Legendary entrepreneur Elon Musk recently shared a private issue with the press: He is afraid of taking a break. He was quoted as saying:

The first time I took a week off, the Orbital Sciences rocket exploded and Richard Branson's rocket exploded. In that same week. The second time I took a week off, my rocket exploded. The lesson here is don't take a week off.

It may be a brilliantly logical man showing his superstitious side, but his phobia of vacation echoes what many of us believe: You can't afford to stop. Evidence now shows that you can't afford not to stop, but there are many reasons why you believe you can't have or don't deserve a break.

You don't have the structure in place.

Have you enabled your business enough so you can actually be unavailable for a few days? Very few of us have. It goes beyond vacation, though: Personally, unexpected health issues and family emergencies have put my own work at a standstill. Enabling co-workers, subordinates, or even our brain trusts is key to feeling better about taking a break. It also requires putting your ego aside and realizing that denying yourself time to recharge doesn't equate "crushing it" as an entrepreneur.

You fear competitors will quickly leave you in the dust.

Often in our minds, competitors are No-Doz snorting freaks of nature that never rest. They are just waiting for us to pause so they can take the lead. Even the noblest professions have a ruthless edge, but stopping actually can give our minds the chance to create the strategy we need to win.

The greatest entrepreneur of our generation, Steve Jobs, took infamously long walk breaks. Stopping also prevents us from tinkering too much on our products. Finally, we are less likely to go to extreme thinking and ruin what we've spent so much time building.

You are afraid of facing what you've left behind.

Startups can easily demand all of our time, to the point that many of us have given up on having any type of healthy social or family life. But what happens when your business closes or you have a successful exit and you have nothing else to focus on but your life outside of work? It's a scary thought, especially if there is a trail of broken promises and strained relationships laying in your ambitious wake. Unfortunately, avoiding personal conflict just prolongs, if not exacerbates the issues that aren't being addressed. Facing those demons is akin to the popular proverb about planting trees: "The best time to do it would be 20 years ago. The second best time to do it would be today."

When is the last time you actually stopped?

Published on: Oct 7, 2015
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