Puritan Work Ethic and Entrepreneurial Burnout

This week I learned more than ever about my need to be KIND to myself. If I don’t take care of myself, and practice self love, I can’t do my best work. It’s so easy to stop taking care of yourself, eating healthy and exercising. Your mind and body are interwined but in the daily work, it’s hard to remember to eat at times!

Okay, so what happened? I totally burnt out.

Mental exhaustion from startup life.

The problem with burning out as an entrepreneur is you don’t even know it’s happening. I kept trying to tell myself that I just need to work more or that I was becoming lazy. Turns out, that you can tell yourself whatever you like but when your brain shuts down, it shuts down. At that point, you have to just give in.

I realized, after much research, that burning out is a symptom of being on the wrong track. When you procrastinate and can’t focus. It generally means you need to revisit your idea and start over from your initial assumption. It may be that you put too much on your plate, you were working on a project from multiple angles or maybe you were trying to do TOO much at once.

I decided to change things.

James Altucher, one of my most favourite bloggers, talks about the daily practice or his popular blog post: how to become the luckiest person in the world. Anytime you find yourself stuck or on the wrong path, it’s most likely because you are neglecting the following: your spiritual health, your physical health, your emotional health or your mental health. His argument is that one you get those 4 in order, your life will begin to change and get better.

Yesterday, I started a 66 day challenge based on the Daily Practice. 

I’ve been trying to be kind to myself:

1. Allow myself to sleep well
2. Stretch and do exercise every day! I noticed I sleep less but my sleep is much better.
3. Create a vision board and read a list of my incantations every morning
4. Read and watch what I want than being so task-focused.
5. Give myself permission to PLAY and LEARN

It made a HUGE difference in my productivity levels. You can’t run a marathon forever and it gets difficult being an entrepreneur trying to accomplish so much that you realize – I HAVE to give myself a rest.That may seem normal to other people – you know, resting and stuff. But as an entrepreneuer, your mind running all the time and as a founder, you are constantly thinking about strategy, projects, deadlines and other people.

Robin Sharma often recommends that for every 6 weeks of work, you take 1 week off or every 7 days, take 1 day off. Tim Ferris suggests for every 3 months work, you take a 1 month mini-vacation.

But why is this so hard?

After a bit of investigation, I realized that I have  A LOT of guilt around leisure. I learned that this is primarily a industrial-age puritical christian idea.

I have absolutely no idea what my own traditional and spiritual beliefs say about work, leisure and time but somehow I adopted these very old-age ideas into my subconsciousness.

It’s called the puritan work ethic.

So there were these people, Puritians, who made up the majority of industralists in the early 1900’s. Their beliefs about work was that you must suffer and it was regarded as a way to redeem our original sins(a Christian idea). These ideas trickled down into our concept of what work is today, at least in the modern Industrial world.

They believed that if you worked really hard you would recieve spiritual rewards and it was virtue. So much so that, the idea of charity came from Puritans. It was a way to give out money for feeling so guilty for working so much.

For my Muslim readers, charity for them isn’t the same as how charity is defined in an Islamic context. Islamic concept of charity isn’t simply giving out money, but it’s a structual component of Islamic society that is obligatory for everyone who has means; it allows those that are in need to be supported, not simply as a way to obsolve guilt.

What are the root causes of guilt around work?

These are some of mine, and I’m sure you can relate to it:

1. I need to work hard to make money 2. Working hard is morally good 3. Hardwork is something that is inherently valuable to society 4. Sleep is for suckers 5. Laziness means doing nothing

Let’s break these down:
1. Statistically, hardwork is not linked to wealth
2. Linking hardwork to morally is one thing. Linking being a moral person to working is a big stretch.
3. Most of us take from the society around us. Our society is a society of workers, so of course we will view it as something good when it’s constantly reinforced arond us.
4. This is so categorically wrong, it’s unbelieveable. You need sleep to be healthy and to function optimally. It’s fine if you don’t sleep for a while because of work you need to complete, but to to do this constantly? Over a period of time is misleading and unhealthy.
5. Laziness is actually doing busy work with no real productive results.

Now, when I refer to ‘hardwork’, I’m not talking about the concept of working itself. Everyone needs to work to get where they want to go. However, I am referring to the idea of work tied to the conception of redemption, so much so that it’s socially engineered to make you feel a certain way if you don’t do it.

