I’m taking a little break from writing about marketing to hopefully make a few entrepreneurs reflect about the dangers of the lifestyle associated with entrepreneurship.
Tragedy struck my world last week. It’s not the first one. It’s the third one of this sort in the last 15 years.
An entrepreneur I knew, Will, killed himself. I had met him online through some work I had done on a suicide watch program hosted by a popular international online community platform. I had a few conversations with Will about 4 months ago when he started having suicidal thoughts.
On the outside, his employees, partners, friends and even his family would not have suspected for one minute that Will was struggling. He had started what was now a very successful business about 7 years ago. Will had healthy children, an ex-wife who he got along with, a beautiful house, a boat, a cottage, and a few nice cars / sports trucks. Will was involved with charities and worked hard, very hard. He had little time to eat right, exercise, have meaningful talks with his close ones or take more than 3-4 days vacation at once. Will was living the American dream. The ones business magazines are splashing all over their front pages. The one you are expected to have as a successful entrepreneur.
I can assure you there is a flip side to this dream. One you don’t hear often about in Forbes, Times or Canadian Business. It’s the one I got to know in detail in the last couple of decades of mentoring, coaching, consulting and doing suicide watch with hundreds of entrepreneurs.
The one in which many men and, a few women, confided in me. Their thoughts were rarely suicidal, yet they were still suffering.
They thought of themselves as failures as parents or spouses. They often felt alienated from their loved ones.
They felt they were letting their business partners and employees down whenever they thought of taking a longer break. The funny thing here is that I’m talking about 2-3 weeks not months or years.
When things went seriously wrong, and they had to downsize their company, they personally felt like failures. They started questioning if they had a role in society, whether they even mattered or not.
Entrepreneurship is not a cause of suicide. It can, and often does, however generate a lifestyle that exacerbates existing propensities for it. It facilitates addictions and creates conditions that are known contributing factors to suicide.
Not all entrepreneurs feel like this all the time of course. It seems however that most of them will experience some or all of these feelings at some point. The sad part is that almost all of them will keep it to themselves. Can you blame them? We, as a society, don’t want to hear how a successful entrepreneur is miserable. With all that they have. How dare they complain!
If you are just starting out in your business make sure you always keep your physical, mental and emotional well being as priorities. Yes, if you are a solo entrepreneur, this may mean that your company’s growth will be slowed down at times but it’s a choice you need to make. It’s ok. YOU must come first.
If you have been at it for a while assess your current situation. Do you feel fulfilled? Are you nurturing the relationships that keep you happy and balanced emotionally? Are you taking care of yourself physically?
If so, then keep on doing what you have been doing. If not, make this your priority. Start thinking seriously about making some changes. Analyse all the hours you have spent at work last week. Were all of those absolutely necessary? Are you physically healthy? Do you have hobbies or activities that allow you to completely escape your work? Do you have someone to share your business related burden with, like a mentor? Are you spending enough time to nurture the most important relationships in your life?
Entrepreneurship is not a career, it’s a lifestyle. Please, make sure it doesn’t end up killing you.
Entrepreneur suicide
If you need help now, follow one of these links:
Quebec: AQPS
Canada: Provincial hotlines
USA:  Lifeline