Entrepreneurship and the Fallacy of Work-Life Balance

How do you deal with stress and life balance as an entrepreneur?

This was the question posed on the latest Startup Edition thread. As I let the question rattle around, it seemed like a natural opportunity to expand on my previous post on avoiding burnout.

So, here we are.

The first, and arguably most important piece of achieving work-life balance as an entrepreneur, is simple: acknowledge that there's no such thing. By becoming an entrepreneur, you're making a conscious decision to forego balance in favor of excitement, learning, and opportunity. That's very much a choice.

It's no secret that entrepreneurship is a gamble. It brings with it a very real potential of achieving massive success, along with a greater potential of failure. This is the risk we take, the risk we need to acknowledge and appreciate.

When I think about entrepreneurship, I think about front-loading. In most cases, you carve out 5 - 10 years of your life, work yourself to the bone, and hope that it all pays off at the end of the road. Looking at it through that frame, a lack of balance is what you should expect.

Frankly, if you're looking for balance, you're in the wrong line of work.

This is not to say that entrepreneurship needs to be unsustainable or unhealthy. Some don't have much of a governor, like myself, and end up burning out. But that doesn't need to be the norm. That's simply a learning experience, one that you can hopefully take from me if you're teetering on the edge.

Balance as an entrepreneur, or as close as you can come to it, gets broken down in three ways.


1) Acceptance

As I alluded to before, acceptance is a key piece of getting to a point of comfort in the lifestyle of an entrepreneur. Embrace the late nights and long hours, balance can come later. For this time of your life, you're foregoing equal balance for excitement, learning, and opportunity.

Part of this acceptance is also accepting that others (see: Mom and Dad) may not "get it." That's okay, as long as you have a deeper belief in what you're doing. The lack of understanding is often a deterrent for most. Don't let other's short-sightedness dictate the path you take.

2) Habits

A habitual nature is key for balance, it's why I break my day up like this. So much of the life of an entrepreneur is uncertain, it's nice to bring some structure and certainty into the rest of your life. It doesn't matter how you split it up or whether you're a morning person or not, the only thing that matters is that you get in the trend of good habits.

Good habits make you more efficient, help you avoid the trap of context switching, and free up time for things outside of work (see: life). Habits are common for all successful entrepreneurs. Jack Dorsey splits his days up religiously. Brad Feld takes a call from his wife at any and all times of the day, regardless of whether he's in an important meeting. The list goes on and on.

They may seem small, but with so much outside the control of an entrepreneur, these habits are what bring solace to everyday life.

3) Passion

Passion is the secret weapon of balanced entrepreneurs. If you've ever worked in a dead-end job, then moved into the career of your dreams, you know how much passion can play into sustainability and balance. As is commonly said, if you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life. Entrepreneurs, this is your motto. If each day feels like work as an entrepreneur, it's time to find a new line of work.


Without these three keys in place, you're going to have a hard time maintaining the lifestyle of an entrepreneur.

There truly is no equal work-life balance as an entrepreneur, but that's okay. With the right tactics and psychological mindset, you can grab just enough of that balance to keep you truly happy.

Hi, I'm Andrew, an entrepreneur that loves the process of building companies. Currently, I work at betaworks in New York City.

This is where I share my journey and lessons learned, feel free to follow along. Read more →

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