Be A Better Entrepreneur: Be A Little Selfish

2011-06-15

Some Background

Several weeks ago I listened to a commencement speech by Chris Sacca (@sacca) that he gave to the Carlson School of Management. Many of the things that he said in this have stuck, but I don’t want to talk about all of the awesomeness contained within the speech (you should watch it for that). I instead want to pick out one thing in particular: playing offense.

As an entrepreneur, it is easy to find something to keep you busy no matter the time of the day. In fact, you usually don’t have to try that hard if you’re running a business–stuff to be done practically adds itself to your schedule (and if it doesn’t, others will–thanks, email!). I know this feeling of being busy all too well–I have always felt in my heart that I was an entrepreneur, and so I began pursuing that in 7th grade when I did computer consultation for my neighbors as well as a local insurance company. At the same time, I am someone who is very proud of his grades and dedicated to his formal education, so I was a middle schooler with the task of balancing business with school while still being able to excel in both.

To make the point that I am coming to hopefully make sense, I need to mention an aspect of my childhood: I was a pretty chubby kid. However, I never lied to myself about this–I admitted it to myself, and there were some to pick on me just in case I didn’t manage the self-realization. A couple of times throughout the years, I had started to exercise a little bit, and then realized that I was far too busy for that–there was always more school and business work to fill my schedule, so I wanted to take care of that first. In my mind, I could always come back and revisit my weight later, but making the most of my education and running the business were things that needed to be done now.

Be A Little Selfish

Unfortunately, and I did not realize it so much then, but even by focusing on the business I had co-founded as well as my own education, I wasn’t really thinking about myself, because if I were, I would have known that my health was much more important. I was not being selfish.

Having reflected on Chris’ speech, and knowing myself that getting into shape is something I need to do, I have recently started exercising again, but this time with a vigorous commitment. I bike every day, without fail, no matter what else my schedule has in store, and I have to say: I love it!

What’s changed?, you might be thinking, did you suddenly get un-busy?. The answer to that is a resounding no: I’m busier than ever before with the launch of QR Card Us and another service that we have yet to publicly announce. However, I have realized that in order to be a true success–and I mean more than just with the business, which I already consider a success as we have been able to help so many people, but rather to be successful in life as a whole–I need to be physically healthy now, not later. I need to play offense with my entire life, not just with the business.

The Benefits

This seems like an obvious one: I get to be get physically fit. I haven’t been doing this long enough to really see that benefits yet (though I am confident I will!), but I have to mention an immediate change: I am so much more mentally agile, and it feels good.

Although the exercising takes a precious chunk of time out of my schedule, I am much more productive with the rest of my time–I think more clearly and I want to code even later into the night. I noticed this just last night: around 2am I was going to break from work to play a game, but I was suddenly having so much more fun than I ever have before with what I was doing that I kept procrastinating with my gaming, instead telling myself that I “just need to write one more function,” and then another, and another, and then it was 5am–a game-free night with tons of productivity to show for it.

(PSA: don’t think that you can add exercise or anything else to your schedule and offset it by staying up later–sleep is still highly important for everyone, especially entrepreneurs that desire to be successful, so try for a good amount. I just tend to schedule my work later into the evenings so I can stay up late and ‘sleep in’.)

Succinctly: although I take a measly hour or so out of my schedule to exercise, during the rest of the time I am so productive because of the mental benefits that I more than make up for this relatively small time commitment. If you really want to be harsh on yourself though, know that exercising is not “wasted time"–the time that I spend exercising is also time that I spend away from the keyboard thinking about the future, how to handle changing market conditions, and even getting ahead of myself by picturing just how awesome this new service is going to be once launched.

Why Wait?

I was originally going to wait until I was physically fit so that I could post a blog entry like this–maybe even show a before/after picture. I mean–why should you listen to someone relatively hasn’t been doing this for too long? I don’t have a really good reason for that, although I can attest for the success of this commitment in my own personal happiness.

So, while it might make more sense that I should wait until there are better proven results from my commitment, I have been thinking: why wait? I’m currently playing offense with my life, and I think a lot of other entrepreneurs should join me now in this–not later. It doesn’t have to be exercise, especially if you’re one with a fabulous metabolism with little effort (curse you!), but anything: take music lessons like you may have always wanted to (I recently started doing just that), practice a skill unrelated to your work, or just do anything that makes you feel like a more complete person. I promise that it will reflect positively both in your ability to run your business and in your personal happiness.

But, it’s hard!

I will be the first to admit, that being selfish and focusing on yourself is a very tough thing for an entrepreneur to do, so I encourage you to have someone else there to keep you in line. Personally, I exercise with my best friend/business partner/mom, so if I’m not feeling like going, she pressures me into it anyway, and vice-versa. The person you use for support does not even need to be directly involved: I share information from my music lessons with my parents so that I know that if I fail to go to a lesson, I’m not just letting myself down, but I’m also letting them down.

So, I guess my real message here is that when you play offense, remember to be a little selfish and keep yourself in mind, because it will ultimately benefit the entire team.

If you have any personal stories of your own to share, or just want to chat, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment here or tweet me @sch. I want to also thank Chris so much for having given that commencement speech, and Carlson for posting it on YouTube. It is one of the most inspirational things I have heard in years, and I suspect it will stay near the top of that list for the duration of my life.

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michael schade

I built out engineering and operations teams at Stripe as employee #20 from 2012 to 2019; now I'm working on something new. I like helping people, photography, reading, gym, traveling, and learning new things. Say hi! 🏳️‍🌈