I’m not one of those entrepreneurs who had an idea and then was able to execute it instantaneously; It took me two-and-a-half years just to launch JackThreads, the private sale website for men’s clothing that I founded. Once I got the company off the ground, it completely consumed my life.
My girlfriend and I moved in together right after the site launched. Things in the beginning were great as we had a lot of time to spend together and focus on one another. But as the business grew and I got more and more busy, I had less energy, and less time to focus on the relationship. That definitely drove a wedge between us. I think she started to resent the business and, because of that, I started to resent her.
My days then were crazy; I was working 12 to 20 hours a day, sometimes seven days a week. The problem was that I was doing everything: customer service, shipping orders, buying, accounting, etc. And once I focused time on one aspect of the business, workloads would pile up in other areas.
My family was worried, and they expressed that to me. My girlfriend was really worried, always reminding me to eat, sleep, stop drinking caffeine, etc. I lost about 25 pounds over the course of 6 to 12 months; I can remember a lot of people noticing how skinny I was getting. My girlfriend would often come home and ask if I had eaten that day, and I would realize that I had been so slammed all day long that I completely forgot to. It’s weird when you literally forget to eat.
There was never a formal intervention from family or friends. But it’s funny, because I see people now who I had run into during that phase of the business and they all say the same thing: that I looked like a tired, unhealthy mess.
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My girlfriend eventually had enough, and I moved into my own place. Shortly afterward, I was introduced to a successful New York City-based investor to seek some personal advice. He was asking me a lot about the business, but more so about everything going on in my life outside of work. After hearing my answers, he quickly stopped me and started to explain how he was seeing a pattern here...and he called it the "life deferment" plan. Basically everything that others (my family, girlfriend, etc.) had pointed out, now he was pointing them out, too.
His message was that it's great that I had accomplished a ton, and that it definitely takes hard work, but that I still needed to make sure I had time to enjoy the journey. Get some fresh air at least once a day; exercise during the week; make sure I was eating and taking care of my body; make sure I was allocating a few times a week to building personal relationships; making sure I was allocating time each week to participate in the activities that I loved (golf, basketball, going out with friends). His thought was that I could still have accomplished everything while also making sure I was taking care of myself. Hearing that from such a successful businessman that I looked up to…that opened my eyes.
Today, I’m surrounded by an incredible team of people all working together to grow JackThreads. I feel very lucky to have gotten this far, and to be in a position where I truly love my job. Looking back on it, the startup phase definitely wasn't a healthy lifestyle and I still could have gotten this far by maintaining more of a balance between my work and my life. I’ve spent a lot of time lately reflecting on the things that really make me happy outside of work and, as I’ve identified these things, I’ve made a point to consistently do them: travel, golf, working out, spending time outside, eating healthy and building meaningful relationships with certain people in my life. That investor was right; I was following the “life deferment” plan. I was always saying, “I have to work now, and then I’ll enjoy myself later.” There’s no reason you can’t do both, and do them now. It makes enjoying the journey a lot easier.
Jason Ross is the founder of member’s only men’s e-commerce site JackThreads.com. Ross’ vision was to develop an online space where the best in men’s contemporary fashion and streetwear brands could be sold at a better price than retail with a member’s only premise. Ross launched JackThreads.com in July 2008. JackThreads was acquired by Thrillist.com in May 2010, but Ross continues to lead the company's daily operations. The company is expected to earn $20 million this year.
Follow Ross on Twitter: @JasonPRoss