cope.

Same here, that's why I qualified my statement with "I wouldn't do it", and "it comes with risk" just wanted to make sure all the options were on the table.   
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: retired? on September 23, 2014, 02:24:23 PM
So, this is clearly not a place one would want to be long-term.  Is there a "cheap" way to relieve the stress?  e.g. hire a junior person to take on the more mundane but necessary tasks. If so, you could pitch that in a way so that it is supposed to make you more productive.

What is the risk in actually taking time off?  I know the pressures, but what will actually happen?

To alleviate some stress you could keep a timeline in mind.  I.e. I will put up with this until xx/xx/xxxx and then exit if payout has not occurred.

I feel for you.  I have had to deal with the stress, but not the hours and "on call" aspect you describe.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: Dr. Doom on September 23, 2014, 02:27:06 PM

FNF

Your current experiences are very similar to a short stint I pulled at an early stage startup.  I know you've read my post about it so I won't bore you by repeating details but I did want to mention a few things.

First, exercise. I know you're mentally exhausted but it really does help, even in short bursts, like 10 minute walking sessions when you have bit of time here and there.  It doesn't have to be a 'go-to-the-gym' thing.  Humans were built to walk, and walking relieves stress -- particularly when you can do it outside.  Go and listen to a song or two on a music device and try to shut the work thoughts off for even a few minutes, several times throughout any given day. 

Second, rereading your own posts, it sounds like your relationship with the "main" CEO is the primary source of discomfort -- perhaps even more than the sheer number of hours you're working.  If that's the case, I unfortunately don't believe that anything is going to change how you feel about the job.  Money is a short term motivator -- you'll quickly adapt to the increase in salary but the days will remain just as difficult to live through.  I know you're confident about the place's future prospects, but 4/5 startups fail to even recoup investments.

When your CEO is calling you at all times for emergency after emergency, especially if he/she is bullying you and you consider it to be harassment, you can actually develop a minor form of PTSD.  This is your body's way of reacting to its environment and telling you that _you are not safe_.  Once you don't feel safe, it's hard to flip the switch back the other way -- you're essentially in perpetual 'fight' mode, waiting for bad things to happen -- the next call or email or emergency.    I'm a little concerned that this is what has happened to you.

I agree with this line @darkadams00, btw:  "Whatever your decision, make it when you're feeling good about your workday/week."  If you still want to leave at the end of a decent week, it's time to start looking for alternatives. 

Also, be warned:  You may be faced with some really strange feelings for a while if you do leave.  I was unexpectedly wracked with guilt and even an odd sense of failure for at least two months before it started to recede. 

Again, I can't tell you what to do, but I just wanted to say I relate.  Really sorry you're going through this, and I'm glad you're at least starting to explore options -- definitely apply for that managerial role you mentioned and see how it goes.  It might help you feel better even if you don't take it -- just to know that you have other choices out there.

One last note:  I personally downsized my career immediately after leaving the underworld and it's been a terrific move. 

Good luck with the search.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: Undecided on September 23, 2014, 05:29:46 PM
Do you have unique, or even rare, skills that merit being paid more than others in nominally similar jobs (and are worth it to the company and the CEO), or are you being paid for dealing with the special stress of this position? If the former, work on creating some boundaries before you decide to quit. If the latter, well, then that's sort of what you're signed on for and I wouldn't fault you for quitting now that you know what the position actually demands.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 23, 2014, 05:33:55 PM



When your CEO is calling you at all times for emergency after emergency, especially if he/she is bullying you and you consider it to be harassment, you can actually develop a minor form of PTSD.  This is your body's way of reacting to its environment and telling you that _you are not safe_.  Once you don't feel safe, it's hard to flip the switch back the other way -- you're essentially in perpetual 'fight' mode, waiting for bad things to happen -- the next call or email or emergency.    I'm a little concerned that this is what has happened to you.

I agree with this line @darkadams00, btw:  "Whatever your decision, make it when you're feeling good about your workday/week."  If you still want to leave at the end of a decent week, it's time to start looking for alternatives. 

Also, be warned:  You may be faced with some really strange feelings for a while if you do leave.  I was unexpectedly wracked with guilt and even an odd sense of failure for at least two months before it started to recede. 

Again, I can't tell you what to do, but I just wanted to say I relate.  Really sorry you're going through this, and I'm glad you're at least starting to explore options -- definitely apply for that managerial role you mentioned and see how it goes.  It might help you feel better even if you don't take it -- just to know that you have other choices out there.

One last note:  I personally downsized my career immediately after leaving the underworld and it's been a terrific move. 

Good luck with the search.

