September 2017

Do entrepreneurs ever relax? On a Labor Day weekend, I checked in with a number of entrepreneurs to see what they thought. 

Certainly, the idea of relaxation seems to be counter to the image we all have of entrepreneurs – that they are engaged in an all-consuming activity, 24—7, to the exclusion of everything else.

Some of the people I spoke with didn’t think that an entrepreneur could ever relax. Ed Bersoff, chairman of PFF, referred me to the Merrian Webster Dictionary definition of relax (“to relieve from nervous tension”). He didn’t think he had ever found an entrepreneur who truly stopped feeling nervous or worried about their business. “I don’t think that relaxing exists in the entrepreneur’s vocabulary,” was how Bersoff summed up his thinking on the matter. 

This concept of being consistently worried was echoed by many. Being truly off duty was a risky thing – you might miss out on an opportunity for your business if you took your eye off the prize. Lee Weinstein, founder of the digital design firm Brightfind, summed up this conflict in saying, “sometimes it’s good for an entrepreneur to take time off – but not always!”  

Does the constant struggle for success mean that entrepreneurs can never relax? Perhaps the answer is in how entrepreneurs think about relaxation. 

Eric Koefoot, founder of the media monitoring business Public Relay, believes that entrepreneurs approach relaxation differently. In his experience  people who are not entrepreneurial associate relaxation with coasting and not worrying. “This is not a perspective that most experienced entrepreneurs would endorse, because they know that what is termed ‘relaxing’ is really distancing oneself from the daily push and intensity to gather perspectives.” 

This was a recurring theme. Universally the entrepreneurs I spoke with pointed out that for them, relaxation was not the absence of worry – it was an intentional separation from worry and the substitution of a time with a different activity. For these entrepreneurs, this separation occurred within the context of the entrepreneurial journey. Pat Sheridan, founder of Modus Create, an application development firm, explained it as a checkpoint along the way. “It’s important to make sacrifices,” he said, “but keep in mind when it’s time to pay back those debts to yourself.” 

Overall, my entrepreneurial friends all reinforced the importance of self-reflection. Without the external structure of an employer or job description, the entrepreneur needed to find the time to stop. Entrepreneurs relax, but they don’t do it by chance. 

For my part, in case you wondered, I take breaks in my entrepreneurial journey by playing the guitar. Here’s a song I wrote on the topic of entrepreneurial relaxation. I hope you enjoy it. 

Happy Labor Day.

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