The assumption that all entrepreneurs are workaholics is a fallacy. Here’s why.
Entrepreneurs are a misunderstood bunch. Don’t believe me? Here are a couple of research-backed statistics that might surprise you:
Successful entrepreneurs are typically older, not younger. Many of us harbor the mistaken belief that entrepreneurship is a young person’s game. Look no further than the famous entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley: Mark Zuckerburg, Evan Spiegel, Elon Musk, Larry Page, Steve Jobs, etc. All of these individuals achieved success before turning 30.
However, recent research led by Pierre Azoulay of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology dispels this notion — finding that successful entrepreneurs tend to be middle-aged, not young. “We find no evidence to suggest that founders in their twenties are especially likely to succeed,” say the authors. “Rather, all evidence points to founders being especially successful when starting businesses in middle age or beyond, while young founders appear disadvantaged.”
Entrepreneurs are not as eccentric and/or emotionally stunted as the stereotype suggests. When we think of famous entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerburg, the term “difficult person” may come to mind. Often, the stereotype of an entrepreneur reflects someone who is maniacally focused on their work and is perhaps deficient in other areas of their life.
But research led by Marta Aparicio-Garcia of the Complutense University of Madrid in Spain suggests that the personality profile of an entrepreneur is more balanced than you might think. According to her research, entrepreneurs may even possess advantages in many desirable traits, such as exhibiting more self-confidence, less neuroticism, greater emotional clarity, and a higher degree of ambiguity tolerance.
Another mistaken belief people hold about entrepreneurs is that all they do is work. Some have gone so far as to define an entrepreneur as “someone who works eighty hours a week to avoid working forty.”
While there is truth to the idea that entrepreneurs are more likely to become engrossed in the professional pursuits they are passionate about — and even build their lifestyle around such pursuits — entrepreneurs also take their rest and relaxation time seriously.
Evidence of this fact can be found in research on how successful people choose to spend their time. For instance, one study conducted by researchers at Maastricht University, Harvard Business School, and Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam examined similarities and differences in the way high-net-worth individuals versus non-high-net-worth individuals go about their day. They found that, although millionaires and non-millionaires enjoy approximately the same amount of leisure time, millionaires tend to engage in more active leisure activities (for example, praying, socializing, exercising, engaging in hobbies, and volunteering) while non-millionaires pursue more passive leisure activities (for example, watching TV, napping and resting, and doing nothing). The authors suspect that engaging in active leisure pursuits helps promote life satisfaction. Savvy entrepreneurs probably already know this.
Another key difference discovered by the researchers was that millionaires were more likely to spend time on work activities that offered more personal autonomy (e.g., entrepreneurial pursuits). This, again, was shown to relate to higher life satisfaction.
In other words, there’s a virtuous circle of sorts that entrepreneurs can and should take advantage of. It works something like this: entrepreneurship leads to more job autonomy, which promotes happiness while also giving one the flexibility to engage in active leisure pursuits, which ultimately allows for greater focus and a higher chance of success in one’s entrepreneurial pursuits.
What does this all mean for the Xolopreneur attempting to reconcile his or her desire to take some time off with the belief that time off is time wasted? A couple of things:
Evaluate precisely where this belief is coming from. There’s a time for vacation and there’s a time for hard work. How should we know which to prioritize? A simple exercise adapted from the psychology of goal setting might help. Ask yourself if your desire to prioritize work over vacation is coming from the expectations of others or a belief about how you ‘should’ or ‘ought to’ be spending your time. If so, this may suggest that a vacation is overdue. However, if your desire to prioritize your work over leisure is coming from an honest self-assessment of where you are and where you’d like to get to then postponing your vacation may be in your best interest.
Keep in mind that rest and relaxation are psychological must-haves. Even in the event that you choose to postpone, keep in mind that we all need our share of rest and relaxation. Don’t postpone it indefinitely — it will only serve as a detriment to your long-term goals and aspirations.
As Xolopreneurs, we enjoy many privileges. We have the ability to set our own schedule. Many of us are location-independent in our jobs. Take advantage of these perks. Rent that Airbnb on the Croatian coast. Go do that trek across Iceland next summer. Post up on a beach in Mexico for a month. Nobody’s judging you, especially not in this community!
Mark Travers, Ph.D., is an American Psychologist with degrees from Cornell University and the University of Colorado Boulder. Xolo helps him run his online therapy practice, www.awake-therapy.me, from whatever part of the world he is currently living in.
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