One of my favorite books in the Bible is Ecclesiastes. Written by Solomon, the King of Israel, it discusses life’s true meaning. Despite being written 3,000 years ago, it applies amazingly well to startup founders today. King Solomon had it all. He successfully built great projects including Jerusalem’s first temple, planted vineyards, had gardens, parks, gold, silver, servants, harems, entertainers, and much more. He was considered a very successful king and ruled during the golden years for Israel. But he struggled over what having such great success was all for and why it didn’t make him happy. He referred to his success, work, and treasures as all meaningless.
“…My heart took delight in all my work,
And this was the reward for all my labor.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
And what I had toiled to achieve,
Everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
Nothing was gained under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 2:10-11
Like Solomon, as a founder I’ve struggled with the meaningless act of “chasing after the wind.” I believe we were made to build things and work, but when building things and work becomes our obsession, it begins to define us and affects us negatively. The process of chasing wind occurs naturally; the more success we create, the more fun working and creating becomes. This dynamic starts to snowball, and we obsess over our startups more and more. Soon, priceless life pursuits such as watching your kids grow up, playing sports, exploring, reading books, and spending time with family take a back seat. And eventually, success and creation begin to feel meaningless—chasing after the wind.
Which brings up my main point: How do we passionately pursue our entrepreneurial aspirations and also life’s other gifts at the same time? Here are four suggestions to make life meaningful instead of meaningless.
1. Remove email from your mobile device. When email accounts could be added to your mobile device, we considered it a practical advantage that could make us more efficient. But we ignore the negative, which is that we look at it all the time, and it becomes a constant reminder of work issues. To my mind, the negative outweighs the positive, so this past summer, I removed all email from my iPhone. My stress level has clearly been reduced since then. Do the same, at least when you’re on vacation!
2. Work less than 50 hours per week. “To be successful as an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to work your butt off – nights and weekends!” is one of the most overrated entrepreneurial platitudes out there. Don’t believe it. To be successful, you don’t necessarily always have to work long hours; you have to choose a profitable business model, sell your butt off, and work smartly.
3. Pursue passions. Hobbies are side items in our thoughts; passions are obsessions in our thoughts. So, instead of daydreaming about work all day, daydream about your passion. Try to become “hooked” on things outside of work such as your relationship with God, exercise, art, music, golf, fishing, tennis, reading, or volunteering. Pursue them with gusto! Having passions will encourage you to daydream more about those things, rather than work-related issues.
4. While traveling for work, explore the area you’re visiting. When I travel, I try to make the most of each place I visit. First thing I do is go for a jog or walk to truly see the town or area. I nestle into a local coffee shop and return emails. I find local places to eat. I pursue local events and local things to do. I basically try to take a vacation while working. Not ashamed. I might not get as much work done on the road, but hey, you only live once, and I haven’t regretted it so far.
King Solomon was known for being blessed by God and the wisest man who ever lived. With that in mind, I say we take heed to his advice!
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