Western society doesn’t encourage leisure and relaxation the way, say living in the East does. And leisure doesn’t neccessarily mean doing nothing, it means reflection or time away from focused work.Maybe because reflection and time to sit and meditate isn’t valued as much in the West(there is a whole load of studies now showing the benefits of meditation, however people who follow a spiritual path don’t need scientific studies to show the benefits of it) that any time of work is considered to be ‘wasteful.’

As an entrepreneur, it’s fundamentally an introspective process. You constantly have to unlearn and relearn.

Right now, I’m unlearning how I percieve work and on a bigger level, how I percieve time.

And that being a workaholic is actually a bad thing, not healthy and very much the antithesis of living a life where one grow one’s self.

I hoping that this generation really does change the definition of ‘work’ to something more holistic, more in tune with how we learn about ourselves, less driven into the abyss of this endless hole of ‘working’ and being ‘busy’, that surely, in the long term, can’t be good for people’s health

Despite Their Damning Brilliance: Top 10 Tips To Help Solve the Unemployment Issue For Graduates

I’ve had more people tell me what to do with my life than I have had the chance to answer the question myself.

After being herded like sheep through an abyss of indoctrination, what post-graduation feels like is a shepard leaving it’s herd stranded somewhere and saying those ominous words:

“It’s all up to you, now.”

Graduates everywhere are having a hard time finding any semblance of security no matter what path we choose. It was this fact that inspired me to start a company(and hopefully more in the future)to start hiring out graduate talent that no one wants to take a chance on. The mentality that society owes us something is an idea we were all taught over and over again. That because we do x then y would happen. Years of my precious life was stolen because of these lies, and no sane individual should have to go through that.

After years of slaving away on non essential homework, reading relatively useless books, listening to really inexperienced people who’ve not had much experience outside of a academic setting, it’s really hard not to feel pissed off, cheated, confused, weary, and full of self-doubt.

Many of us don’t know if what we choose will work because for many years we were told the path we were on was the answer. We were told jobs were the answer. We were told university degrees were the answer. We were told that at 18 we needed an answer to a millennial old question about the purpose of life(or your life, to be exact). It’s totally unfair to subject those types of questions to young people who didn’t even know who they are.

“Our childhood is something we spend our whole lives trying to get over”

Pivoting in career choices and in interests is seen as indecisiveness rather than experimental– as if experimentation is bad. I know this one child who once told me that he had made a mistake when coloring his favorite picture. I told him that it was okay and that mistakes were not bad. But he just looked at me with such sad eyes . “Yes they are. Every time I make a mistake, I throw out my paper.”

When I was younger, I was just like that. Any mistake, problem, or even a minor accident, I had to make it perfect. It was obsessive and compulsive. It was also psychologically damning. Why are mistakes demonized so much? Like really think about it? That isn’t how life works. You have to fail in order to succeed but the trauma that many teachers inflict on young should be treated as psychological abuse.

Experimentation is only for the black sheep

My life has been a canvas of experimentation. For that, I become a bonafide black sheep. I’ve come to realize that it’s people projecting their fear of not being able to take risks with their own life. Eventually, you end up growing a thick-skin and just not caring anymore.

With my many conversations with graduates(brilliant people, I might add) many of them don’t know where they are going, and if they do, wtheyneed to “bang the pavement” to really get anywhere. I truly believe that wasted potential is the great tragedy of our modern education system.

Experimentation looks like disorganization, but isn’t life a force of chaos we try to make some semblance out of? Why try to make it seems anything more than what it is?

I’m not hir-able(wait, is that a word?)

The response to this is: ” Well, you should have gotten a job in something people will hire you for.” And in this statement is literally everything that is wrong with our mindset in how we live our lives and choose our careers.

Why does my life path need to be driven by economic incentives? Making a living, taking a job to support yourself is very different that choosing to live your life based on what and who will pay you the most. No one should force anyone to live like that.

What’s so painful about all this is the talent that just won’t see the light of day because they can’t make enough money to make ends meet or because not enough people understand that there is an alternative.

Answer: CHOOSE YOUR- God damn- SELF

So what do the millions of young graduates with degrees in arts, technology, business, sociology, history, and the many other with similarly “useless” degrees do despite their damning brilliance? As my previous post said, here is the answer for the 21st century: CHOOSE YOUR (God damn) SELF.