Thank you for your kind post. You are right one with your assessment. Even when he's not calling me, it's always on my mind. I can't relax because I feel like either I have to check in on my email around the clock to stay ahead of it, or if I "let it go" it's always eating away at the back of my mind. My main hobby that I've tried hard to carve out time for once or twice a week, should be keeping me sane but it keeps getting interrupted where I spend a great portion of it either on a conference call during my "off time" or habitually checking my phone to make sure I'm not missing texts or calls.

I pretty much feel like quitting all the time even during the better weeks. Bleh.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: desk_jockey on September 23, 2014, 06:27:37 PM
Make hay while the sun shines...  but with this company only as long as their promises keep being fulfilled. 

If options and bigger bonuses are in the near future, then until it's time to negotiate that package you could focus on getting support staff to help your workload and carry some of the time consuming tasks.   Besides, department managers often get larger amount of equity than individual performers.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: Beric01 on September 23, 2014, 06:41:05 PM
This job sounds unhealthy for you - I would definitely be looking for other options. However, a high-paying job with a nice title should make great resume and interview material, and be a walk-in for a much-less stressful job. I would try to leverage everything about your current job and salary towards getting a similar job, but with way less stress. Remember, the more you earn, the sooner you can FIRE and leave the working world behind completely.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: Cwadda on September 23, 2014, 07:16:35 PM
Quote
Boss has no boundaries, so if you want to stay with it and stay sane, you've gotta create and enforce them yourself.

+1 for this.

Are you going to continue answering the phone at 3:00 am? Are you going to work on weekends? At what times will you say "NO" and feel comfortable about it? You need to figure out exactly what it takes to put your foot down.

You're also going to need to figure out ways to deal with stress - whether it be exercise, spending time with family, opening up to others, etc.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: pichirino on September 23, 2014, 07:36:03 PM
My pay is not nearly as high as OP's and my job can get extremely stressful as well but the benefits,bonus' and salary
are currently my golden handcuff,being the fastest way to being able to take the handcuffs off I consider it worth it if you can convince yourself your high savings rate and less time to get FI are worth the alternatives.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: chasesfish on September 23, 2014, 09:11:06 PM
I agree with the person that said take up exercise to help...specifically the kind you can't be reached at.  I'm in banking and took up running very early in 2009, in the type of job where we worked through our own challenging loans.  I was 27/28 and work was starting to control my life.

We had some nice trails around my house.  It was the one hour to myself that nobody could bother me.  It was a five mile loop, comfortable enough to enjoy and hard enough to where my mind couldn't drift into work.  I learned the phone was there when I left the car and it was still there when I got back.  I went in the mornings sometime, in the evenings other times.   

The career decision and work I put in then has paid off many times over, but the stress was there and it was real.

Good luck, I hope you either get a very nice monetary reward, or the skills you're gaining allow you to transfer your salary somewhere else without as much stress.

Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: Fuzz on September 23, 2014, 09:31:41 PM
If you get the stock options in a few months, I'd stick it out. Otherwise, I wouldn't. Good luck!

I think there is tremendous value and satisfaction in doing hard things well. Your responsibilities now help set the floor for your next job. Chin up!
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: dude on September 24, 2014, 06:34:14 AM
All I have to say is, whichever way it goes, please be sure to come back here and update us all.  This is pretty fascinating stuff.  In my 20's, I probably would have jumped at the chance to make that fortune.  30's and beyond, no way.  If you do stick with it and it works out best-case scenario, that'd be very cool to hear about.  Meanwhile, take care of yourself -- stress is a no-shit, real-deal killer, and it doesn't discriminate by age.  There are plenty of 30- and 40-somethings who have had heart attacks directly related to stress.  Look into meditation or yoga, or a martial art -- you need to find some semblance of balance in your life.  Good luck!
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: totoro on September 24, 2014, 07:34:43 AM
In your shoes I would do what it takes to have what I wanted. 

If you want to hang in there for the benefits start with changing your attitude.  If you don't, start working on the exit plan and execute it.  It is the indecision that is your enemy here.

You do realize that many people would envy this opportunity right?  And you are not talking about a lifetime of this.  As someone who has worked this hard before, I have zero sympathy for people who do it and complain.  You do have other options and you are the only one who is keeping you there.

If you do want to stay for the benefits start changing your internal monologue.  First identify what you are saying to yourself.  Are you saying, "I hate this and want to quit" and fantasizing about walking out the door?  Well, if you are not actually going to do this you are just upping your angst for no good reason.  It is not an unchangeable reflection of your misery, it is a reflection of maladaptation to challenging circumstances.  How about you start saying "I'm doing this for the benefits"?   

If this does actually pay off you will be able to retire.  If it doesn't, you will have an admirable skill set and have earned a very good salary in the interim.

If you are going to stay, I would also stop focussing on expectations and start focussing on working smarter.  I understand you are already efficient but maybe you do need a personal trainer to take you out and exercise to keep up this pace. Or some counselling to keep perspective. Oh, I know many MMM folk would say it is a waste of money.  I'm not one of them.  I hired housecleaners in my busiest years.  Looking back, I should have outsourced more during these years given my high earning potential. 

