Kevin O’Leary of “Shark Tank” recently told CNBC’s “Make It”: “If I have to give one piece of advice to someone who’s thinking about starting a business, I tell them this: Forget about balance. You’re going to work 25 hours a day, seven days a week, forever. That’s what it takes to be successful.”
Excuse me while my eyes roll all the way to the back of my head!
Here’s the truth: I made my first million dollars at a very young age, from a bootstrapped company.
And the other part of the truth: That business absolutely killed my health.
Today, my husband John and I run a company that generates several million dollars a year in revenue. And we typically don’t work more than 40 hours a week.
We did work long hours when we started. But, especially once we had a beautiful daughter, we realized the long hours we were working wouldn’t be sustainable.
John and I made a conscious decision to hire people and sacrifice extra money in the short term, in order to not kill our health long-term.
I am a ruthless outsourcer. John, who came from the restaurant industry, was knowledgeable on how to hire and grow a team. Together, we “bought our freedom.” We had full understanding that we could work longer hours, hire fewer people, and make more money in the short term…and we chose not to do that.
Instead, we hired employees and trained them, then hired 2 top-notch folks to be our executive team and help us grow and scale the business.
The result? A business that makes several million dollars a year, that also provides for our employees and their families, without killing us.
We Also Gave Our Employees More Time Off
I am a big believer in a shorter work week making people more productive. To that extent, we used to have our managers do a 5-6 schedule (5 days a week one week, then 6 days a week the next week.) This is common in the restaurant industry, but I was not a fan of it. Neither were our two executives.
As soon as our numbers allowed, we made the switch and all managers now only work 5 days a week.
In addition, this year we gave our employees an additional week of vacation, which now applies every year. Happier employees means a healthier business.
“Hustle Porn” Is Directly Tied to the Puritan Work Ethic
The “hustle porn” mentality, which basically says “Never stop working!”, appears to be mostly an American craze. I believe it stems from the old Puritan work ethic. It’s the same mentality that causes people to shame others for hiring help, such as housekeepers.
It also is the source of people working through lunch–and feeling guilty for taking breaks or vacations. The average employee who receives paid vacation only took about half their vacation days (source.)
Why? According to the survey, fear is responsible: “They fear getting behind on their work (34%), believe no one else at their company can do the work while they’re out (30%), they are completely dedicated to their company (22%), and they feel they can never be disconnected (21%).”
This is unequivocally harmful to our happiness as a society. I think a direct link can, and should, be made between “hustle porn” and the skyrocketing use of anti-depressants. “The number of Americans who say they’ve taken an antidepressant over the past month rose by 65 percent between 1999 and 2014. One in every eight Americans over the age of 12 reported recent antidepressant use.”
One in every eight Americans! Is anyone saying that “hustling” will make us happier?
It gets worse. Here’s an article published yesterday. “The suicide rate among Americans of working age increased 34 percent from 2000 to 2016, according to a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
In the image above, I drew a direct correlation between “hustle porn”, reading about your friends bragging on social media, straight through to increased anti-depressant use and even suicide. We’re spending more time hunched over our phones flipping through the social media “trophy case”, and less time on relaxing and taking a break.
“Hustle porn” and the glorification of overwork is making us both sad and suicidal.
What’s the Alternative?
I don’t want to just breathlessly drop statistics and not offer alternatives. Here are a few ways I’ve stopped myself from overworking while still building a successful business:
Every Sunday night, I set 4 main goals for my next week. I try to set the week up so I have 4 goals and 4 days to work on them. My fifth day of work can then be consumed by any emergency that might pop up, doctor’s appointments, etc.
Every day, I wake up and decide which of my 4 goals I’ll be working on today. That starts my day off strong and focused. For instance, one of my 4 goals this week is “Write and publish a blog post.” That’s what I’m doing today!
I check off 2 “annoyances” and 2-3 household tasks every single day. Yesterday I paid bills, sent clients invoices, and cleaned for 20 minutes. (The 20-minute cleaning is a life hack called a “time block”, where I spend only a certain amount of time on a task to avoid overwhelm.)