Many of us weren’t taught to be self-reliant, but to wait for others to choose you, to say yes, we want you.

No. From now on, you make opportunities for yourself. You create things for yourself. When someone says no to you, you say yes to yourself. You believe in yourself. You say to yourself: “Hell yeah, I’m brilliant, intelligent and I can F#$% do this.”

Stop letting anyone tell you what can be accomplished. Reality is based on your perception. Change what you perceive to be possible, then whatever you want to happen will become a reality.

Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone but self-reliance is an innate human quality we’re all born with. A study by o-Desk and Elance(very popular freelancing websites) said that in 2020 over half of the United States of America will be self-employed. This is one of the “wealthiest” countries in the world. Think about. What are the implications for that?

The idea here is to undo the belief that you need permission, approval, or acceptance to do what you feel in your heart is right for you and find a sustainable way to do it that neither costs you financially or morally.

Almost 6 months ago, I wrote an article called 10 Life Lessons Learned One Year After Graduating. It covered some of the very basic ideas I had gone through. Since then, I learned(and still am) learning how to run a company, and trying to form consistent habits for the sake of self-discipline–habits that we are accustomed to other people creating for us to follow. Here are 10 tips to help your transition from school to career be smoother. For more facts, check out this amazing presentation by Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn on advice he gives to graduates. Click here to be directed to the slide show on Business Insider.
1. Daily To Do List Don’t Work. Plan out a monthly schedule. For many years we relied on others to make our schedules, our time tables, and, essentially, plan our lives for us. It took me a while to get in to the groove of things, but having a monthly schedule planned out in advance helps a lot. Look at exactly what you want your year to look like and what you would like to accomplish. Then break that up into monthly increments and work backwards. Try to do this a week before the next month starts. I’ve noticed that making a to-do list is really ineffective if you can’t see yourself working towards a bigger goal for the month. Write it down. Everything. You’ll see yourself working much for effortlessly with more momentum.

2. Find mentor who is doing exactly what you want exactly. In his brilliant book Mastery, Robert Greene emphasizes the importance of apprenticeships. Unfortunate that this idea hasn’t taken hold as deeply as it should in our modern education aside from vocational careers. The idea of trying to locate, and find people who are doing exactly what you want to be doing, and then reach out to them not just asking for mentorship and guidance. Think about giving them something in return like offering to help them for free to make their work load easier, or using skills you already have to give them tips on how they can make money. Achieving your goals has a lot to do with proximity. Closer you are to a person in [insert career choice, quality or attribute here] the more likely you are to become just that.

3. Don’t do anything for money. This might be one of the best ways of finding what you love to do. Take time to pursue hobbies or interests without the thought of money. Just do things you consider dope. Things will naturally start to come together. People become interested, you start getting feedback, which is crucial, you can adjust what you are doing to fit what people want. That’s really the core of business. Find what you love that ALSO intersects with a market need or demand.

4. Travel. Being busy all the time is a form of laziness. It’s better to be productive than busy. Why do something in 40 hours when you can get it done for 15 or 20 hours? The later is not measured in hours but by tasks accomplished. Travelling helps in giving you that necessary time to reflect on where you are and where you want to be. And it doesn’t have to be a big expenses. Go take a walk in a new city for change, or take a plane to a relatively developed city. That will help reduce costs. You can probably live in places like Mexico, Egypt and Thailand for less than $400/month. What did you spent your last $400 on?

5. Fulfill a need. Figure out how to help people. Doing what you love is important but you must recognize that no one cares for that. Value isn’t created because you think it’s valuable, it’s what the market deems valuable. Look at the skills you have. Write down just 10 of them. And try to see if there are potential side-hustle opportunities. Find 10 people to sit down with to ask advice about your ideas. Choose the one that comes up as being the most useful to people. Remember: Always think of others first.

6. Build your own door if no one wants to open one for you. If people don’t want to give you what you want, you take it. That’s what a human being does. You are a free human born into the free world. No one can subject their will on your willfully. If you aren’t getting the types of jobs you want, the opportunities you need, then find out where and who has those jobs and opportunities and go for it, aggressively.

