I’ve been a self-employed entrepreneur for nearly my entire adult life. It hasn’t been easy balancing my passion for my work and my relationships with my family. In fact, it’s been downright challenging. But later this month, I’m going to celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary with my lovely wife, Janice.
If you want to keep your marriage intact and create a successful business, listen up. It takes work. It takes setting boundaries. It takes love. Here are four key lessons I learned over the years:
1. Know that the world does not revolve around you or your idea. Yes, you’re excited. Your passion is what motivates you! But that doesn’t mean everyone around you wants to hear about it all the time. If your partner or children ask you how your day was, try to keep your reply short. If they want to know more, they’ll ask. And by all means, then tell them. But, tempting as it might be, don't let your business take over your dinner conversations every time you sit down with your family. And make time to sit down for a meal with them.
It’s a good idea to find a support group of other like-minded entrepreneurs who you can talk to about your business all day and night, so you don’t sound like a broken record at home. There are inventors groups across the country. You can find one near you on the USPTO.gov website. LinkedIn is another great resource for networking and camaraderie.
2. Maintain other interests. If you don't, you will quickly become very boring to your partner and kids. Read the news. Have a hobby or two. You need to be able to share and discuss other interests and topics besides your business with the people you love. Not to mention, this will help you maintain your sanity.
Make time. And then fully enjoy the time you spend enjoying those activities. This piece of advice has been particularly hard for me to take to heart, but I found a way to fit it into my own life. For example, playing basketball several times a week in a league not only gave me something else to talk about, it helped me de-stress.
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3. Take breaks. I know how hard this is for people like us. I’m often tempted to work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, but I’ve learned that my business actually improves when I take time off because I’m able to maintain my sense of self -- and my sanity. So please, have dinner with your family. Go to social events in your community. And if you take a vacation, turn off your cell phone and computer, even if it's only for a few days or a chunk of time. You’re not going to reap the benefits of taking time off if you don’t actually take time off. These days, it’s easier than ever to stay connected to your business, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing.
4. Share your vision with your spouse or significant other. You’re going to need all the support you can get, and communication is key. Plan ahead together so you don’t risk your family’s long-term financial goals. No one likes surprises.
And please, have a sense of humor! If something goes wrong, be able to laugh about it -- preferably, together. Because things will go wrong. Often.
I’m very fortunate that I married the right woman. She’s helped me through all of my endeavors. I have struggled with balancing work and home life for as long as I’ve been an entrepreneur, but every day I realize more and more how important it is to try. I think it’s absolutely worth the effort. Try to stop and smell the roses along the way, even when things get tough. It doesn't hurt to get a bunch for your wife too, while you're at it.