3 Tips If You Feel Conflicted Between Family and Work as an Entrepreneur Dad

That’s how I felt for years, and was quite frustrated by the process.

Part of the reason is that I also consider myself a “social entrepreneur”, one who’s addressing social issues via enterprises.

So in terms of value systems, we’re the “purpose before profit” entrepreneurs, and making positive social impact is a cornerstone of our thinking and actions.

Yet as anyone who has done any entrepreneur work can attest. It’s not a regular 9–5 job. It’s a job that never ends once you starts. In fact, you could easily get completely occupied and overwhelmed, without guidance/mentors.

Here are my top 3 key learning, after over 10 years of struggling in the space, to today when I could finally claim “time freedom” for myself, and even had set in place a 20 hour workweek while running 3 companies:

1) Recognize the difference between NEEDing and WANTing.

In “The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership”, the authors talk about we all seek security, approval, and control from life, and those inspirations often become our goals, even purposes in life.

However, when we feel we’re “incomplete” and happy has to be “pursued” (as in the U.S. Declaration of Independence), happiness and the “good life” is always “there” but never “here”.

We thus falls into what entrepreneur coach Dan Sullivan would call a “Gap” state, of seeing what we lack and don’t have, and may desperately want to “pursue”/”chase” after it, in order to become happy or fulfilled.

Unfortunately that’s never the case. If fulfillment comes from outside by default, once gotten, we’ll very quickly move to the next target to obtain/fulfill.

In other words, while security/approval/control are core basic human needs, they need to be sought from within, not out.

WANTing as opposed to NEEDing may be more healthy, as in children’s wanting to play: even if I don’t get it, I’ll try again, or I can also want something else.

There’s effort & pursuit, but no attachment to results.

When I realized the many tasks I felt I “needed” to do before a night’s sleep can be turned to “wanting” to do, I started to be able to sleep nicely before 9pm.

2) YOU are the SOURCE of time

Gay Hendricks wrote about “Einstein time” in “The Big Leap”, where he describes time as always been abundant and re-generating and ultra-effective.

When we’re working in our “zone of genius”, everything flows out easily / quickly / effortlessly.

We get much better output done within much shorter time, without even realizing it!

So that’s the ideal state to do our best work in.

However, many people (including myself) felt we KNOW certain things are important and will move the needle towards our big dreams and goals, yet we just DON’T HAVE TIME for it.

The key turning question to ask is: what are we trying to disown?

In other words, which areas in life are we trying to avoid taking full responsibilities and try to escape, and not facing?

Those are the areas, where we feel it’s important but lack the time.

Time is never lacked.

There will NEVER be enough time to do everything we want or set out to do, but definitely more than enough time to do the most IMPORTANT things.

The question is: are we doing those important things? and more importantly: are we willing to take up the responsibility to face the problems/challenges in our life, by owning to it, and make time for it?

When we’re willing to face our deepest and darkest fears and concerns, and take up 100% responsibility. Time won’t be an issue.

Because we ARE the SOURCE of time. Time can always be regenerated, as needed, to finish and do the most important work.

But if we avoid facing it, there never will be enough time!

3) Your closed ones will be ignored if you’d like to prove yourself

I attended a workshop with the theme to “Love Yourself” hosted by a friend last year, and the best learning I got was a comment from the lead coach: If you try to “prove” yourself too hard, you will ignore people.

I immediately noticed how true it was, and found the cause of my wife’s year-long complain that I tend to ignore her, even though I “thought” family is always important to me and dear to my heart.

The problem was I was raised in a fairly traditional Eastern/Chinese family, and as far as I could remember, my mom’s feedback to me always has been: “why are you failing/doing so terrible in X?” “Can’t you be a bit better in Y”?

So there’s a strong sense and even urge to “prove myself” to her, that I can, I’m valuable, and perhaps, I’m worthy of her praise and love.

But that has always been difficult, and I can’t change her! But if I take her feedback too seriously and literally, I’ll be entering in a state where I’ll always NEED to, even WANT to prove myself!

However, if I do take account of the many things I’ve accomplished over the years, from finishing with a Ph.D degree, doing top-level research, to starting my own companies (now three), and continuously better mentors / peers, a great wife and healthy kids… it becomes obvious that the “lack” “inadequate” “not enough” is really relative.

I’ve already achieved / done / accomplished a lot, and I could feel happy / content / grateful instead of wanting to “prove” more.

As Dan Sullivan said: we could always “expand” our happiness, but not there’s no need to “pursue” it.

As one of my favorite quote from the wise monk Thich Nhat Hanh says so concisely: “There is no way to happiness — happiness is the way.”

Hope these tips will help you to address the lack of time issue at being a social entrepreneur, particularly if you’re an entrepreneur dad like me! Please share in comments what is your biggest struggle and which tip most resonate with you? Thanks!

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