Entrepreneurial Spirit or Stress

High energy and optimism drive entrepreneurs to overcome the daily challenges of starting and running a business.  It is drawn from the spirit of achievement.  A belief in winning.  The achiever reflects on the vision supplanted in the back of their mind that reminds them they can do it.  Entrepreneurial spirit motivates. Unfortunately, entrepreneurial stress can be harmful.

Often times I see business owners who fight gallantly and passionately to get their businesses off the ground. Overcoming every obstacle with stamina and vigor.  Then the really hard work begins, as if the launch wasn’t difficult enough.  Selling. Operating. Scaling. Funding. HR, PR and avoiding the ER.

Days begin at 5AM and end around midnight. Sleep is sacrificed in place of getting more done.  Family and friends watch on the sidelines as the entrepreneur climbs to the top.  They are the cheerleaders, sounding boards and allies.  They see the competitiveness to win, so they encourage you more.  You’ve got spirit! You can do it, yes you can!

Our colleagues and advisors rarely say stop or slow down.  Why?  They don’t want to crush the dream.  They want to keep the spirit alive.  Businesses are built with emotions of positive thinking, ambition and heart thumping enthusiasm. They are also built with blood, sweat and tears.  We chant faster, better, more.  We ignore slower, take a breath, and reminders to enjoy the journey.  We convince ourselves we work better under pressure and stress.

As we are conditioned more than ever to reach for the stars, who is telling you to chill out?  It seems counter intuitive to being an entrepreneur.  Is it?  Can you get more accomplished when you are relaxed and well rested?  There are countless studies that prove stress is bad for your health.  It increases heart disease, inflammation, chances of having a stroke, weight gain, and even increases odds of catching a cold.  Relaxation studies show we can counterbalance many of the health risks.  Yet, out of fear of failing, the entrepreneur presses on and tries to do more.

I am reminded of a wise mentor who once said, do you want your epitaph to read “I Worked the Hardest”. Know anyone that has health issues from living stress-free or being well rested and relaxed?  Know anyone with health issues from living in the hyper stress mode, working 18 hour days, not sleeping, and sacrificing all “me” time?

Take this advice from a self-subscribed workaholic, it may be time to relax!  Here are a few ideas on how to get back to the spirit and reduce the entrepreneurial stress.

1.  Remind yourself of the WHY.  Why are you building a business?  Why are you working so hard? Why are you driving yourself and probably your family crazy?  Write down your why and review it daily. If it is for your retirement, for your security, for your family or for your employees, they will all tell you they would rather have a bit more of the relaxed you than a bit more stress.

2.  Turn off the electronics.  We are more wired and connected today.  Checking emails first thing in the morning can create stress before you even get started.  Smartphones, laptops, computers, TVs, off!  Set a schedule for when you will be connected and give yourself the freedom to be off the grid.

3.  Say hello!  Reach out to past colleagues and mentors.  Get together in real time, face to face.  Perhaps they are in the same predicament of being overloaded and overworked and are looking for someone to help give them a reprieve.

4.  Read any good books lately?  No one can argue that reading is good for the mind and soul.  Take 20 minutes a day to refresh your mind.  Give yourself time to escape, explore and grow.

5.  Prioritize.  Do you have a list of priorities?  Take your list and categorize the A list, all which have to be done by a committed deadline.  Next is your B list, those items that are important but are less urgent.  Finally, your C list that captures those tasks that would be nice when completed; however, do not endanger your well-being or put the business at risk.

6.  Escape.  If your business can not survive without you for a weekend, a week or even two, you do not have a sustainable business.  How would an investor perceive your business if it can not operate without you.  In other words, the business is you. Do not believe you are helping your customers, your investors or employees by being the one that makes it all run.  It is bad for business and bad for you.  No one can sustain the pressure of being the sole enterprise.  Delegate and escape.  Force the business to run without you.

