Beware of The Trap of Entrepreneurial Success.
Building a successful company is what every entrepreneur dreams of and works towards relentlessly. Running a 6 or even 7 figure business is the ultimate goal of countless founders and entrepreneurs; it seems to be the answer to all problems. Yet, during my time working with business owners who’ve “made it,” I observed that entrepreneurial success is extremely glorified. Having clients/customers rolling in and high sales are (surprisingly) not the magic bullet to a fulfilling life, and as effortless as most people picture it.
In fact, it’s probably one of the most stressful and exhausting responsibilities one can ever take on and most entrepreneurs are not prepared for it. Getting a business up and running is one thing, but keeping it up in a sustainable way is a completely different thing. “Starting a business could make you rich. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be satisfied.” Charlie Wells wrote in an article for The Wall Street Journal.
When striving to achieve entrepreneurial success one should keep in mind that every opportunity comes at an opportunity cost. Problems don’t magically disappear, and as your business grows, it’ll come with a whole new set of challenges. Having no one telling you how to manage your time and where to focus means every decision is on you; Decisions that may have major impact on your company, life, and even your employees’ lives.
All of a sudden you have to learn how to lead a high-performing team and implement new systems while trying to keep a cool head to stay productive and balanced. The success of your company is still directly related to your performance as an owner and leader. No wonder burnout, chronic stress, and anxiety are some of the biggest problems accomplished entrepreneurs struggle with.
By building a company, you have to change the way you operate in it to increase the bottom line as well as your personal well being. In business, there is just as much stress with success as there is with failure. Unfortunately, many type-A entrepreneurs don’t want to get or have help.
Here are 6 Steps to getting your life back and finding joy in your work again:
1. Why did you start?
The first and most important question to ask yourself is “Why did I even start?” Oftentimes, when we set out to achieve a goal we lose ourselves in the process. What once felt like fun is now a drag.
Burnout is really the misalignment between your purpose, values, and the daily actions you take. Most entrepreneurs start their companies to create freedom and happiness for themselves, earn a good amount of money, and make an impact in the world.
If you find your life being controlled by your business, working 18 hour days and feeling trapped in a golden cage, examine if it wouldn’t have been easier to take a well-paying job with paid vacation and benefits instead of sacrificing your health, family, and sanity. Reevaluate your priorities and get back to your original intention, why you’re doing what you’re doing and who you’re doing it for.
2. Success addiction
Many entrepreneurs are in some form addicted to the high of accomplishment, to sprinting from goal to goal and achieving milestones they set for themselves. Being a type-A myself, I know how it feels to suffer for the sake of success, not being able to relax and enjoy the journey.
When your self-worth is tied to your achievements, you experience constant pressure and are very hard on yourself. Ironically, your goals don’t usually create emotional fulfillment in the way you expected. Finding purpose in achievement is what got you here, yet it’s emotionally draining and will eventually burn you out.
When you care more about how your life looks like than how it feels, you’re missing the point of true success. The second step of detaching yourself from your business and getting your life back is to explore what drives you. Realize that the accomplishment of goals is not success but how much you expand and who you become in the process.
“As entrepreneurs, we’re achievers! Every time we achieve something, we systematically move the goal post even further. What we don’t do is stop and celebrate our wins and acknowledge our accomplishments.” – Tony Robbins
3. Balance and Self Care
When your company grows fast, your life changes just as quickly and you may not have the time to figure out how to take care of yourself. Maximizing your mental and physical potential and making yourself a priority is crucial to your level of success as an owner and leader.
Practicing meditation, spending time by yourself to reflect and moving your body are essential components to a well-balanced life and sustainable business. Level up emotional intelligence and change your perspective towards stress in order to increase your resilience and ability to handle setbacks.
Connor Beaton, founder and CEO of Man Talks emphasises on the importance of living a balanced life “The key to feeling fulfilled is to approach your life from a broader, wholesome perspective. If professional success is your sole focus, other departments of your life – like relationships and personal development – will suffer.”
4. The Sweet Spot
Having meaningful impact, finding personal happiness and freedom and making great money are the three main components of a fulfilling business. Most entrepreneurs are thriving in one or two of these areas, while lacking in the third one, wondering why they feel frustrated, burnt out and unhappy.
The sole purpose of running a business isn’t to just make a profit but to also contribute positively to society. As Mark Williamson, author of Action for Happiness suggests, “People who have meaning and purpose in their lives are happier, feel more in control and get more out of what they do. They also experience less stress, anxiety and depression.”
Yet, on the other hand, owning and running a company that doesn’t support one’s personal values and only focusing on money and impact can get incredibly exhausting. Too many people are living other people’s definition of success, chasing the paper, but not the dream of freedom and independence.
5. Busyness vs productivity
Busy people multitask. Productive people focus. By the end of every day, ask yourself if you feel a sense of pride or exhaustion. When I started my own business, I fell into the trap of working way too many hours without making much progress. I learned that being busy does not equal productive.
Essentially time works similar to money, the more time is available, the more we spend. Surprisingly, when there is less time to get something done, we accomplish more because we’re forced to prioritize and focus on essentials. Therefore, make it a point to have work hours as well as off time and stick to it.
Taking off weekends and not working before 9 am or after 7 pm might be a schedule that you want to incorporate in your life. Your family and friends will be grateful to you for not using your phone during dinner or scheduling meetings during a weekend trip.
“Focus on being productive instead of being busy.” – Tim Ferriss
6. Leadership and Systems
Now, that you have a team working for you, learn to let go of detail, use your energy more wisely, and build systems that give you freedom. Think about the what, not the how. Structure your company so your systems and team take care of you, instead of you having to babysit every single little task.
“If you want to run a successful business you have to know how to play to your strengths. It’s pretty easy to micromanage everything.” The reason why so many entrepreneurs miss out on atomizing their processes is that they feel like there’s not enough time available to set things up properly. Yet, in the long run, they’d do themselves a favor by taking things off their plate and scaling faster while being less overwhelmed.
Even though entrepreneurial success is what so many dream of, the opportunity comes with a set of new challenges that need to be addressed. Running a successful company has to be learned and is not as easy as many would think. If you’re looking to create sustainability for yourself, your team, and your company, reevaluate the way you operate in the business and maybe even find support in restructuring your schedule, responsibilities, and thinking patterns.
Reaching another level in business requires you to shift your perspective in many aspects to stop working in the business and start working on it instead. You must learn how to work through people as well as setting boundaries for yourself that help you separate your life from your business.
Following these 6 steps is only the beginning of taking back your life. Remember to create freedom for yourself instead of being controlled by your business or you may be missing the point of true success while on the journey.