Sir Winston Churchill famously said: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Thanks for the sage advice Sir Winston.
A realist asks: “What if the optimist just hasn’t had time to look up from their computer screen to see the opportunity?” I’m guessing someone else should yell “STOP!” and then point out said opportunity immediately.
So, let that be person me.
Has life as an ecommerce merchant been everything that you dreamed it would be? Or, are you still stuck in the daily grind, head down; sensing in your gut that there’s got to be a better way to work past whatever obstacle you’re facing?
Along with the freedom and excellent reward of becoming your own boss comes enormous stress, an overwhelming sense of responsibility towards your employees and a roller coaster ride of extreme highs and lows as you achieve new milestones and face unexpected setbacks.
Many successful Shopify Plus merchants have learned, by overcoming failures and burnout over the years, that you can choose to enjoy every day as it comes -- even in the midst of your most challenging moments. Or, you can build a business around your dream lifestyle.
I caught up with a few of them to learn how to “live the dream” -- even if you feel like you don’t have time for a life.
Inject a Daily Dose of Dancing
It’s easy to get stuck in the mindset that you must keep working really hard, with no time off now, so you can enjoy your life later. Don’t get me wrong; some people are okay with that. Others prefer to evaluate what you’re doing today to make your life that much better.
It sounds cliche, but your attitude is everything. Mads Timmermann, founder and CEO of Danish Skin Care, takes an optimistic approach: “Ups and downs occur in any business, and I think if an entrepreneur is saying something different, they are lying,” says Mads. “That's why it’s always been important to me to love the [entrepreneurial] journey and try to find the fun parts.”
As a serial entrepreneur who has been running businesses since he was a teenager, Mads argues that it all comes down to how you plan and manage your daily to-do list. Whether he’s working at the office, or when he’s out doing public speaking or standing and mixing skin care products together with his chemist, he always tries to have fun. And his optimism is shared with his team.
“We have a trampoline in the office, and we have a dance break every morning at 11:00 am. I'm not kidding, people. Even when we’re in a meeting, others come in and join us for two minutes, and we have this special "Club can't handle me now" number to which everyone in the office is dancing,” explains Mads.
He says the key is making fun a daily habit. You should also have special triggers or rituals in your life to remind you to keep that habit. Some of his personal rituals, which are always scheduled into his calendar, include:
A weekly “power hour” where he sits down every Sunday with a cup of green tea and sets goals for the next week. He also reflects on the week he and his team just went through and spends time being grateful for both the fun stuff that happened, plus all the struggles because he learned something.
15-minute morning rituals where he asks himself, how to make the day more enjoyable. “A meeting or an unexpected problem can trip me up and kill my good mojo,” he explains. “But I set my intentions to be positive because I'm not in the problem right now.”
- Designated vacation time -- even just for a few days. Often, Mads brings his work with him. “In April of this year I worked for a month in Bali,” he says. “I’m lucky I can do that now, but to be fairly honest it's not like I feel like I'm having a better life now.” Mads believes that even without a seven-figure bank account, you can still be happy eating out once or twice a week, or ordering a pizza and hanging with friends.
His best advice for other ecommerce entrepreneurs is to know what works for you. He likes to take smaller breaks because his work is so intertwined with his daily life. Others might prefer to crush it now and take two weeks off later. “It’s not about what you do; it's about how you think about what you do,” he says.
Make the Vacation Come to Your Day Job
Griffin Thall, co-founder of Pura Vida Bracelets takes a slightly different approach to living a happy entrepreneurial life. In fact, he and his co-founder, Paul Goodman chose to build a business around their desired lifestyle.
Right from the start, Thall and Goodman knew they didn’t want to live the life of a stockbroker -- working around the clock, seven days a week. So, they made sure they could continue to do the things that they love by launching a lifestyle brand with a socially conscious mission, based in San Diego which involves surfing, traveling and supporting local artisans in Costa Rica.
To date, Griffin has travelled to tropical locations like Bahamas, Costa Rica, Fiji, and Miami for his job. “I go on a ten-day trip every two months,” Griffin says. “I am always working -- answering emails, phone calls, etc., but sometimes I’m just doing it in different countries.”
Griffin also shoots photo (including drone photography) and video content for the lifestyle brand’s Instagram profile and website on his travels. “It’s a mixture between my hobbies with traveling and using the images that I create for our social media profiles,” he says.
Aerial drone photo (Fiji) courtesy of Griffin Thall
To burn off steam, he also takes a small trip every month -- even if it's a weekend or a couple of days. In addition, he lives near a few surf breaks in San Diego, so he tries to surf every day, and makes time to go to the gym after work a couple of times a week.
Although not everyone can set-up shop near a beach and travel to warm climates for business, Griffin argues that other ecommerce entrepreneurs should make time to “escape the day to day and also have one annual meeting with your executive team outside of your local city.”
To do that, Griffin says you have to build trust with your employees and hire great people -- so you don’t have to worry when you’re out of the office. “We’ve hired highly qualified people to take things off my, and my partner's plate and fully take over our responsibilities while we’re away,” he explains.
If You’re Just Not There Yet, Take Baby Steps
Shawn Wylde, CEO of AAFNation.com admits that downtime is just not a priority for him right now. Like many entrepreneurs, the fact is that Shawn simply enjoys working a lot. So his business is both work and a hobby.
“Any free time I get, I am starting a new business or buying somebody else's business,” he says. “I’ve worked almost every day for two years and three times I got burnt out. But when I do take a break, I'm definitely more creative and come up with solutions that I could not see before relaxing.”
Similar to Mads and Griffin, Shawn travels and works on his laptop pretty much anywhere there is an internet connection. He also makes dating a priority in his free time. And while he hates exercise, he relies on his two best friends to force him to get out of the office and enjoy the outdoors.
His realistic advice for ecommerce entrepreneurs is that unfortunately, you have to do everything yourself in the beginning. But don’t stay in that head space for too long.
“As soon as you master each facet of your business, hire someone else to do it,” he says. “If you really suck at something, like I do at customer service, hire somebody else ASAP. Don't waste time doing your own accounting either. Hire someone to manage your books as soon as it starts distracting you from making money.”
Owning Your Decisions
The underlying message from all three merchants is that you must choose the approach that works best for you and what you want out of your life as an entrepreneur. Regardless, it can get pretty intense and emotionally draining at times.
So, you owe it to yourself to occasionally lift your head up from your computer screen to see if there’s a better way to enjoy what you are doing today.
Why not take ten minutes right now? STOP. Put on your favorite tune and dance! Go for a walk outside. Or, book a trip and work (and play) from another city or country to gain a new perspective.