7. Network. If there is one graduate skill that no one put an emphasis on for me, it was relationship building. Building relationships is the essence of everything you want. As Reid Hoffman says, “Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They are attached to people. If you are looking for an opportunity, you’re really looking for a person.” Keith Ferrazzis book “Never Eat Alone” is a great example that it’s more important to spend your time turning your business relationships into personal relationships and trying to focus on being invested in other people’s personal success. This can mean going to business networking meetings in order to help other people who you think you can genuinely help(not just throwing your business card at them), follow people and groups on Linkedin that you genuinely love and help people by sharing useful information, or just bring value to those around you. Help them succeed. That’s what networking is all about.
You need to get our hustle on and rely on the very thinking that was never honed in us: street smarts. In other words, the ability to connect with others, the ability to forge relationships, networks, sell ourselves and our ideas.

8. Resourcefulness- This is the core of entrepreneurship. Doing a lot with a little. What can you create when you don’t have all the tools? Hustle them. Find. A. Way. Don’t give up, just try as many creative methods as possible. You will get what you seek (insert bible verse here) 🙂

9. Explaining to your parents. Be understanding. If you have immigrant parents, many of them didn’t leave the country they came from, their families they were use to, the life they were living for themselves. They did it for you. The world has changed dramatically in the last 30 years, and no one could have predicated that. And no one can predict the future. The best thing to do is to give them what they want: ease and security and quietly go about your business. No need in trying to make people understand something that is fundamentally against their entire reason for settling in a foreign place.

But let me end with the amazing statement:

“In this new era, you have two choices: become a temp staffer(not a horrible choice) or become an artist-entrepreneur. Choose to commodity your labor or choose yourself to be a creator, an innovator, an artist, an investor, a marketer, and an entrepreneur. I say “and” rather than “or” because now you have to be all of the above. Not just one. An artist must also be an entrepreneur. That’s it. Those ARE your choices. Cubicles are getting commoditized. And when that happens, they empty out. I saw it with my own eyes when I visited my investor friend and stared out his office windows at the vacant vertical city. And now I see it happening every day. It’s not something that can be changed with laws or with printing money or with a change in values.It’s history now. The world has already changed, and all the pieces are just falling into place.

Which side will you be on?”

-James Altucher, Choose Yourself

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Current Read: Choose Yourself By James Altucher


How hard it is to find a book as real as this? I can’t recommend Choose Yourself enough. James Altucher is my favourite blogger(I get no affiliate commission from promoting his stuff, it’s just that honest, real and amazing).

As humans, we need validation from others. It’s nature. The hardest validation to get is for your ideas. What if you’ve been thinking about something for years, and suddenly an uber successful entrepreneur decides to lay down the economic trajectory of our society so clearly and so reassuringly, and in the process confirming all the ideas that you’ve had for the longest time? That’s what I got as soon as I started reading it.

The premise of the book: Choose yourself. Or someone else will choose you and it won’t be pleasant.

For many of us from conservative families, many of our family members came from war zones and immigrated to these lands with nothing but the clothes on their back. How do we tell them that the world they came to 20 years ago is almost unrecognizable  now? How would any sane person accept that the rewards they were seeking in new lands are now unreachable due to global competition and the rapid expansion to technology? James answers these questions.

This is the description of book via http://bit.ly/1iNsN6L

The world is changing. Markets have crashed. Jobs have disappeared. Industries have been disrupted and are being remade before our eyes. Everything we aspired to for “security,” everything we thought was “safe,” no longer is: College. Employment. Retirement. Government. It’s all crumbling down. In every part of society, the middlemen are being pushed out of the picture. No longer is someone coming to hire you, to invest in your company, to sign you, to pick you. It’s on you to make the most important decision in your life: Choose Yourself.

New tools and economic forces have emerged to make it possible for individuals to create art, make millions of dollars and change the world without “help.” More and more opportunities are rising out of the ashes of the broken system to generate real inward success (personal happiness and health) and outward success (fulfilling work and wealth).

This book will teach you to do just that. With dozens of case studies, interviews and examples–including the author, investor and entrepreneur James Altucher’s own heartbreaking and inspiring story–Choose Yourself illuminates your personal path to building a bright, new world out of the wreckage of the old. 

Don’t forget to purchase it from amazon. He has a promo out: buy the book, prove you read it and he will give you the money back.