We were standing face-to-face in the warm clear water of Magen’s Bay… talking and laughing. Her expression was child-like… free of life’s demands and joyful. Scanning the outer waters, I interrupted her laughter by saying, “I’m bringing you back to St. Thomas within two years…. I promise.” The person I made that promise to is my wife.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are absolutely gorgeous, but that wasn’t the reason I promised to my wife to return. Those words left my lips because seeing her so free and happy made me happy. She’s a tropical weather lover – warm temps, light clothing, clear water and lot’s of sunlight. I’m the complete opposite – cool temps, long sleeve shirt with blazer, and NO intense sun. It’s cool though, I can put up with her preference for the sake of seeing her beautiful smile everyday. Not to say she isn’t happy in non-tropical weather 🙂
Most important regarding our “Great Escape” is something I believe every entrepreneur with a significant other or family must do – reconnect and recharge.
Let’s be honest – sustaining a loving relationship, being a parent, and juggling everything else in-between while trying to grow a business – it’s extremely difficult. Anyone who tells you otherwise is full of it. Once you start your business, that business becomes another dependent who requires love, dedication, and direction – all of this requires time and will also take away time from something else in your life. Recognizing this and taking a proactive approach to balance everything will make everyone’s life so much better. It took awhile for me to understand this even with advice given from mentors whose life journey’s included entrepreneurship. However, no different than they were in the beginning of growing their business, I was passionate and laser focused on growing my business – working crazy hours, lacking sleep, being seldom seen and having communication breakdown at home; and basically putting a physical toll on my body. One day, it hit me… WTF am I doing? Business is important, but family and health eclipses that… tenfold. Time to act.
Running a small business full-time, especially in its infant stage, leaves little time for anything else. In most cases, you’re the everything person: C.E.O., C.F.O., secretary, janitor, marketing director, and tech guy. At home, because of these multiple duties, we’re typically the first one up in the wee hours of morning and after working 12-16 hour shifts, we’re in bed by 9PM. The little time available for anything else is spent balancing: co-managing home duties, parenting, and a being loving partner – it’s the latter I want to discuss.
Even if your partner understands the demands of running a small business, there will come a time when it will cause a tension within the relationship. Sure, the severity of that tension will vary but it’ll be based on one word: BALANCE.
Here’s the question: Are you spending the majority of your time in the business or are you dedicating some of that time to focus on your relationship? If you answered yes to the first part of the question – you better make some adjustments… quickly. For those of us who attempt to dedicate some time for our partner, the next part of that question is, how much time?
For me, I attempt to take one day off during the week in coordination with her schedule to spend time with my wife. No lie, it’s difficult sometimes because business never stops and when a client/vendor calls typically it needs answered – especially in my line of work. My wife completely understands, yet it bothers me. I’ve seen the effects of letting work get in front of relationships and it isn’t pretty so to address this, I made a decision back in 2013 to do something about it.
I have a few well-established friends in business who seemingly are always on vacation and the stories they share a awesome. Once, while listening, I nodded my head and said “one day, for us”. My friend who was speaking, responded with… “D, why one day? Do it now. There’s always going to be something that’ll give you a reason not to take a trip. It doesn’t haven’t to be an extravagant trip Bro. Life is just too short… so long as it doesn’t “hurt” financially, go and enjoy the memories.” That conversation changed my way of thinking and with that I acted.
My new philosophy? A one week to nine day get-a-way… once a year. Why a week to nine days? Factoring travel time, I believe it’s an adequate timeframe for reconnecting. It’s plenty of time to do the things that made you fall in love in the first place: deep conversations, laughing, long walks, playfulness or chilling watching TV – bliss. Hopefully you don’t need more reasons.
There’s also a benefit for the entrepreneur in you.
Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. It requires a high risk tolerance combined with an abundance of mental stamina and dedication. As I mentioned earlier, your business is another dependent- it needs attention & resources in many facets of its existence. Providing and growing it might will take a toll on your mind and body – I can attest to both.
You ever had those days when you’re so mentally taxed from the minutia of running your business that you opt to stay home and do something that requiring minimal thinking such as Netflix Binging, Gaming or never leaving bed? Don’t get me wrong, I understand and welcome the required sacrifices that come with entrepreneurship. However, I’m also aware that if you don’t listen to your mind & body, the consequences can be severe and the collateral damage will affect everyone who depends on you most. I personally know people who’ve wound up having a mental breakdown because they couldn’t step away from the spreadsheets, emails, and passion.
Wherever you decide to go, in my case, the U.S. Virgin Islands, make sure you enforce the rule of NO WORK. Change your voicemails, notify clients, and adjust your emails accordingly. There’s no feeling like getting lost in time with no concern about business development, personnel, or taxes. The only thing periodically occupying your mind is answering: What to eat? and Where to go? If you head to a location like the U.S.V.I., your biggest question might be, which beach to hang out at for the day?
You don’t have to travel 1800+ miles like we did to reconnect and recharge. You can travel 10 miles to a Bed & Breakfast or 50+ miles to a big city and book a nice room. The point is this: You cannot let your entrepreneurial ambitions and duties overtake the things that should matter most – your health, and loving relationships. If you’re running the business right, it’ll take care of itself. If you have great clients who understand your value and dedication to them, they’ll understand as well. If they don’t, that’s something you’ll have to weigh out. For me, I’m reconnection and recharging.