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Memo to entrepreneurs: Nurture yourself as well as you nurture your business

If there’s a universal malady that strikes entrepreneurs, it’s burnout. A startup can consume its founder, leaving no time or energy for a personal life. Leadership and decision-making suffer as well as relationships with families and friends.

Jag Gill, SF ’13, founder and CEO of the global apparel startup Sundar notes that when you’re passionate about your business, it can be difficult to turn it off. “It’s easy to lose track of other important aspects of your life. It’s essential to have personal rituals built into your day. The gym, family time, a regular dinner with a friend. I like to say that if your time isn’t measured, it’s not managed.”

Alan Yan, SF ’07, founder of several successful enterprises, including AdChina, which was acquired by Alibaba in 2015, says he always makes sure to choose life over business. Enterprises come and go, he says, but family and friends are forever. “People are not machines. We are not digital action figures.” Yan made a decision to sell AdChina, in part, because a member of his family needed to move to California for health reasons. “I believe—and I have experienced this—that when you have the right balance between your personal and professional priorities, you function better in all areas of your life.”

Always put human before perfect

The quest for perfection is another occupational trap, says Greentown Labs CEO Emily Reichert, PhD, SF ’12. “We must lose the need to be or to appear perfect.” She believes that entrepreneurs should forget about achieving uber-legend status. “I see my Greentown colleagues as a kind of family. I care about them. Embracing the human element can help everyone feel more invested and collaborative.” She notes that a tight-knit collaborative workplace makes it possible for everyone to take the time off they need because they know their colleagues are supportive and happy to cover for them.

Another mental health necessity, says serial entrepreneur Nadia Shalaby, PhD, SF ’10, CEO of ITE Fund, is being able to rely on a mentor. “It’s tough, sometimes, to find someone you can talk to about issues that come up in the business—issues you might not want to discuss with colleagues or investors. An ideal mentor is one who knows you well, has more experience than you do in many of the challenges you’ll face, and who can steady you when your world shakes. A mentor can bring a wise and calming perspective that is invaluable in times of turmoil or indecision. And if you are lucky enough to have such a mentor, make sure you take the time out to lean on him or her in times of need.”

A little fun, these seasoned entrepreneurs say, goes a long way—so schedule that afternoon off!

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