Life is all about tradeoffs and compromise.
Everyone has to find their own Work-Life-Balance
I like to visualize life as a triangle consisting of work life, home life, and personal life.
Your work life is all of the things you do to pursue your vocation and make a living.
Your home life consists of your…
- your living space,
- and all of the things you do to maintain them.
Your personal life is everything else; all of the…
- social, spiritual,
- and intellectual activities that make your life complete.
This figure shows an equilateral triangle, with all sides completely in balance, but that’s rarely the case.
Usually, one or two dominate your activities at a given time, and the other one or two take a back seat.
This balance shifts constantly.
- Maybe you have young children and your home life is your main priority.
- Maybe you just started your business and work takes up most of your time.
- Maybe you’re at a point where your social life preoccupies you.
If you spend more time on one, you have less to spend on the others.
Time is a zero-sum concept.
We each only have twenty-four hours in the day, and we each choose how to spend them.
The thing about being self-employed is that these areas tend to blend together.
Despite the fact that it may not feel like it at times, there is much more to life than your business.
- Yes, your business is an expression of your passion and creativity.
- Yes, your business is an important part of your life.
- And yes, your Work-Life-Balance is a big part of the triangle that makes up your life.
But your business isn’t your life.
To wax philosophical for a moment, if you and your business are one and the same, what does it mean for your health and well-being if your business hits a speed bump?
Being able to separate yourself from your business will allow you to make smarter decisions and will have a positive effect on your mental health.
At times, the advice to take a step back seems counterintuitive.
But completing a “lot of work” doesn’t have to equate to working frantically and burning yourself out while alienating friends and family in the process.
Many contemporary articles and social media posts don’t do much in the way of helping dispel the notion of entrepreneurs as mythical figures.
Advocating for the “hustle” mindset, casting entrepreneurs as never-fail heroes, and fetishizing high-stress levels and a lack of sleep as success metrics do not help those launching their own ventures to make better choices when it comes to Work-Life-Balance
Example: Huffington Post
Digital media mogul and founder of The Huffington Post (now HuffPost), Arianna Huffington poured her heart and soul into her fledgling media company to get it off the ground.
For Huffington, eighteen-hour workdays were the norm and sleep deprivation simply came with the territory.
After two years of running herself into the ground—through building a very successful company—Huffington had an epiphany, which she shares publicly.
Returning home from the office one night, she collapsed in her apartment and hit her head on the way down.
She woke up to find herself lying on the floor with blood on her face.
Medically, the only thing that was discernibly wrong with her was that she suffered from sheer exhaustion. Now, Huffington has a complete one-eighty position on work-life balance.
By professional definitions of success, I was successful. By any sane definition of success, if you are lying in a pool full of blood on the floor of your office, you are not successful.Arianna Huffington
Arianna Huffington is far from being the only successful entrepreneur to encourage those who are starting new ventures to carefully consider their Work-Life-Balance.
Ultimately, there is no single answer for everyone.
Some people simply perform better when they can lose themselves in their work, and that’s okay.
Working hard and working too hard can seem like a nonsensical distinction until working too hard leads to burnout and dissatisfaction with something that was once your passion.
It all goes back to the triangle.
Ideally, all three facets of your life—work life, home life, and personal life—exist in harmony without too much pushing and pulling.
This harmonious state allows you to shift focus between each aspect without too much friction.
But if you are consumed by an obsessive focus solely on your work life, that part of the triangle pulls heavily on the other two and stretches into an unrecognizable shape.
With your life triangle out of balance, shifting focus away from your business causes feelings of guilt—guilt that stems from focusing on anything other than your business.
The best way to combat this?
Mindful living supplemented by healthy doses of self-awareness.
Living a Self-Actualized Life
Together, mindfulness and self-awareness culminate in what could be called a self-actualized life.
This may sound like something out of a Kung Fu movie, but the reality is that time and time again the intangible aspects of entrepreneurship have the greatest impact on success.
Just like self-awareness, mindfulness, and interpersonal skills, the recipe for living a self-actualized life is made up of ingredients that can be learned by anyone.
A person (entrepreneur or otherwise) who lives a self-actualized life is someone who has an appreciation for life and is guided by a set of inner goals and values.
More than any other aspect, what is generally referred to as “the entrepreneurial mindset” is really a description of self-actualized living.
The act of entrepreneurship is the ultimate creative act.
Forming something that is successful, durable, and makes an impact on people’s lives out of the randomness, ambiguity, and uncertainty that is the entrepreneurial ecosystem can’t be called anything but creative.
To some, that may sound intimidating, but even people who don’t consider themselves “the creative type” find ways to let their imaginations soar.
Creativity is an enduring human trait and can be both very powerful and very personal.
Quick Case: From Attorney to Diverse Entrepreneur
Eddie Huang, Baohaus – The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Huang has had a diverse entrepreneurial career.
He lost his job as an attorney during the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008.
Instead of hopping to another employer, Huang changed gears completely and turned to stand-up comedy to pay the bills. Over the next decade, he started a clothing design company and became a chef and restaurateur, author, and TV personality.
He is best known for his Manhattan restaurant Baohaus and his TV show Huang’s World. Regarding his education, he said, “I wasn’t meant to be an attorney, but I was meant to go to law school.” His ventures have seen varying levels of success, but the sheer range of industries and markets Eddie Huang has participated in is a testament to his creativity and perseverance.
Whether they are well-meaning or not, those around you will have something to say about your choice to pursue an entrepreneurial path.
Don’t be surprised if this solicited and unsolicited input is overwhelmingly negative.
Authenticity, at its core, means choosing your path and knowing why you’re on that path regardless of the opinions of others.
Authenticity isn’t contrarianism, and it isn’t an excuse to ignore good advice.
Rather, it is a way of…
- staying true to yourself,
- your goals,
- and your own happiness and success.
In our world, the only true constant is change.
A philosophy of continuous improvement not only embraces change as a constant but reframes it as a driver of improvement.
This philosophy is referred to as kaizen, a Japanese word that translates as “continuous improvement.”
More than a doctrine of ongoing development, kaizen prioritizes incremental improvement overbroad, sweeping changes.
Incremental changes are easier to implement— they require fewer resources and can begin making an impact right away (albeit a small impact).
Over time, incremental improvements add up and result in the same gains that broad sweeping changes might, but without causing the disruption that a total change, of course, can lead to.
- In a professional capacity, this means incessantly and obsessively looking for more ways to provide value to your target customers and enhance your core capabilities.
- In a personal capacity, it means applying the same logic of incremental improvement to find better ways to meet your goals.
That may mean learning something new every day, honing your skills, working toward living a self-actualized life, or all of the above.
More than just a tool to spur personal, professional, and organizational growth, the philosophy of kaizen has the additional benefit of encouraging comfort with ongoing change—an attitude that is not only healthy at the personal level but absolutely critical for a new venture.
Does this sound like you?
Entrepreneurs often make lousy employees.
- They will never fully commit to organizational culture or go all-in to achieve organizational goals because they don’t see the payoff for them.
- They also tend to butt heads with their supervisors because they have strong opinions about the right way to do things that are often at odds with the status quo.
- Because they are intelligent and driven, they don’t usually fail outright (although some entrepreneurs are so “out there” that they are conventionally unemployable), but they often drift from job to job, getting easily bored and restless and looking for the next thing.
Does this sound like you? You should give serious thought to starting your own business.