The Simple Trick This CEO Uses to Prevent Burnout
Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur’s “20 Questions” series features both established and up-and-coming entrepreneurs and asks them a number of questions about what makes them tick, their everyday success strategies and advice for aspiring founders.
Jack Groetzinger, CEO and co-founder of SeatGeek -- a search engine that sells tickets to concerts, games and other events -- isn’t sold on the phrase “work-life balance.”
That attitude is likely a product of running a company that sells tickets for nearly 480,000 teams and artists at over 350,000 venues. For Groetzinger, work is life.
“The phrase work-life balance applies to two separate things that you're trading off between, and for me they all sort of mold into one,” Groetzinger says. “It's not like work ever really ends.”
Despite the inability to separate work from non-work, Groetzinger still hasn’t burned out from being CEO of SeatGeek, and has even found an interesting way to stay focused -- gamifying his to-do list.
We caught up with Groetzinger and asked him 20 questions to figure out what makes him tick:
1. How do you start your day?
Outside of the normal morning routine stuff, the one thing I do before I come into the office is meditate for 10 minutes.
I've been influenced by social psychology dysphemism literature which shows that meditation provides the highest return on investment for how you can spend your time, increase productivity and happiness.
2. How do you end your day?
Very unceremonious. Usually at work, out with friends or some social thing and then come home and go straight to bed. I try to avoid T.V., because it’s inherently addicting and ultimately unfulfilling. It’s a digital narcotic.
3. What is a book that has changed your mind and why?
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, which talks about the way human beings are influenced in sort of non-logical or non-rational ways. It seems a little Machiavellian. It's the way you use sell tactics to get people to comply with you, but I think that it can also be used for good. In the case of SeatGeek, figuring out how we can harness social psychology, human psychology, to allow people to do more stuff, have more fun and go to more events.
4. What is a book you always recommend and why?
I began to think differently about chance after reading Nassim Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets. That booked changed how I make decisions and interpret events post hoc.
5. What is a strategy you use to keep focused?
I only check email three times a day to avoid the black hole of email. I block out 30 minutes on my calendar three times a day to do that, it's kind of a reserved email time to maximize that 90 minutes a day, so that the rest of my day is focused on other things.
6. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
By the time I got into middle school or high school I did want to start my own company. I did a few stupid small things for fun while I was actually in high school, then in college and then continued to do that after I graduated.
I find starting startups so much fun, because it seems like the ultimate expression of business creativity. Doing a startup means solving a problem with near-infinite degrees of freedom. And unlike other challenges in life -- like, say, running a marathon -- if you succeed, you hopefully leave behind something profound.
7. What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?
I've only had one job outside of working at my own company, and he was a great boss, so I haven't had a bad boss. I guess that's a good thing.
8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach work?
My co-founders, Russ and Eric. A majority of my career has been spent working alongside them in the trenches. They’ve influenced my thinking in thousands of little ways.
9. What's a trip that changed you?
When I was in college I taught English in Chile in a poor region near the desert. It was the opposite of first world, American culture, and for me it gave me a lot of perspective.
Chile kind of showed me the other side of the spectrum where people are trying to sustain themselves. What we are able to do at SeatGeek is a luxury and as long as everyone has their basic needs met, we are able to focus on allowing people to do more stuff. We are all lucky to be able to do that.
10. What inspires you?
SeatGeek users. I get a rush whenever I meet one of our users in the real world. Our users depend on us. Many of them love the brand and software we’re building. I feel a tremendous duty to delight them.
11. What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
In high school I ran a small company that edited people's college essays. I built relationships with a few retired English teachers. Folks who were applying to college and needed help editing an essay would submit their work via our website and then we would hook them up with an English teacher who would work with them to make it better.
That was back in 2001 and 2002 and was a marketplace. SeatGeek is a marketplace, so it gave me exposure to the power of being able to connect people on the internet.
12. What was a job you had early on in life that has taught you something important or useful?
I had an internship in college at a consulting firm where I got good at Excel; that skill has served me well ever since. In a lot of ways Excel is like the modern layman database. SeatGeek is a very data-centric company.
13. What is the best advice you ever took?
From my father: “You can work a decade to earn someone’s trust; you can lose it forever in five minutes.”
14. What is the worst advice you ever received?
My co-founder Russ and I quit our consulting jobs the same week back in 2008 to do a startup together. We intended to start a site focused on live entertainment analytics (what eventually became SeatGeek) but got some bad advice from an IP lawyer, who said we’d be violating an active patent. Eighteen months later we got a second opinion from another lawyer who told us the previous guy was wrong.
15. What is a productivity tip you swear by?
I keep a do-list of everything I want to do. In addition to sort of listing everything out, I also rank everything by importance and put next to it an estimated number of minutes that I think it will take to complete. I have a start and end time associated with each of those as well, so it sort of gamifies the process of working through your to-do list.
16. Do you use an app or any tools to get things done or stay focused?
I use Google Sheets a ton, which is what I use for what I just described [above].
17. What does work life balance mean to you?
The phrase work life balance applies to two separate things that you're trading off between, and for me they all sort of mold into one -- it's not like work ever really ends. In a lot of ways it is my life, so it sort of all one thing. I think the dichotomy is maybe a bit false.
18. How do you prevent burnout?
I think burnout means you can't work effectively anymore, so doing things outside of work can help prevent burnout and makes you more productive.
Ultimately it's just by trying to create a schedule, social stuff with friends, etcetera. I force myself to do that, not every day, but as much as I can.
19. When you're faced with a creativity block, what strategies do you use to get innovate or get over that block?
I usually just try doing something else for a while and come back to it. I think time helps.
20. What are your learning now and how do you think that will help your future?
Executive hiring. So not just hiring individual contributors here, but rather folks who are really going to run and manage teams. I think as SeatGeek continues to grow it's going to be continually important.
This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.