Not many people are prepared for the life of entrepreneurship. Leaving a comfortable, albeit monotonous, 9-5 and taking the plunge into the startup world is a feat in itself. When you're finally out of the rat race, it's often not like you imagined. You soon learn that you have to think on your feet and work out a system of your own. I did, anyway.
When I started out, I worked 12-16 hours a day because I was on my own and had clients in a few different time zones. Sometimes, I would even set an alarm and wake up in the middle of the night to talk to them. Yes, I was exhausted, but I felt like a total boss. Screw sleep! I'm an entrepreneur now! I can hang! But as many of you have also probably experienced, that kind of schedule is not conducive to a fruitful life... or to business in general.
It's common knowledge that Arianna Huffington is a huge advocate for sleep. When I interviewed her last year, I brought up the fact that many entrepreneurs wear their lack of sleep as a badge of honor to show their passion for what they do. She quickly responded with the science behind sleep and how getting four hours of sleep a night puts us in an impaired condition. Then she said something that blew my mind:
"The fact that, say, three quarters of startups fail might actually be connected to the way entrepreneurs work."
It rang true for me. And this notion made me think about all the other times we get in our own ways in an effort to be able to hold our own in a highly competitive environment. In order to handle the rejection and constant ups and downs we have to face in presenting something new to the world, we often feel the need to psych ourselves up. This plays out all over social media. Inspirational quotes and images are some of the most shared posts on Facebook, as they make people feel motivated and empowered.
And if you look at the Instagram accounts of diehard entrepreneurs, you'll often see powerful content about "true grit" and "passion" and "if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen." There are also a lot of quotes about staying positive, even going as far as saying that if you're not at your "optimum," then you are "suffering."
These types of quotes are well-intentioned and great motivators for many, but for others, they actually have the reverse effect.
Case in point. Recently, I met up with a pretty incredible entrepreneur who I am friends with on Facebook. All her posts are of the sensational places she goes to (seemingly on a regular basis), the celebrities she's friends with, and how it looks as though she makes so much money she doesn't have to work.
I mentioned this and commended her on her success, rather gushing about the cool things she was doing. "Well," she admitted, "it's the life I want people to see... which looks nothing like my real life. I'm actually pretty miserable right now."
It struck me that most people become entrepreneurs because they are passionate about life and want to live it to their full potential. But it's easy to buy into the hype, compare ourselves to one another, and never be happy no matter how far we come. And then, of course, we feel like failures.
These ideas are addressed by Mark Manson in his best seller, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. While Manson isn't necessarily talking to entrepreneurs, the themes about where we place our values are quite relevant. In one of the chapters, he explains that most people are averagely good at most things, while some people are exceptional at one thing. The folks that are exceptional didn't get there by leaning into the notion that they are "the best" - instead, they embrace who they are and commit to getting just a little better each day. They don't force themselves to be motivated or positive or to believe they're better than anyone else.
This same type of notion is used by a lot of yoga instructors as well. It's intimidating to walk into a yoga class for the first time because you think, "Aw hell, they're all flexible and can stand on their heads... I'll never be able to do that."
But if you've taken classes for any length of time, you'll find that most instructors urge you to check in with your body and wherever you are today is where you should be. This way, you focus on doing your personal best, and many people are astounded by what they can achieve by just being comfortable in their own body. As Arnold Schwarzenegger would say, "look for small victories and build on that."
Sometimes the need for "living a sensational life" or "being the best" is actually counterproductive and impedes our growth. After all, they say that embracing where we're at causes us to be perpetual students, helps us find our true passions, and leads to our continued evolution. Good reason to cut yourself a break and celebrate the small victories.