Back when I was a young entrepreneur, I spent nearly every waking moment working on my startup. There was always more I could do, so I shunned time with friends thinking it “wasteful” and “unproductive.”

How wrong I was.

Seeing friends regularly provides as much happiness as an extra $97,000 per year in earnings. Tweet This Quote

The science of positive psychology has taught us a lot about the importance and power of friendship. A study in the UK showed that seeing friends regularly provides as much happiness as an extra $97,000 per year in earnings.

“Yes Chris,” you might say, “But $97,000 is chump change in comparison to the good I’m trying to bring about in the world. Taking that time away from my company would be selfish.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The work of performance psychologist Jim Loehr has established that business athletes are like sports athletes. We’re more productive when we alternate focused sprints and recovery time, rather than when we try to gut out 100-hour weeks. Meanwhile, K. Anders Ericsson’s work on deliberate practice shows that while greatness requires 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, it’s almost impossible to spend more than four hours per day on deliberate practice because of the intensity of focus it requires.

We’re more productive when we alternate focused sprints with recovery time. Tweet This Quote

What’s really selfish is closing yourself off from the relationships that matter and the people who care about you.

“I hear you loud and clear Chris,” you could concede, “But I’ve got a great idea—what if I focus on friendships with fellow founders? They’ll understand my challenges and be better able to help me.” It’s certainly helpful to have friendships with people like you. But it’s also important to have friendships with people who live very different lives.

Frans Johansson, the author of “The Medici Effect” and “The Click Moment,” has written about how much innovation stems from “intersectional” thinking that combines two or more cultures or disciplines. Talking through your problems with fellow founders will feel good and help you follow what received wisdom considers best practices. Talking through your problems with friends outside of the entrepreneurial world will take longer and feel less comfortable, but these conversations will thus create unique innovation.

Greatness requires 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, but it’s almost impossible to spend more than 4 hours on it per day. Tweet This Quote

Today, I’m still an entrepreneur, but I’m also older and wiser. I make time to talk with my friends, and it doesn’t even have to cut into my work hours. For example, I can call my East Coast friends on my drive in to work in the morning and my West Coast friends on my drive home at night. Giving myself the chance to recover from the marathon of work leaves me more energized and productive.

I share my challenges with fellow entrepreneurs and people from the startup world, but I also talk with friends who are doctors, lawyers, teachers, and more. Not only does this help strengthen my relationships, but it also gives me insights that those who take a more blinkered approach tend to miss.

When’s the last time you spoke with a close friend from outside your industry or the startup world? Do you have close friends whom you’re starting to drift away from because talking with them doesn’t serve a “business” purpose? How many old friends can you reconnect with in the coming week?

What’s really selfish is closing yourself off from relationships that matter and people who care about you. Tweet This Quote

Update: Since this piece came out, we’ve seen a number of high-profile suicides in the tech world. The pressures of entrepreneurship, especially when things aren’t going well, are intense. And while many entrepreneurs are willing to share the good times with fellow entrepreneurs, they’re highly reluctant to share just how dire their startup’s situation might be. Having friends outside the startup world is a key way to combat this pressure—your old friends don’t give a damn how your metrics look, or who’s dropped out of your latest round. They just give a damn about you, which is far more important.

This post originally published in August 2013. It has been updated and reposted to inspire further conversation.

About the author

Chris Yeh

Chris Yeh

Chris is the VP Marketing for PBworks, partner at Wasabi Ventures, and an avid startup investor and advisor. He is also a co-author of The Alliance and serial tech entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.

  • laurenkraft

    Thank you for this post. I really needed this reminder. Sometimes I get so focused on my work and school life that I never make time for my friends. I usually put them on the back burner. How do you go about balancing a lifestyle of focusing on work yet still keeping your positive friendships?

  • Mcgrailkk30

    I couldn’t agree more. Family and friends are more important than any business, career, or hobby. These are the people who were there for you in the beginning and will continue to be there for support. They are an essential team of support for you and can help keep you from getting burnt out. Spending time with people who have different interests or careers as you keeps things interesting. But my big question is, how do you deal with family or close friends who don’t support you in what your doing?