What about an assistant?  If they can give you a $50,000 raise why can't they hire you a personal assistant?  How about you tell them you'll take a $25,000 raise and a personal assistant half-time?  Someone who can execute on your directions.

Also I would consider telling your boss you won't be available to answer calls/emails one weekend morning for whatever reason you feel would make sense.  You are clearly valuable to the company and likely not easily replaced.  Whatever the expectations, they are probably going to adjust to a minor change like this to keep you on board.

And if you really want better quality of life right now, just fricken get out.  Money is not everything and you can earn enough to retire anyway.   

I don't know if I believe in "golden handcuffs" as a rationale for anything. I believe it is often easier to not make decisions and people often have a vested interest in not fully committing to a course of action - even if they are not consciously aware of it.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: EA_Mann on September 24, 2014, 12:54:54 PM
$90k is not enough money for a life where you're afraid to go to a movie.

$90k-and-hopefully-120k-soon is not enough for a life where you're afraid to go to a movie.

These are comfortable salaries in most parts of the country but not worth living an insane, stressful life over. Even with mustachian savings, it won't get you retired on an accelerated schedule
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: MayDay on September 24, 2014, 03:20:09 PM
If you need blocks of time to concentrate, take them during the work day. Have your secretary guard your door and hold your phone. If the big boss calls, emails or texts, have your secretary respond with "freelancer is working on the xyz report. She asked to be interrupted only in case of emergency for a higher priority project. She said that in order to get thexyz report completed by the deadline she must work with interruption until 1 pm. If you would like to leave a message with me, I will have her respond promptly at 1 pm".

Then, if CEO wants to interrupt you for some stupid Crap, fine. You told him the consequences, follow through and leave work at 5 or 6 like a normal person. You can't make him stop being crazy but you can carve out actual work time during the work day.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: King Ston on September 24, 2014, 07:56:06 PM
Hi everyone,
Long time lurker but just felt compelled to join and contribute what I can to this thread.

I lived through exactly what you're going through as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. I literally worked repeated 100 hour weeks, not less than 70 EVER and I probably averaged 75-80. I worked some 40 hour "days"  (e.g. 6a.m. Friday to  9 PM Saturday without sleep) and had exactly TWO days off in two years, (two Christmases). I am not exaggerating. My 20 something "boss" had pretty much what you'd expect in terms of reality testing, scheduling, interpersonal relationship skills etc etc. I was the least technically experienced, they dumped on me the most technically demanding and uncertain part of the product and I delivered. At one point, the CEO and CTO had put the company's first VC round at risk by buying new computers the Friday before the Monday demonstration and nothing worked anymore and they didn't know why. They went home Friday and I stayed, effectively saving the company from near certain oblivion- what words are you going to speak to  VCs  to get around the fact your program can't be run?  Worst of all, the CTO and CEO knew each other and were friends and essentially treated me like the son of a lesser god.

At one point I was standing in the empty office yet another Sunday and I picked up a stapler and hurtled it into the wall as hard as I could and screamed at the top of my lungs. I was more or less eating myself live with stress hormones and all for so little money it wasn't even legal to pay me that amount.

I have absolutely lived what you're going through.  What you're in has a name- it's called the golden handcuffs. The motivation is so high that you'll just about gnaw your own leg off before you quit. What you're working for is called "fuck you money", that is, an amount of money sufficient to let you say "fuck you" to anyone or any job for any reason for the rest of your life.  You can do what you want, do your own start up, work, not work, invest in others' work, whatever. No one can hurt you again. I was vesting- never mind options- to 20,000 shares a month.

Here is my advice. First what's at risk is your ability - never mind "willingness" to continue to work at all. Burn out is a very very real thing ; I am *quite* sure it has biological underpinnings that can't just be willed away. You can't permit yourself to go into burn out, whatever you decide to do, because nothing but a long time away from work- not an option for you- can cure it. 

OK, so, first even having the opportunity to have the opportunity to not have to work again is a rare thing. Since you're at the point at which you're considering walking away from this rare thing, why not do something just short of that- stop caring in the way you do. The fact that you're so stressed out means you're  a conscientious personality. You take it all to heart and would not consider slacking or not really caring at anything you're assigned.  This has to stop. It's actually where your stress is coming from. It's the unconscious terror that work is not going to get done, or done right, maybe there's fear it will be your fault, you'll fail, you'll let others down and "it", broadly considered, will all come down - because of you.

Remember, you're willing to walk away, you're thinking about it, so instead of doing that, play a game of sorts, an internal game with your perceptions and attitudes, a game that no one will know you're playing.  Let's call this game "Pfffft".

