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I was struck by the pejorative attitude with which so many commentators in the entrepreneurial world refer to a lifestyle business. Somehow the suggestion is you’re not a real entrepreneur if you’re running a lifestyle business. Somehow you haven’t got what it takes. You haven’t got the ambition. You will not be successful if you have a lifestyle business.
Choose Life or Death
I began to muse. What if the opposite of a lifestyle business is a death-style business?
Life, death. Black, white. I thought about so many of the people that I’ve worked with who have been ambitious for their business and ambitious for their careers. I saw that they were, in that ambition, building a death-style business.
I spoke to an individual in the last week who realised that he was potentially in a death spiral. He was living on adrenaline. His work style was constantly fuelled by adrenaline and was leading him to chronic and morbid obesity. He had reached the stage, in his late thirties, where he was at risk of a serious acute medical crisis arising from chronic ill health. It was just a question of what part of his system gave out first. Would it be the sleep deprivation from sleep apnoea? Would it be the pressure on his liver, kidneys or heart of being massively overweight? Would it be a simple trip where he broke a leg and then healing became almost impossible? What would be the trigger for that downward path? As we spoke, he recognised that was engaged in a death-style business. His workstyle had become a death-style.
Contrast this with an enjoyable interview I had with a highly entrepreneurial individual in his mid-twenties. He was absolutely clear that he was building a series of businesses that provided a workstyle that really gave him life. He wanted a business which meant that he could, for weeks at a time, be in a location without any internet access. Now he could go diving in some of the most beautiful and remote parts of the world. He wanted a business which was highly scalable but where most of the functions were done by other people. He wanted to have a business that had variety. He wanted the freedom to work a limited number of hours each day for a limited number of weeks a year. He went out and looked at what opportunities had to find that kind of business. What he did was build a series of online brands. Each was selling specific niche solutions with a compelling branded proposition. He negotiated deals with people in the Far East to manufacture and provide a unique offer to solve fulfil each proposition. He started with his lifestyle and said, how can I build a business that gives me the lifestyle I want?
The Death-style Snobs
So next time somebody looks down their nose at you and says, ’Oh, that’s just a lifestyle business’. Next time you feel embarrassed amongst all of those hard biten entrepreneurs, that you are just seeking to build a business that sustains the life that you want for you and your family, dare to ask them, ‘Would you prefer to have a lifestyle business or a death-style business? Would you prefer to have an ambitious future that sustains your lifestyle. Or an ambitious career offers you death-style?’
Mid-life Crisis – What Crisis?
Again and again, I see people who, in their mid to late forties, realize the trajectory of their career, is bringing them physical, spiritual, creative, mental or relational death in some way. This is not your typical mid-life crisis with a desire for the simplicity of perpetual youth. They are engaged in a death-style workstyle. The opportunity to step into a Portfolio Executive workstyle at least gives them a choice. There are people who take on the portfolio executive work style and turn it into a death-style business because they just end up working harder and harder and recreating that addiction to busy-ness that was the original failing in the way they operated before.
The Real Choice
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Do you choose life or death?
Look at how a Portfolio Executive workstyle could be the starting point for a choice of life over death.
Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.