My dear friend and the CEO of the Unreasonable Institute, Teju Ravilochan, has often times told a story of Gandhi. Reportedly, a Western journalist once asked, “Mr. Gandhi, you have been working fifteen hours a day for fifty years. Don’t you think you should take a vacation?” Gandhi smiled and replied, “I am always on vacation.”
Being an entrepreneur isn’t about sacrifice, it’s about indulgence. Tweet This Quote
This post is a reflection on this quote and on a conversation I shared with another dear friend of mine and serial Unreasonable Mentor, Pascal Finette.
Several years ago at the SOCAP conference in San Francisco, I had the privilege of sitting down and interviewing Pascal. In the interview, I asked Pascal how he, as a serial entrepreneur and innovator who works around the clock, thinks about the notion of sacrifice.
The question for me was brewing out of a realization that so many entrepreneurs lose friendships, romantic relationships, sleep, money, their reputations, and spending time with those they love most because of how much they obsess over their companies and the problems they are striving to solve with their teams.
If your work feels like sacrifice, you should question everything. Tweet This Quote
At the time, I was also reflecting on a personal decision that I made sophomore year of my undergraduate career. I decided I wasn’t going to ski anymore (takes too much time to spend a full day on the mountain), I wasn’t going to seriously date anyone (takes too much time to have a significant other in your life), and I committed to investing not only every penny I had (liquidated my Roth IRA) but also investing money I didn’t have (I quickly became roughly 400k in debt). It felt like all this could be categorized as sacrifices made towards living a startup life.
When I asked Pascal how he thinks about sacrifice and entrepreneurship, I thought he would agree with the basic assumption that a startup life was filled with sacrifices. Instead, he looked at me for a moment with a blank stare, and then responded in a way I wasn’t expecting.
If your work feels like indulgence, then dive in and give it all you have. Tweet This Quote
He told me I had it all wrong—being an entrepreneur wasn’t about sacrifice, it was about indulgence. It was about diving into the deep end of what you are most passionate about and giving your full self to it. Yes, this was at the mitigation of other things in your life, but it was because you believed so desperately in what you were doing and you loved the work so much.
It could be argued that sacrifice and indulgence are two sides of the same coin. What I’ve learned, though, is if your work feels like sacrifice, you should question everything. If it feels like indulgence, like you believe in what you are doing as much as anything else, then dive into the deep end and give it all you have. Just don’t forget to sharpen your axe along the way.
A version of this post originally published on UNREASONABLE.is on January 21, 2014. It has been updated and reposted to inspire further conversation.