Another late night phone call bringing in another red hot emergency? Pffft. Whatever. Yeah, I'm on my way. Yawn. Yep, you're right, Mr Co-Worker, sure looks like  this might be the one, the big bad event that ruins everything, gets me fired, makes me look like an imbecile yadda yadda.  It's already a given that the whole thing is going to blow the fuck up, so let's watch this baby blow. Thaaat's right, it IS ALL my fault. And? And? And  therefore what exactly?

 I am telling you to pre-accept failure, pre-processes it in your imagination and let its consequences fully bloom in your imagination in all their horrific implications, accept them as the most likely outcome , even the certain one,  then just get on  and "go through the motions" at work. You're already dead, so what do you care?  It's like the Eagle's song "Already Gone". You're already gone. You're The Walking Dead. You find your metaphor.

Because the reality is, just you "going through the motions" is likely MORE than sufficient to get the job done and done well. For every single problem you have to deal with take the attitude that THIS is the big one, it's all over now. In that "space" there's peace. There's a willingness to keep trying in a  soulless, faithless,  half-hearted, sort of way because, pfffft, it's all going to be toastitos in a few hours here anyway. So whatever. So pfffft to the next crisis level of work they somehow think you're going to deliver. Plod plod plod- in your mind- plod plod plod.

You're thinking about leaving, but before you do, at least let that impulse give you space to try and find a place where you just stop caring so much. Your job doesn't require that you care or react or jump or panic, it requires that you apply the special skills you have. You can do that very effectively while being a zombie, you just THINK that the internal drama is the fire you need to power the engine to keep going  It's not. You can dead walk through this and if that's just to dark for you then develop a internal dark humor about it, expecting at every moment to be blown the fuck up.

Currently I am dealing with A Hard Problem With No Certainty There's A Solution  Maximum FUD built right into it. It's enough to say that finding a solution is mandatory for any kind of success. To make it worse, a part of it involves mastering Other People's Infinitely Crappy Code .  It's really just hopeless. I expect as I encounter every new problem, I mean literally every single time I sit down to the computer,  that this THIS will be the one I can't solve because, in reality,  there is no solution.  Sifting through the undocumented spaghetti code is hours and hours pure, totally  profitless drudgery. But there is no other way.  Other people would quit. Fact.  Yesterday in the middle of this I considered that I am essentially acting as (have been reduced to the role of) some kind of archeologist, sifting pebble by pebble, sand grain by fucking sand grain through some vast ruins (of code) that stretches out farther than the eye can see in all directions.  So I started singing (work from home, wife was only one present) "I'm an ar-che-ol-o-gist, mostly stuck , always pissed, I'm an ar-che-ol-o-gist wand'ring 'round, lost in mist...Will there be any end to this, don't you wish? Don't you wish ! I'm an ar-che-ol-o-gist ,that is all I am !" on and on like that making it up as I go along.

You can't stay motivated, proud, happy, solving right sized problems one after another , feeling good, in the light. You have t have a demotivated , held in check , curb your enthusiasm, removed, maybe bemused and perhaps cynical place you can retreat to.  A self you can be,  you can inhabit, that has the power to relieve you of the stress you bring by trying to be bright ! and good ! and effective! and agreeable !  and just a super achiever!!!!! yet STILL lets you  trudge onwards, even though it's all an absurdist comedy.

I am NOT saying own up to this to people at work or outwardly express it. I am saying , should a bit of it leak out perceptibly and anyone asks if anything is wrong, lie. I am saying move there in stealth mode and remember, the alternative .... is quitting.

You have a rare opportunity. If you can rework your internal perception of the GRAVITY !!!! :) of your situation, then you can still grab this rare chance life handing you.

Everything is due tomorrow? Pffft.

Cynical realism is the intelligent man's best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation- Aldous Huxley.

p.s.

 One more thing about % and probabilities . It drives me crazy when people assign probabilities to one off events like this company is going to succeed . All such utterances are completely without merit. Completely. There is no way to assign a meaningful probability to a one-off historical event - in this case,  the fate of this start up,  which is not one of a largish number of equi-probable events in a known distribution of such events. There is not an 80% chance the company will succeed even if 8 of the last 10 companies this CEO headed up went bananas.

It doesn't matter anyways. The fact is, you're in a situation  where there IS affirmatively a pathway to a huge upside for you- unlike most  jobs- and you should try nearly everything to hang on to it. That's all that matters.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: mozar on September 24, 2014, 08:20:10 PM
Amen and amen. MMM is basically church for me. If sermons were like this I would go IRL.
Also lie, lie, lie. I hated my job for the last 8 months, but instead of constantly thinking about how much I hated it, I had to numb myself. And I got really good at lying. I'm really good at fake smiles now. My FIRE date is ten years away, but knowing that I don't have to work for the next 37 years is how I can sleep at night.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: flyfig on September 25, 2014, 12:37:42 AM
Remember, you're willing to walk away, you're thinking about it, so instead of doing that, play a game of sorts, an internal game with your perceptions and attitudes, a game that no one will know you're playing.  Let's call this game "Pfffft".

