One of my personal crusades is to get entrepreneurs to lighten up a bit.
Most of the ones I meet are driven, motivated by the idea that they’ve either broken or are about to break the code on making money on their own terms… and they’re high on work.
And that’s great. My own career didn’t start until I made a simple vow: “Business before pleasure.” Until that point, I was confused about what kind of discipline was truly necessary to succeed at anything.
If what you’re doing seems really difficult, and isn’t any fun, then you’re probably going after the wrong goal. When you find out what you’re best suited for, even the sweat-and-blood work is fulfilling.
But you still have to temper your obsession with work… with a little recreation. All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy indeed.
I have a little mini-talk I sometimes give at seminars, when there’s time, or when it seems especially appropriate. I call it the “29th Auto Supply Store”: After one especially intense seminar down in Miami, I was relaxing with some friends. Somehow, one of the seminar attendees weaseled his way into a seat at the table.
He was the kind of guy you remember: About 100 pounds overweight, wearing ill-fitting clothes, with a wife who despised him and kids who were strangers. (I know this because he talked incessantly.)
He was also filthy rich. He had 28 auto supply stores, all successful.
Yet, as the rest of us sipped cool drinks at a sidewalk table… watching a topical evening settle upon the beach, with a warm wind rustling the tall palm trees, and a parade of gorgeous barely-dressed women strolling by on the boardwalk… all this guy could talk about was opening up his 29th auto supply store.
I just shut him out, but vowed to keep him in mind. As a lesson against the evil of being a workaholic.
My question is: What are you working FOR? Where is your reward in all this?
I teach people how to become freelance writers. I know all the secrets of getting good, getting connected, and getting paid.
But I also know the secrets of long-term survival. I’ve been at the top of the game for most of the last 20 years, and that’s rare. Almost every copywriter I know has burned out at some point in his career.
I’ll repeat that: Almost every copywriter I know has burned out at some point in his career.
The long, late hours and intense brain power needed to write brilliant copy takes a toll. I actually dropped out of the rat race for a couple of years in the early 1990s, and wrote novels and played in rock bands. I still kept a couple of clients, just to stay sharp… but for the most part, I was taking my retirement early. I would go on six month vacations. Take off for Europe on a moment’s notice.
It’s important to remember what life really is all about.
And it’s not work-work-work.
Anyway, even with my career-long interest in things outside of advertising, I occasionally get caught up in the nonsense. I’ve been working like a dog for the past three months, and barely noticed that summer had arrived.
In fact, I had almost forgotten that several of my oldest friends were coming into town this weekend for a little reunion.
I woke up in the middle of the night, panicked that I just did not have the time to do this fun thing. I’d have to weasel my way out of it, somehow. There just wasn’t time for it.
Today, calmer, I just called everyone and made sure they ARE coming. Screw the workload — at the very worst, I’ll have to pull a couple of late nights next week to make up the lost time.
Calmer, I see that the crush of my current projects are waaaaay overstated in my fevered brain. I’m just overly focused on work.
I’ve let my fun side get flabby.
Not good. It’s July, it’s gorgeous outside, and the long lingering evenings are what makes life worthwhile. Especially with friends.
I shudder to think I almost called it off. The workaholic demons are nasty little creatures who demand everything from you.
But they can be controlled.
Just remember why you’re working so hard. It’s for a better life. The money you’re making shouldn’t be a prison, but a conduit for more fun, more travel, more adventures.
And, at least for me, for more time with old friends.
Today, I am relieved to have remembered why I’m in this business.
And here’s my suggestion to you: Enjoy the sensual aspects of tonight’s long sunset. Even if you only spare fifteen minutes. Just stop fussing, relax and let the wonder soak in.
Life is great. And it’s part of your job to enjoy it.
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