Just what exactly is a balanced life? More precisely, what is a balanced life for an entrepreneur? Let me start with what it is NOT. It is not the business equivalent of the separation of church and state. It is not that at the end of the day when you go home, you leave the business behind. Yet, it is also not the modern (or American) self centered workaholic who never sees his family and arrives at his son's high school graduation wondering where all those wonderful family years went. Here's another angle so you can pick up what I'm puttin' down. Balance is not about doing less but doing more. Decompression from the stresses of being an entrepreneur is not about leaving the business behind. It seems like a contradiction but the best way to take a load off your shoulders is to do more. Specifically, more of the right stuff.
You have to find your own rhythm. My friend Robert is an entrepreneur in Canada. He starts work at 3 or 4 AM every day and takes a break to spend time with his young son at 7ish. He works all day till about 4 and then knocks off till about 8. He works for a couple more hours and then goes to play hockey from 10 to midnight. He does this every day and runs his own (very successful) marketing company. It works for him. Conformance to the "norm" is not the entrepreneurs strong suit. Winston Churchill was famous for his schedule. Up at 8. Nap from 2-4. Work till 8. Dinner till 10 then work till 2AM. I'm not implying that you HAVE to have an abnormal schedule. Just forget about what anyone else thinks and have confidence in what works for you.
80% of business is boring. Even for entrepreneurs. It's the 20% that we live for. In the same vein, you must be much more than a businessperson. Churchill found painting to be his muse. Write poetry. Restore classic cars. Volunteer at a worthwhile social organization. Sculpt or take up woodworking. Build furniture. Take a foreign language class or go fly-fishing. Teach a class. One of my favorite entrepreneurs and friends has been teaching an MBA class at his Alma mater, and I recently listened to him talk about the all the self-entitled millennial students in his last class. It was killing him to teach a class with students having such a chip on their shoulders. So, why does he do it? Why is he teaching again this semester? Because it is fulfilling for him, the class is a strong reminder of the basics that drive him, and he deeply wants to give back. Why the heck else would he do it? You have to be disciplined in paying attention to details to be successful. You have to live in the boring and you counteract the pressure of the boring by doing interesting and fulfilling things. Churchill once said "Change is the master key, a man can wear out a particular part of his mind by continually using it and tiring it, just in the same way as he can wear out the elbows of his coat." It is the change that Churchill speaks of that ultimately decompresses the mind of talented and absorbed leaders.
So how do I stay on target and refreshed when under tremendous stress? Quite a few ways actually. And I give this list not to brag. It's just an example and I have been thinking this way for a long time...
- I work with wood and create sculptures and furniture.
- I was on the board of a local domestic violence for four years until recently.
- I deeply love my wife and maintain a very active love life.
- I love and play with my children.
- I read. I love biographies and books about contemporary architecture.
- I get lost in music that I love.
- I pray.
- I am involved in my church.
- I surround myself with excellent people and share great food and wine with them whenever possible.
- I am an avid hunter and love the feel of a high powered rifle. I am an expert marksman.
- I exercise to release built up adrenaline in my system.
- I write poetry. To name a few...
Going back to Sir Richard Branson "Entrepreneurship isn't about capital; it's about ideas" You release those ideas and decompress by doing whatever possible to refresh your mind so you can spiral higher and higher. Never give up...on any of it.