+1M

I've saved your posting as a touchstone. Another day of "the sky is falling" and chicken littles screaming. FI is 6 months from now (bonus and options) and I was struggling to imagine how I would get there. I just saw your post and I now have a new game. Thank you
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: RetireAbroadAt35 on September 25, 2014, 07:43:13 AM
I often approach absurd situations at work using detached bemusement, a slightly more light-hearted version of cynical realism, but with less singing.

"I'm an ar-che-ol-o-gist, mostly stuck , always pissed, I'm an ar-che-ol-o-gist wand'ring 'round, lost in mist...Will there be any end to this, don't you wish? Don't you wish ! I'm an ar-che-ol-o-gist ,that is all I am !"

I was with you right up until here.  Now I'm a little worried about ya man :-)
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: Dr. Doom on September 25, 2014, 11:19:40 AM
... content

This ranks as the most incredible first post by any user I've seen, by a fair margin.  Congrats.

@Dude - I'm with you.  In my early/mid twenties I also probably would have done whatever I could to this type of job, no matter how challenging and relentless, to "make it work."

At any rate, a common thread in most of the contributions is that it's crucial for you, OP, to find a better way to deal with the situation if you stay.  Taking the increased salary and making no further changes in lifestyle or mental thought patterns is not going to be good over the term.  I'm really hoping you can piece something together from the Hive mind and cope with this mess in a way that makes it survivable.  We're all pulling for you.

Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: bacchi on September 26, 2014, 11:37:00 AM
Am I understanding correctly that the OP hasn't even been granted options yet? It's just a verbal promise?!? Oh my.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: myDogIsFI on September 26, 2014, 01:28:08 PM
Here's an interesting take on this from the big law perspective:

http://thepeoplestherapist.com/2014/09/23/a-bucket-of-cockroaches/

The author, a former big law guy, is now doing therapy for lawyers.  He equates working at a big firm (which has a lot of similarities with the OP's predicament) with eating a bucket of cockroaches for a big payoff.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: oldtoyota on September 27, 2014, 06:20:10 PM
Remember, you're willing to walk away, you're thinking about it, so instead of doing that, play a game of sorts, an internal game with your perceptions and attitudes, a game that no one will know you're playing.  Let's call this game "Pfffft".

+1M

I've saved your posting as a touchstone. Another day of "the sky is falling" and chicken littles screaming. FI is 6 months from now (bonus and options) and I was struggling to imagine how I would get there. I just saw your post and I now have a new game. Thank you

Agreed. I consider this one of the top posts on this forum.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: mikefixac on September 27, 2014, 09:59:26 PM
Remember, you're willing to walk away, you're thinking about it, so instead of doing that, play a game of sorts, an internal game with your perceptions and attitudes, a game that no one will know you're playing.  Let's call this game "Pfffft".

+1M

I've saved your posting as a touchstone. Another day of "the sky is falling" and chicken littles screaming. FI is 6 months from now (bonus and options) and I was struggling to imagine how I would get there. I just saw your post and I now have a new game. Thank you

Agreed. I consider this one of the top posts on this forum.

I've never been in a situation such as OP, but I agree, this comment is brilliant. Basically learning to detach oneself from the moment along with the consequences.

Hell of a first comment. Who are you mystery person?

Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: LonerMatt on September 28, 2014, 08:44:26 AM
MMM is all about how lettong money and work dictate your life is an essentially shallow and needleaalt wasteful way to live.

Sacrificing the joy of everyday living for extra cash is so shallow and self-aware torture I can scarcely think of why anyone who agrees with the premise of the board (there's more to life than work) thinks that your life is an acceptable way to live. Ever.

You've explicitly stated you desire to leave and have other options. Playing the lottery with your well being, social life and health is a childish way to act. Surely the sum of your existence is worth more than 140000 a year and some potential payoffs.

Ultimately, who cares if you take another 3 years to get fi, if you're happy that's what really matters. Money is peripheral.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: MikePolo4 on September 28, 2014, 09:32:25 AM
No matter which way you decide to go with, you need to sit down and have a conversation with your boss. If you leave and don't have the conversation, you might burn a very important bridge that may be handy in the future. Otherwise, you might find that he is more supportive than you think. I work with a lot of people like him and believe it or not, he will think that he is doing a poor job as a manager (CEO) if he doesn't completely book you with work because he probably personally enjoys it and assumes that you do too. People like him respect when someone is realistic with them and hates when people beat around the bush or do not say exactly what they are thinking. He might surprise you when you lay it on the table.