  • Very well put. I couldn’t have agreed more. I love it when you say “It’s certainly helpful to have friendships with people like you. But it’s also important to have friendships with people who live very different lives.” The people who live a different life from you, coming from a distinct background and who have experienced different things are the ones who keep you grounded. My good friends are all from a very different background and I love that about them! Thank you for sharing!

  • pinsolera

    Thank you for posting this great article Mr. Yeh. I absolutely agree with the fact people need human contact and periodic rest in order to function properly and have optimum performance. During long hours of school work, I used to gut out six hour study sessions. Now, I get up periodically, but I review much more and balance my school work with track and field workouts and social.

  • treehugger90

    Love the article! I know I am guilty of this because I haven’t contacted my best friend since Christmas. Both her and I are so caught up in school and work, we never try to contact each other. Your article makes me want to call her and see if she wants to do something. I agree totally that you have to bring your love ones into your life to help prevent burnout! I need to listen to this more because I forget to do it myself!

  • justinAKmulligan

    Thank you Chris! I have found myself doing exactly what you are warning against in this article of yours. I understand how important friendship is and the grounding effect it has on one’s life. One truly needs to be careful to not alienate themselves from those they care about and whom care about them. Thanks again for the reminder!

  • alemoin1

    I really like this article. It really brings up an approach to an issue that is not always seen. This can be very valid and many of our everyday actives. There has to be a balance in our life or we will not be able to continue with our goal.

  • Jessica White

    I really enjoyed this article. This whole concept can be simplified to the occurance when your brain freezes up and can’t think of a word. You can think and think about it for hours, attempting to force the word out of the back of your mind but nothing works. If you take the break, like you suggested, or talk to a friend outside of the workplace, eureka! It’s like magic, the lightbulb appears over your head and word is there. It isn’t healthy to constantly have stress on your shoulders, work all day and all night and have no break in sight. (Not trying to rhythm, but it happened to work that way) Take a break, go out with a friend, go to bed early. Great advice for the busy person, no matter who you are.

  • Jessica White

    I really enjoyed this article. This whole concept can be simplified to
    the occurance when your brain freezes up and can’t think of a word. You
    can think and think about it for hours, attempting to force the word
    out of the back of your mind but nothing works. If you take the break,
    like you suggested, or talk to a friend outside of the workplace,
    eureka! It’s like magic, the lightbulb appears over your head and word
    is there. It isn’t healthy to constantly have stress on your shoulders,
    work all day and all night and have no break in sight. (Not trying to
    rhythm, but it happened to work that way) Take a break, go out with a
    friend, go to bed early. Great advice for the busy person, no matter
    who you are.

  • kreynol3

    I really like this article because it brings to light a very serious problem that I don’t think most people realize occurs in their lives. It is so important that people implement self care into their lives, including hanging with friends, because they really will burn out. This especially occurs in such a demanding profession, such as social entrepreneurship. That being said I feel like it gets even harder when you are working on an issue that really has to deal with oppression because it can be very wearing.

  • hmcavey

    The importance of friendship and relationships are so under valued in the construction of the American dream. We work hard to get what we want but in the process lose sight of what we also must hold with high regards, human contact. Feeling isolated and alone completely wipes out any feeling of success to me. You have no one to share it with on that personal level. Thank you for continuing to share the importance of relationships!

  • priperotti

    I completely agree with you! Our definition of success is to achieve our goals, but what good is it if there is no some supporting you or seeing your progress? Feeling alone is worst thing ever, specially when you want to celebrate something or tell someone the what awesome goal you have accomplished.

  • ZecCepeidaConner

    This is completely true. Finding balance in life and succeeding in what you want but still keeping together a well rounded life will lead to more success and greater happiness in the long run. As the old saying goes, good things come in moderation.

  • Skowronssj06

    I love this article! Staying in touch with family and friends is an important thing when you are on your journey through life. I have a lot of school ahead of me and I know I will not have a very big social life when I get into medical school but I know I need to keep in touch with everyone. If all I do is study and work I will burn-out, so by staying in touch and taking breaks will prevent this.

  • Michael Diaz

    This article is very good. Staying focused on success but at the same time having fun while doing it is important. We all need breaks from hard work now and than.

  • amberbrandimore

    I really like the message of this article! It is so important to keep connections with people outside of business. Just talking through things with people outside of your immediate situation, and discussing other topics can make you remember that there are far more important things in the world.

