“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” – Steve Jobs
I had coffee last week with Henry Crowell (not his real name), a highly successful entrepreneur with a fast-growing business. “I’m cutting back on everything,” he said. “I came home a couple of months ago and my wife let me know that she was close to leaving me because I’ve been too immersed in work. I’ve got to focus on my relationship and my family.”
Henry is experiencing the kind of business success that most entrepreneurs dream of. Over the last four years, his company has doubled in size every year, growing to a team of 100 and emerging as a leader in its industry. It’s now poised to grow even further, expanding to national scale with support from powerful national partners.
“I was becoming someone I didn’t recognize,” Henry said. “I was so single-mindedly focused on my business that everything else was secondary.” Too many late nights and missed dinners had taken their toll.
It’s tempting to think about Henry’s dilemma as a classic work-life trade off, but it’s more nuanced than that. In many ways his effort was exemplary. He demonstrated exactly the kind of drive, focus, and hard work that it takes to build a successful startup. The results speak for themselves.
To achieve a level of success comparable to that of Henry, it’s a question of excelling at work AND life, not trading one off against the other. By trimming his commitments, Henry is demonstrating exactly the kind of decisiveness and action orientation that enabled the stratospheric growth of his business.
The first rule of work-life alignment for entrepreneurs is to recognize that we have a choice. We need to run our business, rather than have our business run us. Among other things, that means staying aware of what’s going on around us, getting clear on our intentions, and taking steps to turn them into action.
The entrepreneurial ideal for managing life as an entrepreneur isn’t just balance. It’s building a virtuous cycle. Building a relationship with work that enables you to channel your creative energy and cultivate a financially sustainable future, and at the same time building a life that becomes a source of happiness, love, and fulfillment. When you do both of these well, the impact radiates into your business and the people connected to it, generating more success, freedom, and fulfillment.
Every moment you have complete freedom to choose how you want to spend your time. Are you making choices that are aligned with what you truly want?
- What signals are showing up in your home or work life that might be calling for more attention and focus?
- Where are you getting sucked into priorities that aren’t the best use of your time?
- What are you postponing for some distant future that you could be pursuing now? What needs to change for that to become a reality?
Interested in learning more about this topic? Check out these two great articles on managing time:
- Want a Can’t Miss Productivity Tip? Forget About Being Productive
- This Is How Successful Entrepreneurs Spend Their Time
PS The I took the picture above while cycling the Camino de Santiago this summer with my son. As we boarded the plane that would take us to Madrid for the first leg of our trip, I asked myself if I was crazy to take so much time for something so unproductive. As I look at the experience now through the rearview mirror, I’m realizing that it is already one of the most cherished memories of my life. It was a life-changing experience not just for me, but also for my son.