It takes 10 hours a day, seven days a week, and two years of computer time to get good at programming. For a bootstrapper, it is that, and everything else.
I didn't choose the startup life, the startup life found me.
I was 17, sitting on the cold hard prison floor and bawling my eyes out when I decided that if I was good enough to write a trojan that went around the world, surely I can build a great business.
I have nothing but a good brain to work with and a trained discipline of the special forces. (I was in the Naval Divers). With that, I started work on working my way up the bootstrapper's hierachy of needs.
Get rid of liabilities.
The job of the CEO is to think and strategize. To stew the business in my head, I needed to get rid of every other distraction that might clog up my headspace.
For me, that meant interest rates from my tuition loan. My debt worked out to be around $42000. I cleared this out in the first year of work.
Basic need: A salary -- $3000 / month
After that, I needed a basic salary that fed me and kept me warm. I put this to $3000, a magic number. I do not recommend borrowing, as you will go right back to having the problem of owing money. Instead, try selling.
Fun needs: Party, travel and do everything you always wanted to do
If I were to spend the next five years of my life nerding out, I better have all the fun I wanted to. In other words, avoid FOMO by over-indulging.
In the earlier part of my 20s when I was still schooling, I did all the traveling, drinking and partying that will fill me for two lifetimes.
Emotional Stability: Get married
I got fortunate here because I had a girlfriend that was genuinely supportive of whatever endeavors I was interested in. With startups, my girlfriend-then (now wife) said she has back -- as long as I was able to make money by the age of 28 (so we could get married).
With these concerns gone, I build and then built some more. With luck on my side, I net around a 50% success rate in the projects I launch. With another 20 years, I hope I will get to build out the company that cemented my legacy.
The baby is the antithesis in the hierarchy of needs.
With marriage, comes the natural phase in life -- that is in having kids. I have a one-year-old boy, his name is Nate, and I love him to death. And if I have to be honest with myself, having Nate was the antithesis to being productive at work. Do not get me wrong, though. Knowing what I know and knowing how I feel about having my kid, I will do it over and over again.
But if you are a young man in your 20s, I will recommend putting off the baby decision until your company is more mature. Like mine is now.
Follow the Bootstrapper's hierarchy of needs
The Bootstrapper's hierarchy of needs sounds like common sense, but I have met far too many other bootstrappers who got too cocky on the plausible success of their startup and decided they can skip out on building up the foundation for their personal life.
Get your life right first, and success in your startup will follow. And even if it does not, you can try again, and again until you do. Don't be that CEO with the baggage of ballooning debt, or a looming singlehood.