Also, I wouldn't ask him for more money. If you get it, he could feel more entitled to continue making your life miserable.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: mm1970 on September 28, 2014, 10:09:46 AM
Hi everyone,
Long time lurker but just felt compelled to join and contribute what I can to this thread.

I lived through exactly what you're going through as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. I literally worked repeated 100 hour weeks, not less than 70 EVER and I probably averaged 75-80. I worked some 40 hour "days"  (e.g. 6a.m. Friday to  9 PM Saturday without sleep) and had exactly TWO days off in two years, (two Christmases). I am not exaggerating. My 20 something "boss" had pretty much what you'd expect in terms of reality testing, scheduling, interpersonal relationship skills etc etc. I was the least technically experienced, they dumped on me the most technically demanding and uncertain part of the product and I delivered. At one point, the CEO and CTO had put the company's first VC round at risk by buying new computers the Friday before the Monday demonstration and nothing worked anymore and they didn't know why. They went home Friday and I stayed, effectively saving the company from near certain oblivion- what words are you going to speak to  VCs  to get around the fact your program can't be run?  Worst of all, the CTO and CEO knew each other and were friends and essentially treated me like the son of a lesser god.

At one point I was standing in the empty office yet another Sunday and I picked up a stapler and hurtled it into the wall as hard as I could and screamed at the top of my lungs. I was more or less eating myself live with stress hormones and all for so little money it wasn't even legal to pay me that amount.

I have absolutely lived what you're going through.  What you're in has a name- it's called the golden handcuffs. The motivation is so high that you'll just about gnaw your own leg off before you quit. What you're working for is called "fuck you money", that is, an amount of money sufficient to let you say "fuck you" to anyone or any job for any reason for the rest of your life.  You can do what you want, do your own start up, work, not work, invest in others' work, whatever. No one can hurt you again. I was vesting- never mind options- to 20,000 shares a month.

Here is my advice. First what's at risk is your ability - never mind "willingness" to continue to work at all. Burn out is a very very real thing ; I am *quite* sure it has biological underpinnings that can't just be willed away. You can't permit yourself to go into burn out, whatever you decide to do, because nothing but a long time away from work- not an option for you- can cure it. 

OK, so, first even having the opportunity to have the opportunity to not have to work again is a rare thing. Since you're at the point at which you're considering walking away from this rare thing, why not do something just short of that- stop caring in the way you do. The fact that you're so stressed out means you're  a conscientious personality. You take it all to heart and would not consider slacking or not really caring at anything you're assigned.  This has to stop. It's actually where your stress is coming from. It's the unconscious terror that work is not going to get done, or done right, maybe there's fear it will be your fault, you'll fail, you'll let others down and "it", broadly considered, will all come down - because of you.

Remember, you're willing to walk away, you're thinking about it, so instead of doing that, play a game of sorts, an internal game with your perceptions and attitudes, a game that no one will know you're playing.  Let's call this game "Pfffft".

Another late night phone call bringing in another red hot emergency? Pffft. Whatever. Yeah, I'm on my way. Yawn. Yep, you're right, Mr Co-Worker, sure looks like  this might be the one, the big bad event that ruins everything, gets me fired, makes me look like an imbecile yadda yadda.  It's already a given that the whole thing is going to blow the fuck up, so let's watch this baby blow. Thaaat's right, it IS ALL my fault. And? And? And  therefore what exactly?

 I am telling you to pre-accept failure, pre-processes it in your imagination and let its consequences fully bloom in your imagination in all their horrific implications, accept them as the most likely outcome , even the certain one,  then just get on  and "go through the motions" at work. You're already dead, so what do you care?  It's like the Eagle's song "Already Gone". You're already gone. You're The Walking Dead. You find your metaphor.

Because the reality is, just you "going through the motions" is likely MORE than sufficient to get the job done and done well. For every single problem you have to deal with take the attitude that THIS is the big one, it's all over now. In that "space" there's peace. There's a willingness to keep trying in a  soulless, faithless,  half-hearted, sort of way because, pfffft, it's all going to be toastitos in a few hours here anyway. So whatever. So pfffft to the next crisis level of work they somehow think you're going to deliver. Plod plod plod- in your mind- plod plod plod.

You're thinking about leaving, but before you do, at least let that impulse give you space to try and find a place where you just stop caring so much. Your job doesn't require that you care or react or jump or panic, it requires that you apply the special skills you have. You can do that very effectively while being a zombie, you just THINK that the internal drama is the fire you need to power the engine to keep going  It's not. You can dead walk through this and if that's just to dark for you then develop a internal dark humor about it, expecting at every moment to be blown the fuck up.

