By Dr. Tiffany Gray, DrPH, MPH & Prof. Samson Williams
The hardest part of being an entrepreneur isn’t business operations, sales, revenue and profit. The hardest part of being an entrepreneur is keeping your mind, body and soul healthy while running a business, pursuing sales, revenue and profit. You can make money, you can get sales. Oh, I should mention that whatever your business is, as an entrepreneur you’re sales first and foremost. However, what are you willing to sacrifice to get the sales, generate revenue and make a profit? Many entrepreneurs sacrifice themselves. Literally cutting years off their lives and in some instances cutting their lives short. You’ll find no lonelier journey than being a solopreneur in a pre-revenue dream.
So why are you reading this and why are we writing this article? What are we selling you? Hope may be. Awareness perhaps. A tiny bit of reality of self if we’re lucky.
Entrepreneurship is hard. There is no polite way of saying it. If you’re successful at your business, then it’s a 10 years to a lifetime commitment to stress, anxiety, doubt and frustration. Sprinkled in with a little bit of monetary success. As you journey down that road this article is the first in a series with Dr. Tiffany Gray, to help you be aware of the psychological price of entrepreneurship, recognize the emotional signs and symptoms of being a Founder and providing you with a couple of tips so that you don’t trade your very existence (mind, body and soul) for money. Turns out money will only take you so far; while happiness will fuel you to your final destination.
So with no further ado, here we go. Thanks for joining in on this journey, please feel free to share it with others and if you have a tip you’d like to add to a future article feel free to email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mind, Body and Soul - Marathon training with Dr. Gray
Every entrepreneur is a marathoner. Yes, you may not have run your first 26.2 miles but if you’ve taken that first step towards entrepreneurship or intrapreneurship, you’re past the starting line of the marathon of life. The marathon you’re running is called the “Happiness Marathon - 80 odd years to the finish line”. Here is the secret to being a marathoner in running and in life. Finish strong.
What follows is a quick breakdown of what I do in preparation to running marathons. I got into running marathons circa 2012, when I ran most of the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC with Samson. After watching Samson, who on a good day is addicted to gummy bears, tequila and couch surfing, train for and finish his first marathon I figured if he could do it, anyone could. And so, with a few marathons under my belt, a Doctorate in Public Health and having pushed myself to start my own consulting firm, www.DrGrayHealth.com, I share with you a few tips, tricks and lessons learned. Heavy on the lessons learned, as we all start out at zero; getting wiser with each misstep, mistake and stumble. Remember, in life and in marathons we’re all winners when we finish.
Focus on finishing strong and the rest is just a mental game of time and a bit of weakness leaving the body. Oh, and if you stumble and fall, get up. Shit happens. Mistakes happen. It’s up to you if a temporary stumble, grows roots and leaves you stuck. At the end of life’s journey and running your marathon, you’ll learn the most valuable lesson in life. Life’s mental. Finishing strong is as much about your mental state and strength as it is your physical state. The weakest thing on you is your body. During training every muscle you have will fail you and every ounce of energy your body can store will betray you. In that moment where your body fails you, you’ll learn why the strongest thing in the universe is your heart and mind. Finishing strong doesn't mean you set a personal best time or broke some world record. Finishing strong often just means you got out of bed, laced up your shoes, sucked up your doubt, eyed your fears without blinking and tried. And in trying, occasionally falling or failing, you strengthen your mental muscles and spirit. If you fall, get up. Drag yourself across the finish line and Finish Strong. It’s not your muscles that determine your success. It’s your will to succeed that does. #FinishStrong
Marathon Training 101
Trying to balance a full-time job, multiple side hustles, and train for a marathon requires a lot of balance. Part of that balance is keeping a schedule as best as I can (bullet journaling and google calendar are my BFFs), having my water bottle with me at all times, and snacks. Trust me. Pack snacks. I must admit, I can go from 0 to hangry real quick. But seriously, when your days and weeks are overrun by back to back meetings, networking events, trains, planes, and automobiles and then throw in the general chaos that is life, things can take a turn quickly. The main thing that ends up taking a backseat most often is one’s health. Everything else becomes a priority-from figuring out how to make a dollar, creating content, proving yourself at work, making the next train or flight, and meeting deadlines. All of it can lead one down a path of unhealthy behaviors, poor habits, negative coping mechanisms, and ultimately burnout.