When my annoyances, big task for the day, and household chores are done, I STOP WORKING. That’s right! I sometimes do a day from 10AM-4PM. This also gives me incentive to stop procrastinating, because once I’m done for the day, I’m done! I do not push myself into additional work at that point unless I’m motivated. Instead, I go outside and play some Pokemon Go, watch a movie, or read a book–guilt-free!
I have an earlier post where I talk about how I use Trello to organize my tasks. You can see there how I set up and plan my week.
Time and time again, when creatives (writers and software developers in particular) are surveyed, we say we can’t do more than 4-5 hours of creative work in a day. The rest of our time is spent on boring and mundane tasks–many of which I would recommend outsourcing if you run your own business.
Or, if mowing the lawn makes you happy–do that yourself and outsource other items. I’ve learned how to cook and enjoy cooking, so I outsource cleaning and mowing the lawn, but I buy groceries and cook frequently.
If there’s one thing I would love for you to take away from this, it’s that it’s completely possible to build a 7-figure-plus business without killing yourself. It’s OK to hire people (as you have the money to do so.) There probably will be a time at the beginning of your business where you’re working long hours. But it most certainly does not have to be “forever”, no matter what Kevin O’Leary says.
“Hustle porn” does not make any of us happier people. Be OK with being happier instead of being a hustler.
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(Erica’s note: I’m back and committed to blogging for 2017!)
I recently started a new diet–low-carb, or ketogenic. (I’m more “low carb” than ketogenic right now, the difference being that I try to keep myself under 50-60g net carbs per day, whereas ketogenic takes it to an even larger extreme.
I started the diet after gaining 25 pounds having my daughter, Mackenzie. Then those pounds never disappeared! They just hung around, and after nearly a year, I realized they weren’t going to go away on their own. I was a size 6 when I got pregnant and now I was up to a size 12. I wanted to fit in all my size 6 clothes again.
Committing to a diet and building a business have many similarities. There are a ton of people who want the results without doing the work. Shortcuts abound. I’ve never been one to be afraid of work, as I’ve seen how effective it can be. My problem with the diet was that it was going to force me to re-learn nearly everything I knew about eating. Most importantly, it was going to force me to learn how to cook–something I never really grew up doing, and never learned how to do. Popping a frozen meal in the oven was about as far as I’d ever taken cooking.
Nevertheless, I committed to it. Perhaps the most important part of what made me want to stick to the diet–even more than fitting into my pre-pregnancy clothes–is that I didn’t want Mackenzie to grow up with a mother who didn’t know how to cook. I am about the least domestic female in the world, but I wanted Mackenzie to be able to see and learn the domestic side of things so she didn’t grow up with a domestic “handicap” of sorts. Whether she takes it and runs with it and becomes a fantastic cook, or is more on my side of things and sees it as more of an option–either way is fine with me, but she should know both sides of it and be able to make a more educated decision.
I spent a couple days picking out low-carb recipes, making a Trello board, and going shopping. I approached all of this positively; I am a creative person, and would enjoy putting my creativity to use this way! Plus, I suspected going low-carb would help with the low energy issues that have plagued me for years.
Then disaster struck! My entire house decided to break down. This may sound hyperbolic, but I’m not kidding; in just 7 days, the dishwasher broke, the washer hose sprung a leak and flooded the closet in Mackenzie’s room, then we broke the vacuum because we tried to vacuum up water without realizing quite how much water was there, and on top of that, the front door lock bizarrely stopped locking the door. We pulled the lock off the door and put it back on–no luck. So here we were, in a 7-day period, buying a new dishwasher, a new vacuum cleaner, new washer hoses, and a new door lock.