Currently I am dealing with A Hard Problem With No Certainty There's A Solution  Maximum FUD built right into it. It's enough to say that finding a solution is mandatory for any kind of success. To make it worse, a part of it involves mastering Other People's Infinitely Crappy Code .  It's really just hopeless. I expect as I encounter every new problem, I mean literally every single time I sit down to the computer,  that this THIS will be the one I can't solve because, in reality,  there is no solution.  Sifting through the undocumented spaghetti code is hours and hours pure, totally  profitless drudgery. But there is no other way.  Other people would quit. Fact.  Yesterday in the middle of this I considered that I am essentially acting as (have been reduced to the role of) some kind of archeologist, sifting pebble by pebble, sand grain by fucking sand grain through some vast ruins (of code) that stretches out farther than the eye can see in all directions.  So I started singing (work from home, wife was only one present) "I'm an ar-che-ol-o-gist, mostly stuck , always pissed, I'm an ar-che-ol-o-gist wand'ring 'round, lost in mist...Will there be any end to this, don't you wish? Don't you wish ! I'm an ar-che-ol-o-gist ,that is all I am !" on and on like that making it up as I go along.

You can't stay motivated, proud, happy, solving right sized problems one after another , feeling good, in the light. You have t have a demotivated , held in check , curb your enthusiasm, removed, maybe bemused and perhaps cynical place you can retreat to.  A self you can be,  you can inhabit, that has the power to relieve you of the stress you bring by trying to be bright ! and good ! and effective! and agreeable !  and just a super achiever!!!!! yet STILL lets you  trudge onwards, even though it's all an absurdist comedy.

I am NOT saying own up to this to people at work or outwardly express it. I am saying , should a bit of it leak out perceptibly and anyone asks if anything is wrong, lie. I am saying move there in stealth mode and remember, the alternative .... is quitting.

You have a rare opportunity. If you can rework your internal perception of the GRAVITY !!!! :) of your situation, then you can still grab this rare chance life handing you.

Everything is due tomorrow? Pffft.

Cynical realism is the intelligent man's best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation- Aldous Huxley.

p.s.

 One more thing about % and probabilities . It drives me crazy when people assign probabilities to one off events like this company is going to succeed . All such utterances are completely without merit. Completely. There is no way to assign a meaningful probability to a one-off historical event - in this case,  the fate of this start up,  which is not one of a largish number of equi-probable events in a known distribution of such events. There is not an 80% chance the company will succeed even if 8 of the last 10 companies this CEO headed up went bananas.

It doesn't matter anyways. The fact is, you're in a situation  where there IS affirmatively a pathway to a huge upside for you- unlike most  jobs- and you should try nearly everything to hang on to it. That's all that matters.
Yes, this.

The question becomes - do you get a decent raise, and if so, do you get stock options?  And when?

What has helped me at my startup (and it's not as bad as yours, but worse in some ways), is that I'm fully vested.  So even if I just get FED UP, I can exercise my existing shares and leave, and maybe there's a payoff.  Maybe not.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: Lyssa on September 28, 2014, 10:32:44 AM
The fact that you're so stressed out means you're  a conscientious personality. You take it all to heart and would not consider slacking or not really caring at anything you're assigned.  This has to stop. It's actually where your stress is coming from. It's the unconscious terror that work is not going to get done, or done right, maybe there's fear it will be your fault, you'll fail, you'll let others down and "it", broadly considered, will all come down - because of you.

Remember, you're willing to walk away, you're thinking about it, so instead of doing that, play a game of sorts, an internal game with your perceptions and attitudes, a game that no one will know you're playing.  Let's call this game "Pfffft".

This.

So much this.

No stock options in my future but a high demanding and equally high paying occupation in my present.

I'll play "Pffft" regularly and it makes all the difference. I've seen my SO nearly burn out because of him making the company's problems his problems and always believing that tomorrow he would reach that carrot they have been dangling in front of him. Being quite cynical to begin with, this has further cultivated my game of "Pffft".

To give you specific examples:

- If you have two impossible deadlines to meet, ask your boss to prioritze one. That's his job. The other goes "Pffft". If he really is so immature to reply "Both are equally important" reply along the lines of "Since I can't do both at the same time, based on my own judgement I am going to prioritize B. Let me know if you think I should redirect my attention to A."

Do bosses like your CEO like to hear that? No. Mine surely don't. Yet, they have not fired me. I get shit done and I put up with enough BS. I draw the line somewhere. If they don't like it, they can give me the "You should start looking elsewhere..." talk. To which my reply would be....  "Pffft".

- If an obnoxious demand via mail goes to more than one recipient. Resist the impulse to be the first to reply.

