The real Silicon Valley will never be televised. It's way too extreme for TV. I've seen two extremes happen to friends: making a billion dollars, and committing suicide. (Both of these, more than once.)
I'm writing this post on my friend's couch, where I will be sleeping for the next few days. Yesterday I moved all my belongings out of my San Francisco apartment into storage after burning through my savings trying to start a startup. Technically I am now homeless and unemployed. This is my story (so far). This is the real Silicon Valley.
I moved to California in the summer of 2010 to work at a startup. Initially it was everything you read on Hacker News with the added benefit of being able to wear the same clothes everyday. What Hacker News doesn't prepare you for, however, is when a competitor gets acquired for a billion dollars, work-life imbalance, and getting dumped by your World of Warcraft girlfriend.
A TV show about this life would look more like Intervention than The Social Network, where Internet addiction and delusions of grandeur are the drugs of choice. Sacrificing your savings, health, sleep hygiene, social life, etc. do nothing but destroy you and add unnecessary pressure to those around you. The startup gods do not exist.
The pressure to capitalize on the changing technology landscape is as much a driving force as the fear of commoditization and irrelevance. Two guys down the street working on a new iPhone app or open source project could put you out of a job. One of them could be you if you quit playing video games or stay in on weekends and commit to a project.
Pre-product/market fit in the Trough of Sorrow is not fun, and the race against time feels like playing chicken with an oncoming train that, if everything goes as planned, will transform into a spaceship and take you to the moon. The default state, however, is failure. You can't be afraid of losing. Live to fight another day.
But as Lester Freamon once said, "The job will not save you, Jimmy. It won't make you whole, it won't fill your ass up. Boooooy, you need something else outside of this here. A life, Jimmy. You know what that is? It's the shit that happens while you're waiting for moments that never come." Or as the English cricketer and missionary Charles Studd once wrote, "Only one life, ‘Twill soon be past; Only what’s done for Christ will last."