I remember when I told people that I need a work life balance (while being a founder at my startup), people looked at me funny.
I did not understand why people thought this was odd. After a few years, I understood.
To me, work life balance meant something completely different than the standard definition. Since the age of 13 up until I was 27 I was an amateur athlete. Amateur athletics are very similar to startups. The pay is low, the risk is high and the rewards do not come until later. The benefits from sport include: The network you make, the mental strength you gain, ingraining health into your daily life, and re-framing high risk situations to your advantage.
I was a full time student (both in high school and university) while I was on the Canadian National team so I always had a full schedule. I always had to balance things. Work and life were the same thing to me. I loved my school (my work) and I loved taekwondo (my life). I intertwined both of them in my 24 hour day. I did not think of one sacrificing the other (since they were both very important to me).
If I practiced taekwondo at 100% everyday, my performance would decline. I wondered why. People always say give your 100% everyday. What I did not realize is that giving your 100% does not mean doing the SAME thing everyday. Training (and work/life) comes in many forms. What really should have been said is give your 100% at what you do everyday, no matter what that day looks like.
People always said to give your 100% everyday. What they should have said is give your 100% at what you do everyday, no matter what that day looks like.
That is when I learned that training hard meant much more than time in the gym (or time in the office). It meant needing to be balanced with other aspects of my body and mind so I can be a BETTER competitor. It also meant the following:
- Reading books on mental toughness so I can overcome mental limitations when it came to fear, motivation, confidence and expectations
- Getting a sport meditation coach to maintain an optimal frame of mind during competition
- Getting a sports nutritionist to ensure I am optimizing the fuel in my body
- Putting up a vision board (a board with all my goals) so I can stay focused on the longer term picture during all the ups and downs
- Watching a video of myself and my competitors at night before I sleep so in my dreams I visualize my best parts and their weakest parts
- Going to the weight room (not only Taekwondo training) to get stronger in parts of my body that Taekwondo training alone can not build
- Getting a job so I can have the money to travel internationally and compete to be a better fighter
Work as a founder is exactly the same. Going in and doing 100% of the same thing everyday all day in the office will not get you the best performance. You have to balance yourself and you can not think of this balance as work. You have to shift your mind frame to think of these other aspects of “work” as personal growth, because that is exactly what they are. As a founder you HAVE to grow with the company as it grows. This is your ticket for vast amounts of freedom. I call it my “freedom business”. You need to do the following after your 9 – 10 hours in the office.
- Go to meetups and industry events to meet other founders (and potential new hires) to share ideas and learn from each other
- Pick up books on subjects that matter to your business such as leadership, motivating employees, financial practices, writing effectively and better story telling
- Exercise so you can diffuse any stress and also work more optimally during the day
- Speak at industry events to get the name of the company out there
- Get a business coach or join a formal network of of like minded people (i.e. a CEO/founder roundtable)
- Spend time with your employees at lunch and plan events to socialize. You will learn about their needs and how the company is performing beyond and formal review or survey
- Spend time with your family and friends as this will recharge you. Also, your friends and family are sources for inspiration. I have been to many gatherings coming out with ideas on how to better my business.
- Meditate either in the morning or before you go to bed to set the right frame of mind for the day or your dreams
So work life balance for me does not mean turning off my phone at 6pm and on at 9am. It means growth in all aspects of myself so that both the company and I benefit. Startups are a 7.6 year marathon (average time it takes a startup to exit/IPO) not a 1 year sprint – so plan accordingly. Give your 100% at what you do everyday, no matter what that day looks like.