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Choosing Between Health, Happiness, Connection…and Success



In 2011, Randi Zuckerberg shared what she called the Entrepreneur’s Dilemma. The idea is that busy, successful entrepreneurs don’t have time for everything and that they have to be willing to sacrifice areas of what might otherwise be a balanced life.

Here’s how Zuckerberg framed the dilemma:

  • Maintaining friendships
  • Building a great company
  • Spending time with family
  • Staying fit
  • Getting sleep

Pick three

I recently tweeted my dislike for the dilemma. Tony Bacigalupo of New Work Cities responded, wondering if Zuckerberg still felt the same, six-plus years later.

It was a valid question so I tagged Zuckerberg in our conversation and asked her. She responded: “Yes!!! Very much so!”

I sent a follow-up question: “Thanks for the response! Which three do you choose? :)”

I haven’t heard back, but I hope I do. She’s a big deal, running big companies, and she’s been willing to let some things go.

I’m curious what people are consciously willing to eliminate.

I find the idea that we can have friends, or fitness, or family time, or sleep, or a great company—but not all of them—really…off-putting.

Or maybe the word is inhuman.

The idea that you have to ignore your health, your life or your relationships in order to have a successful business is just shitty.

And it feels outdated. What about the current trend to do work that brings us happiness, purpose and balance?

Can’t we have it all?

What would having it all look like?

When Zuckerberg presented the Entrepreneur’s Dilemma, a lot of people agreed with her. She also got some pushback. In a Fast Company article, productivity expert Laura Vanderkam poked holes in the idea, starting with the fact that working out, or having coffee with a friend doesn’t take tons of time. She explains:

The first problem with the Entrepreneur’s Dilemma, or the Four Burner Theory, is that all these areas of life do not take equal time. Almost no one spends 40 hours a week with friends, or exercising. Simple math reveals that eschewing these areas would not save many hours in the long run. There are 168 hours in a week. If you spent 60 working–more than the vast majority of people–and slept eight hours per night (56 per week) that would leave 52 hours for other things. In 52 hours it seems quite possible to exercise for four hours, and mindfully see friends for three hours, while still having time for family meals or reading bedtime stories. If you work fewer than 60 hours, this opens up even more possibilities.

As a solopreneur who consciously keeps things as minimal as possible, I have a different perspective than someone who’s CEO of an empire. I keep things light and lean so I can course correct and grow as easily as possible.

I also value well-being and having flexibility in my workday perhaps more than anything else. The fact that I can leave in the afternoon to go walk on the cliffs is a huge perk. If I’m not feeling well, I can work from home. I don’t have to ask or tell anyone my schedule for the day. When I need time off, I schedule it and take it.

The flipside is that I’m a taskmaster as my own boss: I get up at 5:30, my days are long, and I cram a lot of work into them. But I also schedule in time for friends, family trips, phone calls, walks, sleep and workouts.

These aren’t things that take away from my business, these are the things that sustain my business. When I get out of balance, my work and mental well-being suffer.

For me, the Entrepreneur’s Dilemma is:

  • Maintaining friendships
  • Building a great company
  • Spending time with family
  • Staying fit
  • Getting sleep

Find a way to do all five.

What do you think of the Entrepreneur’s Dilemma? Drop me an email or comment and let me know.

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