  • HelpHealth002

    Thanks for writing this article Chris. I think this is something all entrepreneurs should read. I like the points you brought up because I think this is something all too many entrepreneurs do. They get extremely invested in their careers that they neglect other areas of their lives. Friendships are extremely important for your overall well-being and happiness. When your happy, your also more likely to approach problems in a more positive way, so don’t give up on friendships! They can help entrepreneurs more than many would think! Did you have friends that helped support you when you were starting out in your career?

  • knapprl17

    Thank you for writing this. I believe that this applies to people who aren’t entrepreneurs as well. As an extremely busy college student, I tend to only talk to the people I live with, my teammates and the people I see in class everyday. I have not been making time for other friends that do not directly have an impact on my life at the moment. Your article helped me realize that I need to take some time out of my schedule and spend time with people that I do not get the opportunity to see everyday. In the long run spending time with other people is going to help me from burning out.

  • jacob shingles

    connections are essential for entrepreneurship.

  • Spencer SooSeok Kang

    I like this idea a lot. thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Glassborow

    Thank you for this article, I definitely believe for every person, entrepreneurs or not, you need to always make sure you keep in contact with your friends and companions, there’s nothing worse than being lonely. I know that I would get pretty depressed if all I did was work and then if I did have a couple of hours to spare I had no one to talk to or spend time with. Spending time with people is not only great for socializing, it’s also just a great way to relax.

  • mywa4360

    If only I had read this at the beginning of college. I think the truest point in this article is when Yeh speaks of how we strive to give ourselves “false feelings of productivity”. It is far better to sprint, focusing intently, then simply seeing the hours tick by and think that we are productive because the computer screen is opened to our task. Google is the most productive work environment, and one of the top companies in the world for a reason: The employees are happy. We need to take the time to spend time with people who make us happy, for that will only channel into our work.

  • Tawni Meyer

    I agree, knowing this would have helped me a lot my first two years of college. I had to figure out this system in a harsh way. I had to learn to make time for friends and passions. When I just did work and school I felt burned out and exhausted. Learning to balance friends, passion and schools is extremley important!

  • lrodri38

    This article is very true in so many different aspects. I do not think this only applies to entrepreneurs. This could apply to anyone who consumes their life with work or school. Being an entrepreneur does not only apply to a business aspect, but also being an entrepreneur of your education. You go to school and your bring school home with you. You need to balance your life with friendships and relationships, or like the article said, “you’ll burn out.” You do not want to close yourself off from relationships because they are there to help you. Yeh makes a great point, you do not need to let these friendships get in the way of your work hours. Call and get together with people when you’re free, you always need a mental break to recharge. Great article.

  • Tim Aton

    This really hits home for me. I definitely know the feeling. I think it is great advice to actually plan time away from the business. Not only will it prevent you from burning out, but often, I come back with new ideas and innovations. You won’t come up with new ideas from behind a desk. Get out there and live the life you are trying to build for yourself with that business.

  • Skalahe13

    This applies to anything in life. You are going to burn out so much faster if you let that one thing consume you. You are more productive after taking breaks and refocusing than you would be by keeping at the same thing. Not to mention you lose all your friends because you neglect them.

  • byrnesbk24

    this is so interesting because we are talking about this in one of my classes; “Stress Management”. I found it interesting to learn that once you have been “burnt out” there is a 90% chance that it will happen to you again. Has anyone ever experienced this? I think almost all have. Sometimes when i feel myself getting burnt out i know to stop and take a break. My body just tells me “hey your exhausted” and I literally cant go on anymore with out taken said break. If I don’t catch it quick enough I normally end up getting sick which is just more more crap on top of everything else.

  • nbaker3

    Work psychology is interesting from a standpoint of what you are not doing at work. With work, you develop business relationships that are ultimately shallow. With real friends you can communicate stress in a way that makes you think about it (rather than laugh it off with employees.)

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  • Travis Mattice

    Awesome article. I think that the points you made about spending time with friends and people of other interests is very important. I think that burnout happens all the time to many people and I think that I can be easily fixed. Just take some time away from work. Not only are you letting yourself unwind but you might be helping your friend/s do the same thing. Seems like a win win to me. Thanks for sharing.

