Entrepreneurs Spend Too Little, Once They Personally Reflect on It
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I used to accept the fatalistic ritual inherent to entrepreneurship: tireless days followed by the sleepless nights, most notably marked by the seemingly endless staring at the ceiling. After all, I put my family’s capital and reputation on the line every day.
A common theme in business literature is that risk-taking is an inherent characteristic of today’s entrepreneur. The real “r” word vital to entrepreneurship is “responsible.” Owning a business means being responsible beyond my paycheck. I am responsible for the full time employment status of 27 individuals and being accountable for the direct impact that it has on their family’s well being. Beyond what appears on their tax returns, I am also responsible for their professional development, their career growth and most importantly, their happiness.
Subsequently, the responsibility-induced insomnia wreaked havoc on me for years. That all changed when I recently read the opening paragraph of Richard Dawkins’s Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder.
“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?”
This passage, which speaks to the game of existential roulette that landed on me in the set of nearly infinite alternatives, catalyzed me to an oft-overlooked “r” word also vital to entrepreneurship: reflection.
I have admittedly been operating at a frenetic, if not manic, pace for nearly a decade. As the company has grown, there has been a tremendously diminished role for quality leisure downtime not just with my friends and family, but also internally for myself.
I now take a few minutes every night to reflect on and acknowledge not only the good things that happened at work that day, but in a far more rudimentary yet profound sense, I appreciate the mere opportunity to exist in spite of the sheer number of coincidences that had to occur. That I can make a positive difference in the lives of those who work for me and have our monogrammed gifts be part of the life’s celebrations of our clients is an unnecessary, but welcomed, addition to an already wonderful outcome.
It is this dose of gratitude that enables my restful sleep at night.