The Burned-Out Entrepreneur

Imagine a warm summer night, a meadow away from the city lights and a cloudless, moonless sky. A blanket is spread on the ground and you stretch out on your back and gaze at the heavens above. Trillions of pin dots twinkle back at you. Suddenly, as luck would have it, a streak of light crosses right in front of your eyes – a brief moment of intense action in an otherwise passive setting. Yes, a meteor is truly a sight to behold and provides a metaphorical warning to us as entrepreneurs.

The romanticism of a shooting star quickly gives way to the realization that we have just witnessed a piece of interplanetary debris burning up in the earth’s atmosphere. The operative words here are “burning up.” In entrepreneurial parlance, we’re talking about “burnout.” We all know what burnout is, so I don’t need to describe its symptoms. In fact, we’ve all probably experienced burnout in some form over the course of our careers. More important are two central questions. How do we prevent burnout in the first place? And how do we get out of burnout if it already holds us captive?

Preventing burnout in the first place is actually easier than figuring out how to get out of it once we’re in it. Consider this example. Jeff is focused on his software training business in laser-like fashion. He eats, sleeps and breathes software training and hasn’t had a vacation in six years. The business is growing in a very profitable fashion, but Jeff worries every day that if he takes his eye off the ball, his competition could easily overtake him and he’d begin losing money. He justifies his herculean efforts as the right way to provide for his family (but he’s missed eight of his son’s last ten soccer games). By contrast, Amy has a competing software training business. She is passionate about her company which is growing like Jeff’s and is also profitable. Amy has learned through time management techniques and following a carefully thought plan, how to be incredibly productive while she’s at work. She serves on a non-profit board, exercises and meditates every day, volunteers at a local homeless shelter, plays tennis and takes a ten-day vacation every six months. It’s pretty obvious which entrepreneur is a prime candidate for burnout. Because she has embraced a life balance, Amy is more creative and innovative. When Jeff finally hits the wall Amy will blow on by him because she has learned how to build a strong team to which she can delegate.

Extracting ourselves from the clutches of burnout is a real challenge. The first step is to go back to the basics and determine if our vision and mission are the same now as they were when we were filled with passion at the outset of our endeavor. Do they need to be tweaked? What made us passionate about what we started doing in the first place? Are our core values intact? Reconnecting with our passion is critical and can only happen when we become grounded in our vision, mission and values. Without this re-set we cannot know for certain if the passion is truly alive.

Next, we need to make the choice to move toward a more balanced approach to life. Nothing prevents us from adopting Amy’s M.O. Experts say that it takes three weeks to form a habit. Every day we must become intentional about identifying and implementing the different elements that will compose our newly balanced life. Getting out of ourselves and doing good things for others is one of the best ways to break out of the burnout cycle.

Finding a balance in life is the best preventive medicine for warding off burnout . . . and for getting out of it. While shooting stars are spectacular to watch there’s no need to be one.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Entrepreneur’s Team of Superheroes

Who is on your team? I don’t mean your work team . . . who is always in your corner and supporting you every step of the way? Smart entrepreneurs understand how important it is to assemble such a team. It can be very lonely at times in our line of work. It seems as though we always have to be “on” and acting as a role model. We must stay calm and never show that we might be worried about something (making payroll, lawsuits, competition – you name it). The stress that we can experience will manifest in negative ways if we don’t manage it successfully.

Many years ago, I found that creating Powerful Personal Partnerships can become the team we need to help us lead balanced and productive lives. If we give short shrift to any of these partnerships that balance can be interrupted to our peril. The Powerful Personal Partnerships to which I refer are composed of Superheroes that are vitally important to my success and my sanity.

Here’s how I got started with this idea. First, I identified seven central elements of my life. They included Family, Intellectual, Emotional, Spiritual, Physical, Financial and Business. My theory was that if I could maintain a healthy balance in all seven of these areas, my life would flourish and be complete. And that is exactly what has happened over many years. But the balancing act has not happened without many other people who have been there to support me. I realized early on that neglecting one or more of these elements could result in hiccups in my life – some minor and others of much more consequence. Maintaining the balance was the obvious antidote for eliminating as many of the speed bumps as possible.

To maintain the balance, we must ultimately focus equally on these areas. This doesn’t mean that we must spend the same amount of time in all areas at once. However, when we spend more time in business for example, at some point we need to amp up our focus on the other areas or we do end up neglecting them. To accomplish this, I created partnerships with people who I could always count on. Starting with Family, I began seeing my wife and daughters as partners. This resulted in more moments of sharing of information and gratitude. I wrote love letters to each one of them and worked harder to build more meaningful relationships.

Intellectual stimulation is necessary for me to feel fulfilled. I became involved in a number of philanthropic endeavors including serving on boards and as a mentor to other entrepreneurs through a formalized mentoring program. This has enabled me to cast a wide net across a vast array of subject matter than energizes me including aviation, politics, education and science.

On the Emotional front, I found that the relationships I built and maintained for philanthropic purposes were helpful in maintaining balance. Likewise, my circle of friends was instrumental in this regard as well.

Spiritually, I connected regularly with my minister as well as other select members of my church. Organized religion is in a transformational state at the present time. Finding a spiritual balance doesn’t require participating in a church though it can be helpful. But we do need to identify others on the spiritual journey with whom we can ponder our essence.

On the Physical plane, I partner with my doctor, a blood chemistry specialist and an orthopedic expert – and I ask them all to compare notes to make certain they are in agreement on my wellness and how to treat health issues that arise. I also have worked for years with a personal trainer to improve my fitness.

A big part of our lives is the Financial aspect. I have partnered with wealth advisors, tax professionals and bankers to ensure that we are financially secure now and in the future.

And finally, I have a number of partners in my Business life including individuals who run the various business units, partners in ownership as well as investors and lenders.

Over the years I’ve assembled a team of Superheroes that support me. But here’s the thing. It’s a two-way street. I’ve found that it’s not just about them supporting me – I also will do whatever I can to support them. After all, that’s what partnering is all about. It’s a symbiotic relationship. I think the most profound aspect of the concept of Powerful Personal Partnerships is the intentionality of it. I am actively working every day to make sure I’m focusing on each of the seven elements and not neglecting any of them.

Each of us needs our own team of Superheroes who are invested in our success just as we are invested in theirs. Creating Powerful Personal Partnerships can help us find and maintain a healthy balance in our lives that will ultimately propel us to success.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 135 – Driven or Driving?

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.