Balance

I made a mistake this weekend – I forgot about balance and paid the price. Actually, it’s not so much that I forgot about it, rather that I neglected to enforce it for myself and I know now that it’s been happening for a while. If there’s one thing that’s certain about these stressful times, with the economy and, for me, with CitySquares being at such an exciting precipice, it’s more important than ever that we all keep a healthy balance in our daily lives. Everyone is a bit more on edge these days than normal. People are inevitably going to be a little short-fused, or edgy. Myself included.

As an entrepreneur, my work tends to take over everything in my life – literally everything. When I hop out of bed in the morning, it’s game time. In fact, I don’t sleep much, because in between sleep phases I’m still gaming. When I sleep, I often dream of work. When I’m in the shower, I’m thinking about CitySquares. My iPhone is only an arm’s length away, always. Throughout the day I’m full-on. When I get home to see my wife, I’m full-on. When I eat dinner, when I watch TV or a movie, when I’m out and about, my mind is spinning about CitySquares. I may fake it well, but I’m constantly working. It takes a lot to bring me back down. Like, horse tranquilizer strength to bring me down.

Now, this is mostly expected from an entrepreneur and founder of a company – it’s actually normal in the world I live in every day. But as it pertains being a human and living out my life, it’s not normal – it’s harmful. It hurts. It hurts my relationships with others, my mental health, emotional and physical health. It’s literally caused me health problems – some I’m watching closely. In very rare circumstances it can affect others, even hurt them.

This weekend I had an eye-opening and very plainly realized that I’m on a path to self-destruction if I don’t correct this right now. I must get back to balance. I have some hobbies that I’ve neglected lately, some friends and family that I’ve neglected, some passions that I’ve ignored. Maybe I need a long weekend away on a beach somewhere. I’m not sure, but I’m going to figure it out fast.

As with everything in life, there must be moderation. And that goes for entrepreneurs too! In this fast-paced, web 2.0, always-connected, get-ahead entrepreneurial way of life it’s so easy to get lost in it all.

I believe it was Buddha who said, “everything in moderation, even moderation.”

‘Nuff said.

Perspective

Today’s New York Times had a brief but attention grabbing article on its cover page titled “In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop.” Greg Sterling responded before the sun came up in Oakland, Om Malik also responded, and Michael Arrington is quoted in the article saying, “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen. This is not sustainable.” It’s truly shocking to me sometimes how so many people I know, or know of, who are also so bright and intelligent, choose to work themselves to … well, to death. Don’t get me wrong, I’m including myself in at least the later half of that statement. I work 90% of the time I’m awake, and I, like Michael Arrington, have a sleeping disorder. I’ve been to neurologists for it and I’ve undergone sleep studies and the doctors ultimately conclude that I need to relax and get into a more consistent sleep schedule. So I’m guilty of it too. But I like to think that I’m getting better at it and that I do have some perspective.

Work can quite literally become one’s life, making the delineation between “work” and “life” nearly undetectable. Many of my own friends and family would say that CitySquares is Ben, and some might dare to say that Ben is CitySquares. Frankly, I find both of those assessments bordering on offensive, but I do understand their perspective.

What drives me might be different from what drives, say, Om Malik. What drives Om might be quite different from what drives Mike Arrington. And as an entrepreneur on my second business, and knowing many other entrepreneurs in varying stages, I can comfortably say that I know what drives me, but I cannot profess to know what drives them.

Over the past few year I’ve learned a good amount about balance too though. Sometimes a death in the family brings you back to earth, or the birth of a child – whatever it may be, but usually a major life event has a way of doing that – giving one perspective. I’d like to think that I don’t need a life event to remind me. Om Malik needed a heart attack to bring him back to earth. I’ve had some of my own personal wake-up-calls that I frequently use to keep my feet on the ground. I am constantly reminding myself that nothing is more important than family and health. And ironically, it’s precisely those two things that I’m working so hard for!

I’ve forced myself into a pattern of a fairly regular sleep schedule, which has significantly lessened the symptoms of my sleeping disorder. I’ve also learned to set time aside for the most important people in my life as well as time for myself. I’ve been practicing turning off the Blackberry, closing the lid on my laptop, taking a deep breath and just – letting go. But if I don’t practice balance, and it does take practice, than I start to forget why I’m doing all this, why I’m working so hard, why I choose this life – rather than this life choosing me.

This blog, Your Suspect, is most often about these very themes – these struggles between my own identity and Self, and my identity as an entrepreneur. I hope that this blog will tell a story one day, a story that I am living and that I plan on sharing with my own child.

I’m reminded of a line from John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy”, Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

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