In Starting a Business: Part 3 “Lessons Learned” From Creating My Own Businesses, Lesson 2

In life I’ve tried easy and I’ve tried hard. Hard is better.

In 1992 I sold my first business and went on a three year sabbatical to South America. When I came back, I had no intention of starting another business. Rather, I felt I had made enough money to kick back and work at a comfortable pace with some company. I did just that, but within a year two things happened. One, the company ran into financial and regulatory difficulty, and, two, being part of a corporate culture was sucking the life out of me.

So, I decided to create another consulting firm. Because this was the second time I had done this, I knew more or less what had to be done to make it succeed. Frankly, it sobered me. It would take an incredible amount of work. For example, if you are going to be a successful management consultant, you have to travel. I calculated that for at least five years I would have to travel about one million miles by air, and be on the road three weeks out of the month.

I concluded that it would be too hard. So I decided that the sacrifice was not worth it, and determined to make a go of it by building a “book of business” locally. It would take two to three years to make locally what I could make in one year on the road. That was ok I thought. I have enough money, and in my spare time, I can volunteer my time to church service.

My life was very easy the first year. I secured two to three contracts, fixed up a home we had purchased, and did some volunteer work. We vacationed in Hawaii and Florida. However, as the year came to an end, an unintended consequence arose. Easy had become tedious.

For me, when something becomes tedious, it turns into boredom, and when I am bored, I am not happy. That’s a weird situation to be in. I have everything I need and want, and yet I’m unhappy? Doesn’t really make sense. I thought about it for a while, and came up with a question that has been one of my better insights. Could it be that the act of working is tied to being happy in life?

It’s a funny question because for most of us happiness is reached when we no longer have to work. But come to find out, that’s not necessarily true. Research shows that working is an ingredient that contributes to human happiness. For example, when they compared millionaires who continue to work with those who retire, those who continue to work, even when they don’t need to, record being much more content than those who don’t.

Not only that, but the harder the work, the better. Who would have thought it: Hard work makes us happy. What does that do to the dream of leisurely living. Not much. It’s probably a myth.

So, what did I do? I chose to go back on the road and work hard. Did my boredom leave and did I feel happier? Yes, even though physically it wore me down, it had the desired effect. I was indeed happier.

As a result of having this experience, I’ve come to an important, if not convenient, truth about myself. If I had to make a choice, I would pick working hard with the risk of being worn down and sick, if it resulted in making me happier; than I would living a leisurely life with no physical stress, with the possibility of not feeling happy. Of course, if I had my way, I’d prefer health and happiness. But often life has its tradeoffs. I realize this and have accepted it for me. Indeed, a valuable lesson!!