By Dr. Tiffany Gray, DrPH, MPH and 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 maybe. 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 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
Reaching the Finish Line
So it has been about two weeks since I lined up at the start of the Chicago Marathon. When I laced up, applied all the body glide and lined up in my wave and prayed to the Garmin gods that I could get a GPS signal, it marked a full 16 weeks (more like 20), of very early mornings and way too many hot and humid days. I survived through the taper. Tapering is a period of time right before race day where the mileage reduces, the body gets a bit of rest from the weeks of pounding the pavement, and one’s mind goes a bit haywire with all of the pre-race jitters and it’s besties fear and doubt (hello taper crazies). To say I am exhausted is an understatement. I am still recovering. But I am feeling great and ready to take on the next challenge. Here is a bit of what I’ve learned through the process and some post-race reflections.
Whether it’s pounding the pavement as part of training for a race or selling your business-fatigue happens. It’s normal. You will get exhausted and tired, question your sanity and curse yourself for even starting in the first place. But don’t worry, it too shall pass. Keep going. It will get better and there is a finish line up ahead. One must remain patient, trust and most importantly embrace the process.
Know when to rest, not quit- Importance of Rest
Now I am quite aware that there are some days when continuing to push through can be very difficult. It is however very important to pay attention to what your body is telling you. My training plan called for certain workouts and mileage each day. There were some weeks where I was downright tired from a long day of work, meetings, and after-hour conference calls. The last thing I would want to do some days was lace up and go out for my run. Listen, there were lots of self pep talks. But I kept in mind my goal and the bigger picture and that would help me get up and go. Now there were other days where after doing a quick assessment I knew that rest was in order and it was best to give it a go the next day. While getting up and pushing through is important, it is key to take the time to learn the signs of stress and fatigue, such as not feeling properly recovered, still feeling exhausted after sleep, trouble concentrating, changes in mood, and whole-body soreness.
In a society where we are constantly bombarded by a “hustle or die” or “team no sleep” mentality, it can be very difficult to feel okay with taking a break. Breaks are key! Rest is essential to performing at your best. Sometimes getting up and away and doing something restorative such as taking a walk, reading a book, journaling, a power nap, or catching up with friends, or finally making that much-needed therapy appointment. Rest isn’t always a three-week vacation in a private villa. Sometimes rest is seriously sitting on the couch, letting the laundry pile up and not doing a thing. Here’s the thing-YOU get to decide what that break looks like. YOU know yourself better than anyone else. Listen to yourself. Don’t let anyone define what rest is for you. I struggle with this all the time. Taking a break or resting can sometimes make one feel guilty or as if one doesn’t “deserve” to rest. Most of what we see out in the world of social media is only what others want us to see. We are only presented with a glamourized version of “hustling” and entrepreneurship. Too often, we don’t hear or see about the challenges or that there are days when guess what? You just don’t have it to give and that is okay.
My favorite motto: “You can’t give from an empty vessel.” Stress can have a tremendous impact on not only your physical well-being, but also mentally and emotionally as well. Check-in with yourself. Don’t be afraid to stop and take a break or make the necessary adjustments when needed. Rest, but don’t give up! Tomorrow is always a new day to start fresh and get back up and at it.
How to keep going: Accountability
Two things that are helpful to keep going are having an accountability partner or accountability tribe and asking for help. One way that helped me get over times where I was doubting whether I could hit my time goal, or get through a hard workout, or even getting up at the crack of dawn was having folks to help hold me accountable. It was also helpful to have individuals who helped me when I needed guidance on fueling or pacing, training and race advice, or words of encouragement when I needed it most.
Now the key to having others keep you accountable is you have to share your goals and plans. This can be difficult for many reasons. The main reason we tend not to share our plans and goals of what we would like to accomplish is fear. Fear of failure, not succeeding in meeting our intended goal or falling short. We fear that we will let others down, and mostly let ourselves down. This is also what holds us back from starting or putting our ideas into motion. This brings me to the importance of knowing when to ask for help. We tend to continue to keep going in circles or remain stuck because we are also often afraid to ask for help. We all need a bit of help from time to time. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak, it makes you smart. This comes with a disclaimer: Don’t be a time-waster. Be very, very clear in your ask. Also, come to the table with what you’ve tried or haven’t tried. Also, be prepared to take in the advice and listen. Then go out and do. No matter how many accountability partners you have or how much advice you receive, at the end of the day, you are responsible for executing.
As I said in Part 1, whether running a marathon, working on starting up a business or trying to make it through the rat race of life it isn’t about being perfect. It is an ever-evolving process and remember, it is YOUR process and journey!