The “woo-woo” side of me knew what had happened. I have a habit of shifting energy really quickly when I’m determined to do something. It’s how I can manifest results so quickly. Unfortunately, I’d shifted so fast that I’d shut down a significant portion of the electronics in the house. Energetically, when you shift like that, anything that’s not vibrating at that level leaves your life–well, apparently we had several appliances that just weren’t interested in the ride to a new energetic level.
Not surprisingly, we got new upgraded appliances and our life is much improved. 🙂 I’m not surprised, but it is annoying when you realize you just laid out almost two thousand dollars because you shifted your energy! Oops. 😉
Right after all that happened, I caught a horrible case of strep throat. It got so bad that eventually I went to the doctor and got on some potent antibiotics. Strep should resolve itself after 5-7 days; I was at day 6 and still having fever sweats when I finally went to the doctor. That, too, was part of the ride, as I learned a bit more about some chronic health issues I’ve been dealing with for the past several years (a different blog post.)
All of that would have made many people quit, or throw up their hands and say “It’s just not meant to be!” But I’m not one to wrestle with an alligator and let it win.
Wrestling the Alligator
You may be familiar with the concept of “resistance” as it relates to creative endeavors. It’s often described as that little voice in your head that says “You’re not good enough!” or “Who are you to think you can write this book/lose this weight/create that business?” What many people don’t realize is that sometimes it does not manifest as a voice in your head. Resistance can be very real and quite physical. It can show up as all the negative stuff that happens in your life when you try to make changes. Look at my example: My whole house broke down! It would be completely ridiculous and cause me breakdowns if I didn’t know exactly why it was happening. But I won’t quit.
Guess what happened after all that. It’s been 13 days since I started the diet and I’m down 5 pounds despite not being able to stick with it 100%. (Let me tell you, when you’re used to having a dishwasher and you suddenly don’t have one, that’s the best excuse in the world to just go eat out and say “Forget it!”–but I didn’t do that.)
I fought the alligator and won. I expect the diet will be pretty straightforward after this. And not only that, with the mental clarity gains I’ve been seeing, many of the diet chances I’ve made I’ll stick with permanently. Assuming I’m losing weight in a healthy manner, I should be back to my goal of a size 6 sometime in March or April. And I’ll have more energy to boot. It’s a huge win–because I didn’t allow life to blow back in my face.
These tests, this resistance, happen absolutely every time you make a big shift in your life. You break up with a partner who wasn’t good for you and some friends give you crap about it. You decide to start a business and everyone comes out of the woodwork with bad advice. You dig yourself out of a financial hole and all of a sudden, a million financial stresses pop up all at once. This is the resistance in physical form.
It’s a test. Commit to wrestling the alligator and winning. And when you do, everything from there on out will feel like a cakewalk.
My next post, on Friday, will share what I accomplished in 2016 and an exciting new announcement for 2017. If you haven’t yet, sign up for my email list and I’ll send you an email when I post it. See you then!
Alligator image by carmenqueasy, CC-licensed
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Today I want to talk about something I haven’t mentioned on this blog. In fact, I rarely mention this in real life, either. But I have a feeling I’m not the only one with this problem–and I think it will do some good to finally speak about it openly.
Years ago, I started noticing I was in significant physical pain when I used the computer for more than a few hours at a time. I used to spend 10+ hours a day in front of a computer. Figuring it was probably just time I invested in some better chairs, I bought myself an Aeron chair (and later, a better desk.)
Except the pain didn’t stop. If anything, it got worse. (more…)
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My journey toward my diagnosis with Celiac disease. It may have started as early as age 16. I can remember eating lunch and feeling tired afterward. I took a 2-hour break for lunch in high school so I could go back to my room and rest (I lived at a residential school for the last 2 years of high school.) I also got sick a lot. I often complained of exhaustion, and my moods were all over the place.
The doctors I went to told me to get more sleep.
Things got worse as I got older. By the time I was 25, I was sleeping for a few hours every day after lunch, and not feeling any better after I woke up. Doctors told me to “take it easy” and “work less” (I worked 60-hour weeks or more, typically.)
I began to develop a hatred of the medical community. (more…)
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