- Never ever volunteer weekend work and all-nighters. Do it only upon explicit request. No reading between the lines. Ask for reasons behind a deadline, i.e. if the deadline is purely internal, i.e. flexible, or if there is some serious money automatically and irrevocably being lost when something gets delivered a little late. It is rather astonishing how many of my bosses would let you work 24/7 without barely squeezing out a "thank you" if you just happen to do it, yet are somewhat uncomfortable explicitly asking for it. If it's really urgent they'll get over uncomfortable in no time. If deep down they know it's more the made up kind of urgent: Pffft...
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: pac_NW on September 28, 2014, 11:06:35 AM
Very interesting thread. I have just completed my third startup and have been at this game for 28 years. All three deemed successful for the companies - first one acquired, second one bought by private equity and a third bought by growth equity.  I learned so much along the way. On the first, I did not have any options as the funding was all founder funding; there were no shares and I was not wise enough to ask for a cut. But I learned great startup skills and that helped me leverage a high level position at company 2 where I did get shares and asked for a lot of them. The company sold for just under $2 per share. I made money but only because I was in a very senior position reporting to the CEO and had a lot of shares. It was a good job - I liked it but I got bored over time (about 5 years which was enough to vest and buy a good portion of the options long before the company was bought; I made money years later) so I moved to company 3. Here was the soul-sucking job. I also liked it most of the time and much of the soul-sucking I let happen to me. So be careful. Also, a very senior position reporting to the CEO and loads of shares. This company got bought for less than $1 per share.  None of these were the rocket ships you sometimes read about. They were ok exits for me only because I had lots of shares - at these small per share numbers, you need over 1M shares for them to make any sense for the "work put in to dollars got out" ratio. The warning flags I see in the original post are 1. What are the other employees doing - is everyone getting their soul sucked? And 2. Why don't you have options now? 

On 1, I ask because it may help you decide if you are feeding into the soul-sucking. I think there is a willingness on behalf of ourselves for when this happens. We let it happen to us.

On 2, you mention partners and then a profit-sharing like plan. You have to have ownership for these things to pay out. If you get options, be sure to read Know Your Options by Kaye Thomas. Get very smart about them. They are tricky.

After 3 startups and I am going to do a fourth. I love the energy these companies provide but I am going to watch the soul-sucking monitor this time. It took a long time to learn how to do this. Fortunately, I am in a position where I can RE because the last two companies funded the FI activities over the years. So take care on your next steps - there is no guarantee and right now you have no ownership in the company.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 29, 2014, 04:26:56 PM
To King Ston:

You're feedback about my stress coming from being conscientious is right. I want things to be done right, 1) Because it's in my nature and I can't help but not to do things properly and 2) Because I see the effect my work has on our success. My work directly impacts the money we make and in turn my own salary and cash out.

But you're right. I do need to adjust my internal reaction to these pressures. That's easier said than done. I can do it for a while but after a while I go back to being myself.

I like what you say about the code, I'm currently working a plan where we can throw away the "spaghetti code" and start fresh with something new. I'm actually really enjoying this project right now.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: freelancerNfulltimer on September 29, 2014, 04:41:31 PM
Update:

Okay so a week or so has gone by from the very bad day, and it's been much better since then. More very bad days are unavoidable though, I am aware and prepared for this.

I did get a raise, the largest raise I've ever gotten in my life, but not as much as I had asked for. I should get another adjustment in another few months, and another few months from then another... so on until I'm at market rate. Of course the extra money just goes into savings.

After thinking a lot about what I really wanted. I decided to stay at least until another year has passed. Based on the connections of the CEO and the just very odd-set of circumstances of this job I can not recreate this opportunity elsewhere. A year from now will give a lot more clarity on the true earning potential of the company. If a year from now I'm unhappy then I'll at least had two years at this role for my resume which is so much better than just one. Otherwise it would maybe look like I'm a job hopper. Plus I don't really want to work for anyone else. I know I can create my own business(es) with my skillset. So if I can bank what I make here for as long as I can put up with it, I have a savings buffer and seed money to start up my own company.

I did have a talk with a c-level executive about the fact that my current work-life balance is unsustainable and I will get burned out. They said that they don't expect me to keep it up like this and that once we're fully staffed it should get drastically better. This gives me hope that they understand this is not sustainable and that I'm not getting charged a "competency tax".

Better yet, I am going to be going over budgets with the board on hiring and resources we need in order to realistically get all the work done. So help should be coming. Also, based off the suggestions made here, I'm going to block out more hours during the day to work uninterrupted where/when I can. I did this today with limited success. I do have help, but they aren't fully-trained yet so I just need to make it sink or swim at this point for the staff I do have. Once I hire more people and get them trained, five months from now things should be a lot more self-sufficient.

As far as the CEO goes. There's no changing him. I do have to answer whenever he calls. There's a lot of good that comes with his bad though and I think if I can focus on the good portions, it might help my overall stress level.

Meanwhile, in an effort to keep the stress down...

I'll post another update whenever something interesting happens.
Title: Re: How long can I do it - Incredibly Stressful with High Pay
Post by: totoro on September 29, 2014, 07:43:50 PM
Good job.