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What is the biggest lie we tell entrepreneurs about how to succeed?
One of the most interesting phrases I’ve read recently was:
“Build the life you want, then save for it” via Reddit
It came from a guy who got obsessed with saving money instead of actually living life. I find that this happens in business too — where people, after they’ve reached a level of success, realize…
“I built my business, but I never built my life.”
When we’re starting out, so many of us get obsessed with making our business successful ASAP — the big numbers, the big revenues, the big dreams…
So what do we do?
We “buckle down.” We “hustle.” BARF.
There’s even a meme that says entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid 40 hours a week working for someone else. LOL.
If I’m honest with myself, I’m the type of person who can spend all my time working. I remember a friend who I hadn’t seen in a month texting me in NYC to hang out on a Friday night. I texted him back: “Yo, can’t do it tonight. Got a meeting.”
That night, I was supposed to have a call at 9pm…which got delayed until 9:30…and then the guy canceled on me. Here I am sitting around at 10pm on a Friday night — and I got flung about.
It’s moments like this that can be really discouraging. Is all this work worth it?
A lot of us might stop going out with friends or paying attention to family. We stop having new experiences, the very experiences that we can write about, that energize us, that make us realize why we started a business or put in all this work in the first place! We stay in and work — taking pride in the idea that we’re just “weirdos” that most people can’t understand.
Sounds admirable to make these sacrifices, doesn’t it?
I don’t care what anyone says: Starting a business takes a ton of time (far more than many would think), but we feel the heat of reaching “success” fast, thanks to Facebook ads that might say:
“3 secrets to generating $48,500 overnight…without internet or even any skills!”
“I was homeless with only one shoe and $0.14 in my bank account. Then I started meditating, and now I have 3 Maseratis and a giant chocolate fountain in the middle of my $5-million-dollar house! Here’s how you can do it too.”
Or in the media:
Look, there are a million other people out there who can supposedly promise to teach you how to make an overnight business. I’m not one of them.
But if you want to know how to build something beautiful — something with craftsmanship, something you’re proud of, something that doesn’t fizzle out in a few months, and even something that’s highly profitable — the reality is that it takes time.
Of course, the media and other “gurus” would never reveal exactly what they endured to reach their point of success (this is related to something else I posted on Quora:).
But my message to you is simple: You don’t have to buy into the messages you hear about “hustling” and “going all in.”
You don’t have to put off having your fun by the beach or wherever until “some day” in order to focus on your business…
The truth is: If you’re not having fun…your business is DEAD.
In my 15 years of building my business, what I learned was that it’s not enough to work hard, write the best blog posts, or create awesome products. I learned to love craftsmanship later — but in the early days, the thing that got me through the hard times was JUST PLAIN HAVING FUN.
I look back at some of my early posts, and man, I was cracking jokes, making fun of terrible advice, calling people out, and just having a good time. I didn’t take this thing seriously. For God’s sake, my site was called “I Will Teach You To Be Rich.” Just look at this silly video I made:
My barometer for success was: If I was having a good time, my readers were having a good time. And later: Revenue is merely the outcome, not the driver. (Money is the marker that you’re doing something right.)
But if you have to convince yourself it’s fun, maybe it’s not really fun.
I don’t mind working 80 hours a week during sprints. I’ve done it before, and when I have to, I’ll do it again. But that’s a sprint. Do that all the time and you’ll break.
This is where “blending” your work and life pays off. It’s too easy to put blinders on and work 80 hours a week. It’s much harder to be intentional about how to blend work and relationships and travel and new experiences. No wonder so many people take a myopic view.
In 5 years, I’ve missed fewer than 5 workouts because of work:
And I can’t remember the last time I had to say no to hanging out with friends or spending time with family because of work. Here’s me with family in Italy:
It would be far too easy to become a 1-dimensional entrepreneur. But I believe the only way to sustain yourself and a growing business is to make sure you’re 3-dimensional — meaning you’re constantly enriching yourself with experiences inside and outside of work, even if it looks like this:
Real life is a marathon.
You CAN have a great life and grow a sizeable business. But it takes being thoughtful and refusing to defer what you really want until that mythical “some day.”
In other words: Build the life you want, then work for it.
Don’t just hustle blindly, or you’ll forget why you’re doing it. Some examples of how I pushed myself to have fun outside of work:
- I made the 1-hour commute to San Francisco from my apartment in Mountain View 3-4 times a week to hang out with friends. (Eventually I moved to SF.)
- When I later moved to New York, I made a list of cocktail bars and hit them with friends. Even if I felt tired, I knew I’d end up having a good time.
- I made a point of getting in a workout and seeing my family as much as possible
The very best demand more from their lives. Not just more money and success, but more fun, more relationships, and more experiences.
If you’re waking up every day and it’s just a slog, something’s wrong.
Look for ways to make building your business fun because the money will take a while. Did you know it took me 6 years to start making real money from my business?
Everybody wants to become successful overnight. But even the successes you admire didn’t happen that fast.
Before you assume one of your heroes hit overnight success, find out the truth and set realistic expectations. It’s not about patiently gritting your teeth for years while you wait for success.
Yes, you’re going to have to work hard and sacrifice a few things. Yes, it’s going to take time. But the reality is, there’s no glory in working 12-plus hour days, only to miss out on time with your friends and family, and sleeping only 4 hours a night.
Sure, you’ll build your business…but life will pass you by whether you’re living in it or not.
If you’re wondering why things aren’t happening fast enough, very rarely is more hustle the answer.
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