His recent photos look like doctored concoctions straight out of The Onion. He's riding roller coasters, pumping his own gas, and according to reports, picking up Thanksgiving dinner at Boston Market.

It's pretty clear Mitt Romney's days aren't what he thought they'd be just a few short weeks ago.

Before the election, Romney enjoyed an incredible advantage in his campaign for president: He didn't have a day job. Major party presidential nominees are almost always sitting governors or senators, but Romney hasn't held office since early 2006, so he had no other demands on his time during his six-year presidential run.

But now, there's a downside: all that free time. Since he lost the election, Romney has seemed... well, lost, according to an eye-opening report in The Washington Post.

Gone are the minute-by-minute schedules and the swarm of Secret Service agents. There's no aide to make his peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches. Romney hangs around the house, sometimes alone, pecking away at his iPad and e-mailing his CEO buddies who have been swooping in and out of La Jolla to visit. [...]

Four weeks after losing a presidential election he was convinced he would win, Romney's rapid retreat into seclusion has been marked by repressed emotions, second-guessing and, perhaps for the first time in the overachiever's adult life, sustained boredom, according to interviews with more than a dozen of Romney's closest friends and advisers.

That's no way to live, entrepreneurs will tell you. I've spent a lot of time interviewing successful entrepreneurs over the past five years, and I've been struck by how many of them bring up personal fulfillment, contentment, and the importance of having a full and balanced life. It's as important to many of them as business success.

So, while I often write here about the lessons that Washington-related events offer for entrepreneurs, I think the better service now is to offer some fantastic advice for Romney from entrepreneurs as he grapples with his career's ultimate inflection point.

What should Romney do next? Here are the three key tips from the toolkits of successful entrepreneurs:

1.  Find your true passions.

After Vice President Gore lost the 2000 election, he put on weight, grew a beard, and apparently mourned for what might have been. But before too long, he reemerged--as one of the most passionate educators around about global warming and climate change. He's also the founder of Current TV, a board member at Apple, and a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Romney needs to find his equivalents. He needs to figure out what he's truly passionate about, and pursue it.

Famously described by his running mate as "a car guy," I've wondered whether Romney might find passion and meaning in the U.S. auto industry. After all, his father was the CEO of American Motors. But, if so, he's headed in the wrong direction so far.

The Post reports that Romney has bought at least one new car since the election: an Audi Q7. It's an eyebrow-raising choice for a former candidate, who "boasted of the Cadillacs he owned as a sign of support for the U.S. auto industry during the campaign," the Post says. His new $46,000 Q7 was built in Slovakia.

2. Nurture your relationships.

If you want to succeed in a start-up, you often pick your co-founders before you pick a business model or even an industry. Go into business with someone you've already been through the gauntlet with--a former classmate, coworker, or someone you know and trust from another experience.

In other words, it helps if you genuinely respect--even like--the people you work with, so that you trust them and want to spend time with them.

Granted, the GOP never seemed to like Romney very much. Party leaders dropped him quickly after his loss, and the hot-potato effect accelerated after his ill-tempered comment that Obama won because he offered "gifts" to youth and minority voters.

But more than that, Romney gives the impression of a man who never really liked politics or the people he met as a result. As the Post reported, he has ruled out running for office again, and has said in private that, "he has little interest in helping the Republican Party rebuild and re-brand itself."

Thus, while he's stayed in touch with "like-minded millionaires," he has otherwise abruptly cut off contact with those who can no longer help him. The Post cites a prominent GOP activist in Iowa, whom "Romney called ... over and over again--on her birthdays, on her 50th wedding anniversary. When [her] husband died this spring, Romney had white roses and lilies delivered to her..."

She hasn't heard from him since the election, and doesn't expect to.

3. Keep busy.

Remember that thing about not having a day job? Well, compare how Romney is faring against the last two major party nominees who came up short.

John McCain and John Kerry went right back to the U.S. Senate, where both are significant leaders. There's a reason McCain is playing a big role in our current foreign policy debate, and Kerry is likely to be either the next secretary of defense or secretary of state. Neither man ever quit.

Unfortunately, Romney seems to be following the exact opposite course. He's been in seclusion in La Jolla, California, with his wife, Ann, who "believed up until the end that ascending to the White House was their destiny," according to the Post. Ann "has been crying in private."

Keeping busy might be the most important bit of advice there is.

Sure, everyone needs a break now and then. But it's scary how quickly momentum can take over. We've all heard stories of people who retire and seem to grow old very quickly. So the key, once you've identified your passions, is to find ways to spend your days pursuing them--and never stop.

Published on: Dec 5, 2012
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.