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Let’s start by facing a harsh fact: As entrepreneurs and startup aficionados, we are workaholics.
Our lifestyles revolve around our schedules and ourselves. Littered with endless emails, phone calls, customer relations’ headaches, and the lingering fear of failure, there is no avoiding the fact that we commit ourselves to our businesses, day and night.
In these choices, you are often your best friend and your worst enemy. But amidst all the chaos, it’s vital to remember that working around the clock doesn’t have to strain your relationships with your friends (also known as “the people who will keep you sane”).
After one too many tense relationships with friends as a result of my work, I think the majority of the problem is derived from our different schedules, attitudes, and lifestyles. As entrepreneurs, yes, we do control our hours. To our friends, this means we should be able to drop our work and go for a round of golf at any given time.
"5 Practical Things Every Entrepreneur Must Know"
In reality, we all know that can’t happen. Part of being a successful entrepreneur means having enough self-control to squeeze more hours into your workday than your fun time.
Stress also comes into play. As an entrepreneur (or any type of professional, for that matter), it’s no secret that it’s hard to manage stress. Being self-employed definitely has its perks, but the minutiae of your business is what’s daunting.
The constant thought of your business, your to-do list, and the need to provide more value to your company consumes you with stress. This doesn’t always play well into maintaining strong friendships. Our friends often don’t understand the passion we have for our work or the level of commitment it takes to beat the typical startup’s potential to fail. We are responsible for everything, so the weight on our shoulders can obscure the lightness of having fun and maintaining friendships.
The solution to all of this? Educate and involve.
My friends don’t understand the commitment it takes to see my company vision through to the end. Although it doesn’t necessarily seem that way to us, entrepreneurship and what it takes to succeed are often difficult topics for people to wrap their heads around. Most people work 9-to-5 jobs, with managers and executives who handle the behind-the-scenes stuff. As an entrepreneur, you handle both the frontline and background work – and this can be hard for people to realize when their jobs aren’t 24/7.
Unfortunately, friends who don’t share our entrepreneurial mindsets see friendships in absolutes – black and white, you vs. them. Some friends will understand your priorities, but some won’t. But as the king of all badasses, Dr. Seuss, said, “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
Whether it’s missing a birthday party, a wedding, or a happy hour, or not returning a phone call, friends will typically see that you made a conscious decision – and it wasn’t in their favor. In their eyes, you chose work over them.
To help them better understand your lifestyle, you must make it relatable. Focus on their passion and connect it to your passion with examples. Have a friend who obsessively follows Major League Baseball? Ask him if he’d expect a pro player to ditch batting practice to hang out with his drinking buddies. Framing your goals this way can change your friends’ perception of how important your work is.
When it comes to making time for friends, it’s all about putting in the effort. If you make the time – and you can always make time for something you care about – your true friends will understand if you have to cancel. I schedule high-priority events, birthdays, and happy hours all the same, as if they were normal appointments and equally essential. This way, I avoid overbooking. As events draw closer, I can assess whether I have to make them or break them, due to my work schedule.
Remember one keyword: balance. Having a startup succeed is an amazing feeling, but it’s not an amazing feeling if you don’t have anyone to share it with. Friends are the people who will keep your sanity in check during the inevitable stress of starting up a business, so don’t let them fall by the wayside. It’s a lonely world if you don’t take care of all aspects of your life.