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  • Ashley Nicole Rietbrock

    Thank you Chris for sharing this great article with us I really enjoyed it. As a college student we get overloaded with homework and exam. Sometimes I get caught up with all the exams and homework that I dont make time for friends or have some fun. Then when I do sometimes just sitting there relaxing I come up with some of the best ideas for my papers or I figure out the the problem that I was struggling on. Then at night before bed it is just nice to unwind with them talk about how there day was and see what is going on. I can relate to this article through my college years. Thank you again for sharing this article with us.

  • Julia

    Wow, the fact stated at the beginning of this article stating friendships as much happiness as an extra $97,000 per year in earnings. A raise like that would make someone feel on top of the world and can do so much for us. It shows how valuable friendships are. It’s difficult to keep relationships, especially when you’re tied up with school and work. My boyfriend revolves his life around work and sometimes I feel like I’m the only person he has outside of work (besides his family). Some people value work so much that they forget about the people that was just as important as work. I think the struggle of time and our busy lifestyles come into play here as well. I can agree that everyone does need friends outside of work.

  • FalkinerRR23

    I agree with you. After taking breaks and refocusing on what you want to accomplish could also lead to new ideas and better ideas.

  • McKenzie Foster

    I agree with you. I enjoyed this article because I experience burnout all the time with all the homework and practice and then trying to balance a social life. Its hard to try to do everything and not get burned out. It is acceptable to just stop for some time and take a break from everything and then get back on the grind.

  • Ashley Nicole Rietbrock

    Ya it is very hard in college with depending on how many classes a person is taking. Especially now with finals are coming out it is very hard for me to not get burned out and to get the energy to get some of my stuff done. I just cant wait for this semester to be over.

  • Ryan Dow

    We were talking about burnout in class. These methonds are a great tool to use. Even more so because I’m a college student and an athlete.

  • Radaya123

    I agree. Incorporating friends into relaxation time adds happiness, energy, and rejuvenation to yourself and in turns makes you more productive, ready to take on task.

  • Kyle Gettelman

    I do not have many friends that were from a start-up or a business aspect, but there have been a few friends that have drifted out and away from my shoreline. Unfortunately I lost touch with the majority of those, but luckily, I was able to rekindle one of those. And am I sure glad I did. I have alot going on with my life, like school, homework, studying, group projects, papers, full-time work, military stuff (to say the least there), and then trying to maintain relationships. Which seemed to be my least concern, but recently it was jumped up close to the top. This relationship has been able to help me de-stress and not worry about what the future is going to bring because he keeps reminding me of how head-strong I am and encourages me to do the best I can (among everything else).

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  • Jac Williamson

    I’m currently a student-athlete and I was able to apply this article to my life currently as well. Athletes dedicate and commit hours on end to their sport. We are engulfed in the challenge of perfecting our fitness and skills to impact the team’s success, wanting to please our coaches, taking criticism, etc. It can get draining and tiring mentally and physically. At the end of the day, my friends keep me sane. I know I can always go to them to vent, get distracted and have fun, as well as reset. It’s important to have people in your life you can lean on for support and have a good time with.

  • Liam O’Neill

    Hi Chris, I thought you made a few really good points here. First off, as a college student looking to dabble in entrepreneurship a bit down the road, I can certainly relate already to some of these issues. I find myself really focused and attached to my schoolwork and it seems like my friends have grown more and more distant, which bothers me every day. I just can’t seem to break the cycle of working furiously and then keeping to myself/ watching TV and relaxing in order to recharge. Would you have any tips for people like me who at times feel drained and would still like to communicate with friends and family but lack the energy? I’m taking 16 credits right now so sometimes I find myself in a bind when it comes to balancing household responsibility, school, work, leisure, and social life.
    I’ve reconnected with a few of my friends and we talk and message each other online from time to time to stay in touch. I’ve made quite a bit of friends in the past but find myself only communicating with around three on a normal basis, do you think this is a regular amount? I think I could reconnect with a few more in the coming weeks, especially with the break approaching, but most of them have moved on to different schools and live far away (my best friend moved from Florida to New York). I rely on my family to discuss matters related to work/school because I think my friends would rather relax and talk about other subjects to get their mind off things. I think I also share that same mental block as you did originally, where I’m focusing too much on trying to be a perfectionist at everything I do.
    Thank you for sharing this information!