Tim Berry has a recent post on MyVenturePad that is highly worth reading. He takes issue with a VentureBeat post that essentially recommends to entrepreneurs that they sacrifice their life until they get their business successfully built.
Tim hits the nail on the head right out of the gate: the absurdity of that recommendation is the idea that once a business is successful, it is somehow going to miraculously be easier for an entrepreneur to walk away from it to start building a life. He gives a list of very useful things to do to avoid falling into this trap.
For me, though, the real problem with this advice is the assumption that it is only business that it hard — having a life is easy. Anyone who says that has never tried to shift gears and go from being a workaholic to being a romantic partner. As someone who has spent five years working on that transition, I’ll tell you: it’s much harder than it sounds.
If you spend your twenties — and worse yet, also your thirties — focusing on building your business while neglecting your life, why would anyone assume that suddenly starting to focus on having a life at 40 is going to be a cake walk? There are days when I am convinced the reason we live so long is because that’s how long it takes to practice to even start getting our lives right. If we don’t even begin until it’s half over, then we’re out of time before we begin.
One of my favorite bloggers, Penelope Trunk, writes about this regularly: as a serial entrepreneur, she moved her family from New York City to Madison, WI for their life. She founded a tech startup in a city with virtual no tech industry because that was where it made sense for her family to live. Has it been a struggle? Sure. Was there reasoning in her logic? Absolutely.
Everyone wants to know that their legacy has an impact — for some people having kids is enough. For others, leaving behind impressive business accomplishments is enough. But if what you want is both, then you can’t delude yourself into thinking that you can ignore one for half your life and suddenly make up for it in the second half. Time doesn’t work that way.
So many entrepreneurs I know start their own business because they want a lifestyle that allows them what working for someone else never has: opportunity and flexibility. And most of the reasons they want those things are because they have, or want to have, a life.
I’m with Tim: waiting until your business is successful to start building a life is asking to have a lop-sided legacy. And that may be fine for you, but make sure you know that going in. In business these days we spend so much time discussing how hard it is to build the necessary relationships to be successful. Does anyone really think it’s easier to build successful relationships in the rest of your life?