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Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Co-Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

Dealing With My Startup Addiction

Hi everyone.

My name is Adii and I'm an addict.

Addicted to what?

Well, pretty much any and all of the things on this list: working, creating something, startups and entrepreneurship.


I've always known that I have a bit of an obsessive personality. And I always thought that it was a good thing, as it correlated well with my passion, which in turn helped with my drive to work hard(er).

This is great when you're playing the game, because the obsession, passion, drive and ambition is what generates the adrenaline that's inherently part of startups and being an entrepreneur.

The problem however starts as soon as you become addicted to that adrenaline, because then all of those things (working, creating something, startups & entrepreneurship) becomes drugs that are difficult to live without.

I realized this too late about myself.

And by that time, I had already jumped into a new startup, which had strapped me in and committed me to the ride.


After my experiences last year, I made the decision to focus on detoxing and recovering (from this addiction and the injuries it caused) before I jumped into something again.

That decision quickly turned into a very concrete goal of taking a sabbatical this year.

Reading that now, my immediate reaction is: "Fuck! A whole year without working on a startup or anything that involves my passion for entrepreneurship."

My biggest challenge in recent weeks has been that my head totally understands the logic and value of a sabbatical. But my heart isn't that convinced about the idea, because it's my heart that yearns for the adrenaline (and addiction) the most.

So right now, I don't know how long this sabbatical will last. And I'm preparing myself for the possibility (eventuality?) that it might end in the matter of 2 or 3 months. That would suck a bit, as taking a sabbatical was the biggest goal I set myself this year and I don't want to fail on that by March.

My mind though has shifted to accepting imperfection in this regard, which means that I'm focused on extending my sabbatical, detoxing and recovery for as long as possible. If I get to a year, then great. If not, I'll embrace the imperfection.

In the meantime, here's a couple of things I'm doing to beat this addiction:

  • I'm taking a lesser drug. The easiest way to cope with withdrawal symptoms is to use in a lesser drug in the short-term. For me that drug (at the moment) is writing about all the things I'm passionate about. That means I'm not too far removed from these things, but I don't have to execute on anything. The up-side to this too is that it is helping me build an audience and mailing list, which will definitely help me whenever I do start working on something new.
  • I'm making a list (and checking it twice). On this list, I've included certain tasks which I need to complete before I dive into a new startup or ambitious pursuit again. On this list, you'll find things like "Develop a daily meditation routine", with the aim of developing coping mechanisms for future journeys. It also includes checks and balances like "Don't have any doubts about jumping back onto the rollercoaster again". If it doesn't feel like I'm entirely ready, I won't do it.
  • Question the root cause of this addiction. Why can't I just chill out for a year without feeling the need to do something ambitious and professionally. Sure, I can't sit on a beach the whole year (I have a kid in school and a wife that runs her own business), but that doesn't mean I can spend the year being content in the knowledge that I'm taking a break. So what's the root cause of this? Is it a fear about money? Or is it something related to my ego and how I feel (don't feel) relevant?

My name is Adii and I'm an addict. I have however no been sober for almost 2 months.

And it feels great.

For now.

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