Burnout is real.
Burnout is real. Are you team “no-sleep” or “I’ll sleep when I die”? What if I were to tell you that by living by that mantra is causing more harm than good. Seriously, you truly cannot pour from an empty cup. We are all basically plants. We need to nurture our bodies and minds in order to thrive. Taking rest and breaks, and prioritizing things such as exercise, healthy eating and sleep are all key to keeping the hustle going.
You are probably saying to yourself okay, so how do I make it work? Here are a few key tips and ways to help you get started.
1. Create a schedule.
2. Be flexible.
3. Plan Ahead.
4. Learn to say “No”
Create a Schedule
My previous marathon training cycles, I had a pretty flexible schedule. Now with having a full-time job, as well as other consultant work, my schedule can fluctuate from day to day.
Using a google doc, excel spreadsheet or a fitness tracker, you can schedule in your workouts.
Having my training plan laid out helps me to adjust or rearrange my runs and strength training when needed. For the most part, I typically have a set time for when I go out for my runs and try to stick to that as much as possible. However, there are many times where I have to adjust. My calendar helps me figure out when I may or may need to get my run earlier in the day or even at lunch.
There have been many days due to unplanned circumstances, I may have had to skip a run or workout. Having the ability to have my training plan with me on the go helps me to rearrange things as needed. If I know I have travel planned, I can scout out loops or run paths, or find a run group. I can check ahead to see if where I’ll be staying has a gym (story on that later). No gym? No problem! There are many fitness training apps that are easy to download and can give you a quick 30 minute, no-equipment workout on the go. One of my favorites to use is the Nike Training App, which has everything from yoga to HIIT style workouts.
There will be times where you will have to make adjustments as necessary. This will take some planning but is worth. You don’t have to be as rigid, but it is very important to protect your time and energy as much as possible. Recently, I had to travel for a conference and travel fell on the day I normally set aside for my long runs. I adjusted my plan in the days ahead and planned to move my long run up a day. I set out everything the night before, ate a good meal, and went to bed early. Of course everything that could go wrong did. Missed my early alarm and I woke up and my entire body was screaming at me. Now I will admit my perfectionist brain started to gnaw at me and I said maybe after a little extra rest I could make it happen. Nope. My body had other plans. Here is an important reminder for all you reading this-Listen to your body. It knows. I allowed myself to rest and the next day I felt like a brand new person. So instead, I packed all my necessary run gear and once I arrived and settled into my hotel, I was able to complete my run using the hotel’s gym. I found a way and made it work. Lesson: Be flexible.
When traveling, I always take a reusable water bottle, healthy snack options (e.g. Rx bars, packs of protein, nuts and dried fruit). That way, if I get stuck in a meeting or conference, or rushing from one meeting to the next, I can have something readily available and it will make me less likely to skip meals, keep me full and satisfied, and provide me with the necessary fuel needed to keep powering through the day.
Learn to say “No”
It is so easy to want to take advantage of every single opportunity that comes your way-both in work and in our social lives. Ah good ol’ FOMO. I am quite guilty of adding way too much to my plate and overcommitting. As I have learned, all it does is leave me feeling drained, overwhelmed, and probably in a corner hiding and cursing myself from saying yes to way too many things. I’ve made a point to ask myself before taking on any new projects, “How does this task, project, idea fit in with my current and existing line of work?”; “How does this add value (keyword: ADD) to my overall long term goals?”; and on a personal level, “How does this align with my core values and mission?”. Trust me, it is totally okay to say “no”. Having too many projects or works for the sake of “being busy” doesn’t do you or anyone any good. Better to have time to devote to the work at hand, so that you can put your best foot forward. With a set and tight schedule for training, there are many times where I have to leave an event early or just flat out say no. It can be really difficult. But the taste of reaching my goals is worth it.
So again-what does this all have to do with entrepreneurship again? These four steps are key whether you’re training for a marathon or just trying to make it through the rat race of life. Point is-it isn’t about being perfect. It is an ever evolving process and remember, it is YOUR process and journey!
Stay tuned for part 2!