The Six Biggest Small Business Lies – A Countdown: #2

Number 2: Strive for Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is guru-speak. 

Starting your own business will not give you work-life balance even if there were such a thing. If you are grinding it out and thinking it should be more balanced than this because the time management gurus tell you it should, give it up. Grinding it out is exactly what it is. Watch almost anything by Gary Vaynerchuck, but especially “1>0“.

This is number 2 in the count-down of the top six deceptions trotted out in the business world.

People say Gen Y is entitled. Millennials have nothing on people who believe they should have work-life balance. 

Let’s slice and dice this thing here in three easy steps.

‘Work-life balance’ sets up unrealistic expectations

Many people start their businesses with the idea they will be their own bosses. Since they are the boss life will be easier, right? I mean, why would you be an asshole to yourself right? 

Yeah. Sucks to be you. You will be the worst boss you have ever had. Or more accurately, your business will be the worst boss you ever had. Everything is going to be your responsibility, especially at the beginning. Everything is your job. 

This means, since there are only 24 hours in a day, there isn’t going to be work-life balance. There isn’t going to be ‘life’ that isn’t ‘work’. There is only going to be work. If you do decide to embark on this crazy journey you will be so much happier if you start it out knowing your friends are going to wonder where the heck you disappeared to. Your kids are going to get used to watching TV with you working on your laptop. 

A lawyer once told me a story. She was at the dog-park with her 5-year-old daughter and their dog. She was sitting on one of the public benches while daughter and dog played with other dogs and owners. She was working on her phone, answering emails and texts. After a while her daughter came up to the bench and asked “Why are you on your phone? You should be spending time with me now.” 

The lawyer’s response was blunt and accurate. 

“Look around the park, how many of your friends and their parents are here?” 


“Right. I’m here. With you. And I’m working. Because I’m working at my job on my phone I can be here too. Other parents who work at jobs can’t be at the dog park with their kids at all. That’s how this works.”

There isn’t much ‘balance’ in that. Get used to it if you want to grow a business, especially in the first 3 – 5 years. You will have to find ways to weave life in. Technology has made it easier, but you will still have to make difficult choices.

If you want your small business to thrive, expect to work 24/7 for at least a few years. If that is palatable to you, go for it. Your expectations are reasonable and you won’t be crushed when it turns out to be true.

It’s all Work

There’s a part in Keith Richard’s book A Life where he talks songwriting as something he does 24/7. Even high. Even while making love.

If you want to make a go of this you have to accept that it will obsess you. Growing sales, managing cash flow, managing employees, jumping on new opportunities, or being terrified by impending disasters, your mind won’t let go. 

Growing a business is the most complex thing a human being can do. It will ask of you everything you have. It is an unbalanced, unhinged, mad enterprise. There is no balance in it, only an endless amount of work. 

It’s a dangerous deception

Did Picasso think he needed work-life balance? Maya Angelou? Keith Richards? JK Rowling? Why do business owner’s think they are any different than those artists? Their work was or is their lives. There is no distinction. In the lives of the great artists you cannot find a line where work ends and life begins. 

Why should we accept any less?  

The phrase ‘work-life balance’ is a dangerous deception because it accepts a division: our lives consist of two parts.  It suggests to work is something other than to live. 

Reject that split. Embrace joy, delight, reward, beauty, anything but balance. If you need a weekend, a retreat, or a vacation to ‘create balance’ you are in the wrong place. If you are thinking of your work as anything other than your life, get a job.

When you grow a business you are creating something remarkable. That is a life. 

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