In my professional life, I’m an entrepreneur who derives significant satisfaction from creating products and services that make a meaningful impact on our lives. Twice, I’ve taken fragile ideas on a piece of paper and grown them into viable and thriving businesses. I’ve also faced humbling failures where significant investment of time and resources resulted in nothing more than “good learning experiences.”
In my personal life, I’m a lucky husband, proud father to a 3 year old and a soon-to-be Dad again to a baby boy. I’m also a former college baseball player turned Ironman triathlete and an endurance athletics enthusiast.
Over the course of my business and personal pursuits, I’ve experienced tremendous highs and remarkable lows that have shaped my world and taught me incredible lessons along the way.
It has been during some of the more challenging moments where I’ve learned the most. I hope you’ll learn from my own failures so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did.
Let’s start with a story. A young guy wakes up virtually every morning and takes part in some fitness activity – be it swimming, biking, running or strength training. He swims because it relaxes him and helps him get his mind right. He bikes, runs and lifts because the ensuing endorphins keeps him focused and productive during a busy workday ahead. And because he alternates activities so that he can rest some muscles while working others, he’s gone a month or more without ever taking a rest day.
Using our intuition, we could surmise that this guy is headed towards burnout. Rather than progress his fitness, he’s probably experiencing a serious drought in performance. His body and his mind are tired and his overall health and wellness have been impacted.
That person was me.
I was (and to some extent still am) a self-professed adrenaline and endorphin junkie. I’ve long found that the pursuit of these activities has helped energize and power me through many a day as an entrepreneur. Working seven days a week, I was reluctant to ever miss a day of training, even though I knew that it’s on our rest days where we experience the biggest gains. You break the body down, only to build it back up with proper rest, sleep and nutrition. Insufficient rest results in poor recovery and the body and mind never quite catch-up, resulting in serious burnout and declines in overall fitness, health and wellness.
There’s a similar analogy at play for entrepreneurs. We work tirelessly in the pursuit of our endeavors. We work around the clock to quickly grow our businesses, understanding that at times our companies are as fragile as the pieces of paper upon which they were built. Fear of stagnation or even steady-state growth drives us to work harder, despite the obvious signs of mental and physical burnout. The more burned out we become, the harder and longer we work to make up for declines in productivity, resulting in a vicious cycle that is the perfect recipe for disaster.
Just like athletes need recovery days to benefit from their previous efforts, so too do entrepreneurs need to back off work for short periods in order to come back rested, recharged and focused. And as an added benefit, some of the best business ideas come from periods away from work. Think about the last time you had that “ah ha” moment. Was it when you were bleary-eyed and deep in the weeds of a business initiative or did it happen elsewhere, while you were away from your daily business routine?
Note that I said nothing of slamming on the brakes. But taking our foot off the accelerator from time to time to coast on the speed and momentum we’ve built is so important for building a lasting and rewarding professional career. Like a cyclist reaching the crest of a hill after an epic climb, we can coast downhill for a few moments while we catch our breath and prepare for the road ahead.
Athletes, entrepreneurs, parents, teachers, business professionals, students and everyone in between can benefit from these moments away from our daily routines. The benefits of enhanced productivity, fresh ideas and a renewed vigor vastly outweigh the cost of taking a few needed and well-deserved moments away from our pursuits.