What Is The Brutal Truth You Need To Know About Being A CEO?

brutal truth

It’s 7:35AM and it’s cold in the office.

I turn on the lights because I am the first person in the building. I walk into my office, plug in my computer, and I take a sip of my Starbucks.

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They got the milk to coffee ratio just right in my latte this morning. It tastes extra good.

I look at my email and answer any urgent questions from overnight, then I get to work.

I’ve got maybe an hour to an hour and a half before the day is not mine anymore. Starting at 9AM, the next eight to nine hours will be meeting after meeting after meeting.

So, I’ve got to be focused right now on what I need to get done.

I get to work.

This is my time. My time to be creative and add value. So I start working on the things only I can do.

I’m on a roll. My pace quickens.

I start tapping the keys on my computer faster and harder. As if the strength of my keystrokes will make a difference. LOL.

The rest of the world has gone away. I’m in flow.

Then, the phone rings. I look at the number, and it’s one of our investors calling.

We’re raising money (when aren't you?), so I take the call.

The call turned out to be about nothing important, so I get back to work, but the flow is broken. Now it’s 8:50AM, and the team is starting to pour into the office.

In another hour, the buzz will be in full effect. If you’ve ever been at a company that’s got momentum, then you know what I mean.

It’s that buzz of energy. You can just feel it. Man, I love that feeling because you feel like you can conquer the world.

Tina knocks on my door. “Brett, I’m sorry, but can you authorize this payment.”

That’s it. My day is over.

I sign the authorization, and then I go to the first meeting of the day. It’s the engineering review meeting.

That’s going to last two hours. And Jeroen asked me to come this morning because he wants me to back him up on how important it is that we stay on schedule.

And so it goes…


That’s the first brutal truth about being CEO: You have less time to do the things you want than you realize.


Every day is a struggle between what your team needs (or wants) you to do, and what you want to do. Some days, you take the bait and you end up spending more time than you should on helping the team.

Then there are other days when you just shut the door and focus on what you need to get done.

It’s a delicate balance.

You can’t just do what you want every day because you have to help guide the rest of the company. However, if you spend so much time guiding the company, you don’t get what you need to do done.

That leads to…


The second brutal truth about being CEO: You’re all alone with no one to talk to.


You can’t talk to your cofounders about what’s worrying you. There’s too much risk they might tell the team.

And you can’t talk to your investors about what’s worrying you. There’s too much risk that your investors will worry in the wrong way.

And you can’t talk to your spouse about what’s worrying you. There’s too much risk you’ll overwhelm your spouse.

There’s literally no one you can confide in. No one. This is where a good mentor or coach comes in handy.

But there is one brutal truth that outshines all the other brutal truths about being CEO…


The third brutal truth about being CEO: For all the problems and all the worries you have as CEO, it is the most awesome job in the world.


There wasn’t a day I had as CEO that I would trade for the best day I had as an employee. Not one. Not even the worst day ever.

Where else in the universe can you get to work with the team that you handpicked to do job, help them get the job done, and watch your team succeed?

Where else in the universe can you get to see your creation take flight, and watch customers buy your product(s) in ever increasing frequency.

Where else in the universe can you engineer exactly the company that you want and the culture for that company?

There’s no rush like it in the world.

For more read: What is it Really Like to be a Startup CEO?


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