When you are starting or growing a business, you have to give everything that you have to make it work - all of your time, your hours, your love, your energy, your focus, your money, everything needs to go into it, you're putting everything on the line to make this happen. And your friends and your family, your loved ones, they are going to be worried about you. They're worried that you're working too hard. That it’s too many hours, you're going to burn out or hurt yourself. They're worried that you're putting too much into it because they don't understand how hard it actually is. But you cannot allow the worry that they have to slow you down. You know how hard this is, you know how much effort and work it takes. And anyone who hasn't done it, they simply don't know, they don't understand.
So when I was starting my firm, I worked all the time. I would come to work and I would work all day and then I would go home and I put the kids to bed, and I would work until one or two in the morning, and then the next day I would get up and I would do it all again. I worked weekends when I always under a crunch. Because when you're a small company, when you are responsible for everything, everything is on your shoulders; anytime that you are growing, anytime that you're doing challenging things, it will come at a cost. You cannot be all things to all people. You cannot focus on all areas equally. And so you need to ask permission to those in your life. You need to say, “I need to pursue this, I need to do this, I need the time, I need the energy, and I know it's going to cost you something. I know it's going to cost us something. But this is something I have to do”.
Hopefully, they will support you. Hopefully, they will come to understand how important this is to you. But more than anything, you cannot do everything. So you need to figure out what parts of your life you are willing to sacrifice. So that way, you can do what you need to do to focus on the things that matter most. But this amount of time and this amount of effort, it doesn't go away. It is always your responsibility to grow and keep the business going. It is always on your shoulders no matter how large or how predictable the revenue becomes. Because you can't take your eyes off the ball.
Last January, I was going away on vacation with my wife. And the night before we were leaving, I had to stay up late to write a proposal because it had to go out. That proposal had to go out before I left. It had to be good. And so no, I'm sorry, I couldn't pack and I couldn’t spend time with the kids right before we go on vacation. Because I have to get this proposal done. And I have to get it out. And you know, for us as entrepreneurs, we don't even realize how many hours we put in. We don't even realize how hard we're working compared to others, because it's just our norm.
You know, a few years ago, my wife's relative came to spend a week with us on vacation. And so I was on vacation. And at 10 o'clock in the morning, I was on my computer doing my emails. We had to go drive someplace in a few hours. And I said to my wife, “I'm sorry, I just need to finish this up before we go”. And my wife's relative was like, “You're on vacation. What are you doing? Why do you have to wait for Mark to finish up his work when you're on vacation?” It was a foreign concept to them. And to me, they're thinking was completely backward. I didn't understand what they were talking about. So what, I'm on vacation, what does it matter? I'm on vacation, but this work has to happen. And I will be done in 35 minutes. So why are you hassling me? Let me finish my work. So that way I can go enjoy the rest of the day, but you can't just take a week off. You can't just unplug and let things burn around you a while you ignore everything because you're on vacation.
And that, more than anything, illustrated to me the difference between my thinking and their thinking; they said, “Mark works a lot!” And what I said to my wife is, “This is me on vacation. What are you talking about, me working a lot, you should see me when I'm actually at work!”
The truth is that those who don't do what we do will never get it. And so we need to protect ourselves from that kind of thinking. Because, if you spend too much time with them, you'll start to think that they're the norm. You'll start to think, “You know what, maybe I am working too hard. Maybe I shouldn't put in this many hours. Maybe this should come a lot easier for me. Maybe I shouldn't even be doing this at all”, and you will talk yourself right out of the very thing that you want most - that's the work. That's the responsibility. And so you need more than anything to surround yourself with people who understand and who get it. And that can be peers, that can be mentors, that can be other entrepreneurs, and hopefully, family and loved ones, and partners and kids who give you the grace and give you the freedom to focus when you need to focus, because there are times where you're going to spend six weeks or four months or six months deep down in it to make it happen.
And then there are other times where you can take a bit of a break, and you can relax and you can reconnect with them. But more than anything, those who haven't done it do not understand, they will not understand and because they love you, they will always worry about you. You need to push that out of your mind for this season. For this time, you need to ignore their concerns because you need to do what you have to do to make this work and to make this happen.