Finding a Balance in Fear as an Entrepreneur

June 30, 2013

10:00 am

Before I started my first company, I didn’t believe in stress. I genuinely thought people just complained a lot. Then, I racked up a $100,000 American Express bill from overspending without tracking my advertising, and I became a believer in work-related stress.

The saying goes “If you’re not scared, you’re not doing it right.” My first real experience of stress and fear in business was a result of mistakes I made, but I’m glad it happened or I wouldn’t have succeeded as an entrepreneur.

The only way to make monumental leaps in growth is to put your business on the line and learn to tolerate a healthy dose of fear. But you don’t want to let your personal well-being suffer, or your business may not last. Stress can drive you to get important tasks done, but leading a healthy and balanced life benefits you much more.

Balance Your Personal Well-Being

Although everyone knows that eating well and exercising are important, many people fail to make these things a priority. They don’t realize that focusing on a healthy lifestyle will benefit any business indefinitely. With better sleep and nutrition, you’ll be more focused and more productive during the workday, and you’ll also be able to use your time away from work more effectively.

I couldn’t run a business if I didn’t feel healthy. This means that a fair amount of my schedule each week is devoted to exercise. People might say that this takes away from time I should devote to work, but it makes me healthier — both psychologically and physically — so I can handle the potential stressors that land on my desk every day. When you get stressed, you carry that with you outside of work, and it affects other areas of your life.

Good health during the day is closely related to good sleep at night. Every time someone confides in me about his difficulty in finding restful sleep at night, I soon learn that he doesn’t exercise enough. I exercise at least once a day, and I never have trouble sleeping. Sleep is grossly underrated. When you sleep well at night, you have more energy and focus during the day, and everything feels more manageable.

The Balancing Act

Just as you must make an effort to balance your health priorities as an entrepreneur, you must also learn how to strike a good balance between the manageable dose of fear that comes from taking calculated business risks and the constant stress that eats away at your health. Here are three tactics you can use to improve your life and keep work stress at bay:

Track Metrics. Track metrics such as revenue, gross profit, and advertising spending on a daily basis. This will help you spot discrepancies or issues long before they become debilitating problems for your business. This leads to better business results and offers you peace of mind.

Make Yourself Less Available. I’m notorious for not being attached to my phone and laptop. I hire people I trust to be competent and creative enough to solve problems on their own. When I don’t answer every text or call immediately, it gives them an opportunity to resolve urgent issues without my help. This is counterintuitive for many people, but it’s better for you to focus on other things when you can — and for your employees to become more self-sufficient.

Don’t Check Email after 7 p.m. The exact time might vary from person to person, but several hours before you go to sleep, you need to shut your laptop and forget about work for the night. I hate when I slip up on this — there’s always an email about a problem. When I see it, I either end up working on a resolution for several hours, or I worry about it all night. Either way, I lose sleep, which we’ve already established is bad for your business. It’s OK to refuse to let work issues affect your nights.

Use Fear to Your Advantage

I don’t agree with Donald Trump’s belief that you should focus on revenge in business, but it’s not a bad thing to instill a healthy fear of your company in your competitors. Fear and stress can go both ways, and a strong competitive advantage is good for three reasons:

1.  If your competitors know they can’t treat you like other companies, they’ll be less likely to sabotage your marketing efforts or attempt to defame your brand.

2.  If your competitors are afraid of your brand power, they’ll be less likely to try to directly compete with you, which helps your business.

3.  If your competitors fear your business’s drive to excel, they might leave the market completely, resulting in less competition and higher margins for you.

You need a healthy level of fear and stress to succeed as an entrepreneur, but if you’re too full of anxiety, your stress can paralyze your business. Finding balance for yourself moves your business forward and keeps it standing long enough to see the risks pay off. Make some changes and see the results: When you’re leading a healthy life, your body and mind aren’t the only things that will benefit.

Matt Clark is a serial entrepreneur, author, speaker, and health and fitness enthusiast. He is an entrepreneurial thought leader, and he founded a multimillion-dollar product distribution business enterprise. He welcomes anyone to reach out to him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+.

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