When I think of a billionaire the first image that comes to mind is that of Scrooge McDuck. An image of someone who has earned a big fortune through hard work, but lost the most important treasures along the way: his friends, family, and good will.
Traditionally this is what business has been about. After all, check out Donald Trumps long string of ex-wives (at least he didn’t chop off their heads like Henry VIII). I challenge you to count the successful entrepreneurs who have been able to maintain a healthy work-life balance. And it’s not only entrepreneurs who are affected. Pretty much everyone who wishes to climb the corporate ladder needs to submit to deadly working hours and enough stress to turn the once friendly bloke into a zombie robot.
But this is about to change. There is a small revolution on the way.
What inspired me to write this post was an e-mail message I received from Shane a few days ago. In that email, he said something that I haven’t been able to get off my mind. It’s a simple, but yet so profound thought: “I can take other people with me”.
What a testimony of a new way of looking at the business world!
It’s a testimony of a new world order in which business is not only about money, but about doing what you love, with the people you love. About a new world in which business means doing something good to the community, and feeling good about yourself. And a world in which you can surf every day – even if you aren’t Kelly Slater (apparently he’s the most successful
professional surfer in the history of surfing – thanks, Wikipedia).
In this new world, there are four things that you should keep with you on your way to the top: Your family, your friends, the world around you, and most importantly, yourself.
Bring your family with you.
To your kids, you are one of the two most important people in the whole world, their mom and dad. Can you say that about your boss or your colleagues? I doubt it.
That’s why leaving your family behind when building your business is the biggest mistake you can make. People at their death beds never wish they had worked more. What they say they wish is that they would have spent more time getting to know their kids and building the relationship with their spouses.
My family is the biggest reason I strive for entrepreneurship: If I am the one in charge of my working hours, I can plan my time and work place so that there is always room for my little son. That’s a focus I never want to lose.
Bring your friends with you.
Shane and Peter, for example, are best friends. There is something overwhelming about that thought. When you work with your best friend, work is much more than just putting eight hours in every day.
When you work with friends, your work and life get mixed together. But not in the traditional “work so much that you forget about your life” kind of way.
That’s what the new way of doing business means to me: treating people well, staying as friends, and making new friends.
(little insert from Shane:) There is a great joy in life in seeing your friends succeed. While personal achievement is incredible gratifying, nothing beats being able to share it. We are going to El Salvador in February for a business retreat. Right now 10 of our closes friends, who we happen to do business with are coming. It would be cool to go alone. Having earned the financial ability together by mutual support, which enables us all to be able to go, makes it that much more precious. After all, when you are rich and free, don’t you want someone to play with?
Bring your world with you.
When you buy in to the idea that entrepreneurship is about more than just money, you begin to see that there are countless opportunities for you to do the right thing.
The right thing can mean many different things: 37 Signals does the right thing by treating their employees well (they only work four days a week during the summer – how cool is that?) and sharing their knowledge and experience with the rest of us for free. Internet entrepreneur Collis Ta’eed does the right thing by organizing the yearly Blog Action Day. MyC4 does the right thing by enabling regular people to invest in African small business.
The ranks of small businesses doing the right thing are even larger: They save on paper. They cut unnecessary business trips. They support fair trade.
This is real power that can change the world.
Bring yourself with you.
But most importantly, bring yourself with you. Don’t let your business transform you into a money eating zombie that works days in days out just mumbling the mantra of “do your work first, have fun later”.
This is your one and only life, and it’s a fragile one.
It’s true that you need to do your work if you want to be successful. But make sure that you’re only doing the things that match your values and support your larger than life goals. Stay focused and work smart instead of just working hard to be appreciated by your boss.
Go surfing every day, if that’s what makes you shine.
Spend time with your wife.
And last but not least, work on something you love.
That’s when the new world order starts tipping into reality.