If you get to the end of the road and the sign blazes with bright lights that you made it, congratulations.  You did it.  Now, look back and ask was it worth it? Did you enjoy the journey?  If you are still on that journey, stop and breathe.  Relish in the spirit of being an entrepreneur.  Enjoy the growth in your business and your personal experience. Don’t miss out on life to get to the end.

There is no recovery from lost time or relationships.  Make sure it is really the entrepreneurial spirit that is motivating you, not the stress controlling you. Live Long. Be Happy. And Prosper.

A 21st Century War on Women – Really?

Women Work Women Vote

What next, our right to vote? War on Women is Absurd!

Why? Colleagues, friends and family of both genders and all political persuasions continue to shake our heads in disbelief. The dialogue today is stunning.  Shocking. Are we really going to have a “new” discussion about women’s role in society, reproductive rights and ability to think for ourselves?

It is 2012 and the national conversation has centered on several issues that disrespect, disregard and dismiss women.  It started long before a group of men wanted to discuss the government’s role in paying for birth control.  We have been waging this war for over a century.  Recently, it started surfacing again when several state legislators across the country proposed new rules and regulations that would prevent women from getting access to healthcare. Some have succeeded already (Texas, Virginia) and others are still sadly working to limit access and care. (Arizona).

We’ve seen the debate cycle through various forms, all with a strong movement to limit women’s access to affordable, necessary and reliable healthcare. The subtext of it all that seems to be the most shocking is the derogatory tone of the dialogue.  As a women, it says to me “shut up and sit down”.  Really?  Um, no!

I have the ability and can afford to stand up.  What happens with the poor?  Those that don’t have access to women’s healthcare and family planning?  The new discussions go far beyond just limiting birth control and forcing women to have unnecessary ultrasounds to prevent abortions.  No to mammograms, no to ovarian cancer tests.  Access to preventative care that can SAVE lives.  Where is the logic?  If we limit reproductive healthcare, aren’t we going to force more demand for abortions?  Unwanted pregnancies seem to be the impetus for abortion, so wouldn’t access to affordable family planning help prevent abortions?  Virtually all women (more than 99%) aged 15–44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method. Vital and Health Statistics, 2010, Series 23, No. 29.

Aside from the discussion of a women’s right to choose, the bigger and broader debate today is how we got back to this discussion 40 years later?  90 years later for equal rights?  What has changed in the country that puts women’s rights at risk – again?

Some may argue that women took for granted that we achieved equality without the need to make it a protected right.  We assumed we are in control of our own health and well-being.  Women’s health should not be up for discussion.  It’s not political.  Saving lives is not political.  If women did “assume” we were in control, was this an assumption of grand illusion?  It appears so.

Women have fought for rights that men have been granted solely by their gender.  Look at the suffrage movement and fight for the right to vote nearly a century ago.  It appears that our rights should not be taken for granted and the fight is not over.  We must press on.  Future generations of women depend on us.  Women need affordable healthcare.  Women need to be in control of their own bodies.  Women need equal pay for equal work.  Women need the same rights as men. It’s not political.

So, in case it needs to be said, we pay taxes.  And, we vote!  The “War on Women” will continue, there is no doubt.  I am reminded of one of my favorite lines from Dirty Dancing, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”  "Nobody puts Baby in a corner"We won’t put aspirin between our knees.  We won’t accept zealot misogynists and bigots telling us to shut up and be happy with our diamonds and dinners.  We won’t go back to being submissive house help.  Our nation can’t afford it economically and women want more and have proven our place in society!

We are women in the board room, women in political office, women CEO’s, working moms, we are women in every profession.  We are scientists, technologists, chefs and journalists.  We are single moms, we are married women, independent women and women with a voice.  We are rich.  We are poor.  We are fighters.  We protect and we give birth.  Every one came from a mother!  We all exist because of a woman.  So, why the war?

Most importantly, we are the women that vote.  We won’t fight this war for long.  You see, we just assumed it was over.  Women are equal.  Maybe it is time to pass the Equal Rights Amendment that was first proposed in 1923.  Maybe then, the war would be over!  Maybe.