How to Live Your Best Life as an Entrepreneur
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) has been helping successful entrepreneurs find one another and share their hard-earned knowledge since 2010. Along the way, we’ve learned what qualities make a rock-star entrepreneur, what challenges they all share, and how they overcome those difficulties.
In this post, we’ll look at what sets the entrepreneur life apart and share the best advice YEC’ers have to offer to help fellow entrepreneurs live their best lives while building thriving companies.
What Is “The Entrepreneur Life?”
If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re living it! Truth — everyone’s experience is their own. But here’s what we know.
The entrepreneur life is being out on your own, developing a business that came from your own mind. It’s sometimes wondering if your idea was crazy, while other times feeling absolutely confident that it’s the best thing since craft beer. It’s being lonely while you obsess over business plans and funding and product iterations, and then invigorated when you get other real live people on board. It’s stress headaches and long days. It’s the satisfaction of seeing your vision come to life and making a positive difference in the world.
It’s a wild ride.
In this post, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of the entrepreneur life, how to set priorities so you stay sane as you grow your company, and suggest some resources you can access to enhance your journey.
The Pros and Cons of Being an Entrepreneur: Freedom vs. Burnout
When you made the choice to become an entrepreneur, you were probably drawn, like YEC member Greg Mercer, founder and CEO of Jungle Scout, by the freedom to pursue your own interests and goals. As Greg says, “I felt more energized because I was solving problems I found interesting and challenging. I knew building my own company meant I was doing this for me and my goals, not for a boss or an undefined career path. The realization that I had the power to define my days has been my North Star throughout my entrepreneurial journey.”
Of course, in exchange for the freedom of being your own boss, you take on all the responsibility. Unending demands on your time can draw you into a whirlpool of work that threatens to drown you. There is always more to do, always one more thing to take care of. But remember; you are not just a business founder. You are a human. A friend. Someone’s offspring. Maybe someone’s parent. It’s important to pay attention to those sides of yourself so that you can build a full life.
“I'm somebody who was chosen by a mission to stick up for the little gal or guy, and that was not optional for me. That's who I am, and there are positive and negative repercussions to that reality. The positive repercussions are I'm going to live a life where I can have the ability to create a lot of meaning for myself. The negatives are that I'm going to be, at times, stressed, uncomfortable, lonely, and I'm going to sacrifice things,” says YEC member Dan Price, founder and CEO of Gravity Payments.
4 Lifestyle Priorities To Keep You Sane
You’ve probably spent plenty of time thinking about your business priorities: funding, product development, hiring, company culture, how to be a good leader, and so on. Have you also spent time figuring out how to live your best life?
Just as you plan for business success, you should plan for personal success. You need strategies for avoiding burnout, building mental toughness, maximizing productivity, dealing with the “loneliness at the top,” and developing personally and professionally.
YEC member Robert Glazer, founder & managing director, Acceleration Partners, says, “What’s been so important to me over my career is knowing what people and goals are deserving of my attention, and which ones I need to let go. Ultimately, capacity building is about determining where you invest your energy. Once I figured out how to dedicate myself fully to things that were most important to me, and to move away from things that ultimately didn’t help me reach my long-term goals, so much of my life fell into place.”
So how do you decide what goals are worthy of your attention? Choose the ones that will enrich your life. Here’s what we recommend:
Create Work-Life Balance
First, you’ve got to create some work-life balance.
YEC member Carrie Rich, CEO of The Global Good Fund, says it’s been important to learn “to value my time. There comes a point in life where you can't do everything, but everything still needs to get done. It's about learning where to outsource and learning to let things go. Let it go. Have the discipline to not do everything on your own.”
Our post on avoiding burnout suggests 7 habits you can build to make sure you’re living a great life as well as building a great business. [Teaser: meditation has literally zero negatives. It increases focus, clarity, and productivity, while decreasing stress, anxiety, and even back pain!]
Develop Mental Toughness
An entrepreneur needs a strong mindset to keep from folding when the going gets tough. Are you prepared?
- Are you impermeable enough to ignore naysayers (unless they can teach you something)?
- Are you confident enough to withstand self-doubt?
- Are you ready to learn from failure and keep going?
If not, get empowered; check out our guide to mental toughness for specifics.
Everyone needs a support system. Our post on business connections for entrepreneurs outlines the social, mental health, and business benefits of connecting with mentors, other entrepreneurs, and your team.
But don’t forget to also connect with your family and friends. They may not get exactly what you’re going through, like another entrepreneur could, but they love you and are invested in your well-being.
And whenever you can, spend a little time with kids. Or dogs. There’s nothing like an hour of jumping rope or tossing a slobbery tennis ball for refocusing our energy and learning to be present in the moment. No phones!
Always Be Learning
Being an entrepreneur takes a special set of skills. (Not the Liam Neeson kind.)
In a survey, YEC members pegged 7 characteristics that define them as entrepreneurs: ambition, creativity, resilience, positivity, confidence, people focus, and discipline.
Of course every human, and therefore every entrepreneur, is different; you may not start strong in every area. But given the track record of YEC members for growing successful companies, we know that having a healthy mix of these qualities is beneficial.
So how do you develop them? You invest in yourself.
As YEC member Givelle Lamano says, “Investing in self-improvement can help you get farther than you ever thought possible, empowering you to grow beyond any doubts you may have had in yourself before.”
Specific strategies for self-improvement:
- You’re probably already ambitious, or you wouldn’t be an entrepreneur. But if you need a boost, look into what others are accomplishing, in your industry and others. Get inspired.
- There are so many creativity courses, workshops, books, and resources floating around, it’s almost impossible to avoid them. Pick one. Or go the indirect route: try painting, playing an instrument, or building something with your kid’s Lego bricks. Pull your mind out of its usual pathways.
- Resilience, positivity, and confidence are all states of mind, so the best way to develop them is to train your brain. Meditation, psychotherapy, journaling, and gratitude practices can make a big impact on how you think.
- To develop people focus, cultivate empathy. Take a moment to consider how others experience working and talking with you. How are you making their lives better?
- Finally, discipline can be trained by repetition. Try scheduling techniques like time blocking and designating specific times for checking email. Organize your workspace so that it’s free of distractions.
Pursue the personal or professional development activities that resonate with you. One thing will lead to another. As long as you’re growing, you’re on the right path.
7 YEC’ers Living the Entrepreneur Life
Breaking free from a traditional career to launch your own business is a difficult but rewarding path. When you create work-life balance, develop mental toughness, forge connections, and make a point of learning as you go, the path becomes less difficult and more rewarding.
Members of Young Entrepreneur Council are up to all kinds of remarkable things. To read more about real YEC’ers, how they live their best lives, and what they get out of membership, check out our YEC success stories.
Resources for Living the Entrepreneur Life
Several YEC members have published books sharing their best strategies for living a full life as an entrepreneur: