Study after study shows that sacrificing your health, sleep or relationships to get ahead will ultimately destroy you - and any short-term progress you make will be lost in the commotion. Today's startup culture romanticizes "crushing it" at all costs, but one of the wisest takes comes from the old-school, recently deceased speaker Jim Rohn.
Here he is in his classic program, The Art of Exceptional Living:
The best contribution you can make to someone else is self development, not self sacrifice. Self sacrifice only breeds contempt. Self development earns respect... If I work on myself and become more valuable, think of what that'll do to our friendship.
Self sacrifice is obviously caustic to you, but it is even more harmful to what you create and who surrounds you.
Why self sacrifice doesn't help your business
First, the best example you give as a leader in any form is the priorities you exhibit - not the ones you talk about, but the ones you live by. If you are letting your health decline and working beyond the point of actual productivity, then you are making a specific metric or goal a clear priority above you being around for the long haul. In other words, you are willing to sacrifice a long-lasting contribution for a short burst of potential success. Don't be surprised if others follow your lead in all their work decisions.
Second, self sacrifice actually puts more pressure on your colleagues, partners and employees. If you aren't taking care of yourself now, then you can guarantee that today's personal mismanagement will come back ten fold in the future. Everyone will have to prepare for the one day Superman or Supergirl gets hit with the kryptonite and comes back down to Earth. The psychological pressure on them is the sacrifice they are making every day your ego won't allow you to grow beyond the overburdened role.
Here's what you can do
- Take time to yourself: Build in a by-yourself meeting to sleep, meditate, walk or whichever healthy outlet you can squeeze in. Don't make it long. In fact, make it short. As I talk about in The Ultimate Bite-Sized Entrepreneur, spending just three minutes focusing on just being present will help your life.
- Build an accountability group: It is one thing to have a brain trust that is invested in your success, but it is quite another to have people to call you on your contradictions and backslides. An accountability group may be of people who are your peers, but in different sectors, so folks who know what you are dealing with and aren't your competition. For me, both TED and the American Society of Journalists and Authors led to my ad hoc accountability groups.
- Start healthy habits now: Don't fool yourself into believing that, after years of sacrificing your needs, you'll suddenly snap out of it when you reach your goal. Your dangerous choices will be habit by then. As shared in a previous deep dive on habits, "If your quality of life sucks now, then, after a decade, you'll be in the habit of burnout, hypertension, depression or any other aliments your body become accustom to." Start making little changes right now.
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