What Is an Entrepreneur? Understanding the Holidays

While there are many of us out there who are entrepreneurs, there are many that don’t understand our mentality.  People tell us to take vacations, to hang out at parties, to travel the world – and all we can think about is when our prototype will be ready.  When we are working on our idea, or building our business, it seems to take precedence over everything we do. That would be fine but for some reason we feel that the rest of the world should feel the way we feel.  Unfortunately, or fortunately, that is not the case.

That is no more true than at certain times of year. There are days when everyone is off from work and we think to ourselves “this is a great chance to catch up on….work.” And this is never more true when it comes to the December holidays.

What Is a Holiday to an Entrepreneur? 

The month of August and the holiday period around Christmas and Hanukkah are supposed to be time for relaxation, downtime with family and friends, and a little fun in the sun or snow. It’s a time for the world to relax before the start of the new year or to enjoy the final days of summer. Sounds great. These are all normal and well-deserved periods for down- time. In fact, many countries take the whole month of August off and can’t be found in December. During these months, the US workforce works more than most countries globally, but even they take time to unwind. But not everyone is excited about taking time off. In fact, entrepreneurs hate Christmas and August.

Entrepreneurs aren’t thinking about their vacation plans, they’re trying to cope with an additional load of stress. Investment deals slow down. Customer deals die. Employees go on vacation. Vendors take a break. Family obligations and events proliferate. Kids are out of school and need extra attention. For the entrepreneur, these months can be torture. They may be scrambling to close a deal by the end of the year. They may be working hard to prepare the company for the upcoming year. The entrepreneur’s calendar is put on hold until the rest of the normal world comes back from recess.

Don’t worry. I haven’t given up on my efforts to create the 30 hour day.  

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Do Entrepreneurs Really Take a Month Off? 

As entrepreneurs, we have enough stress throughout the year trying to win customers, bring on employees, raise money and sign deals with vendors. We may have enjoyed, or even taken advantage of these breaks in our “past lives,” but once you become an entrepreneur we can’t understand how this ever made sense. Most of us also don’t understand how the world could be so insensitive to our efforts by taking time off when we need to get shit done. Often, we console ourselves by feeling lucky we don’t live in France, where many can’t be found for the better part of the summer. We say to ourselves, “How can a whole country can take off weeks at a time?”

It used to bother me to no end that customers, vendors, employees and investors would say, “Well, it will be hard to get something done in August,” or “We’ll have to wait until the new year because December really slows down.” Don’t they understand what we are going through? Don’t they understand how important it is to keep the ball moving forward? 

Do Entrepreneurs Really Take Holidays Off? 

Come to think of it. This doesn’t only apply to August and holiday time. How often do friends and colleagues ask, “Are you off for Columbus Day?” Or Martin Luther King Jr. Day? Or Presidents’ Day? Or Good Friday? No disrespect to history or religion and the reasons we celebrate these holidays, but do people not get it? There are no days off. Even when the rest of the world has the day off, we do not say to ourselves, “No one is working anyway so it would be a good day to take a break.” Quite the contrary. We say to ourselves (because no one else is around), “This is the perfect time to get work done. The phone won’t be ringing and there will be no distractions.” 

What If There Was Entrepreneurs’ Day? 

If in the interest of celebrating the entrepreneur, the country declared an “Entrepreneur Day” and offices throughout the world were closed, none of us would take it off. Even if they made it a federal crime to work on Entrepreneurs’ Day, we would sneak around with disguises like a beach bum sitting on the beach with our laptops covered in palm fronds or hidden in the shadow of a low umbrella while we work on the new sales plan.

I used to say that my next venture would be to extend the twenty-four hour day. If we can’t do that, we could try to eliminate all holidays—or at least Christmas and August—and get back to work. After all, we have a business to build!

What Should We Do On the Holidays?  

Part of being a good entrepreneur is using your creativity to get things done. Of course we get frustrated when we cannot get the rest of the world to act on our (unrealistic) schedule. But try to make the best of it.  A good entrepreneur knows that his or her brain needs a rest.  Take some time to appreciate friends and family and experience the good cheer of the holiday season.  And on those days when no one else is working, use it as a time to plan. Work on your plan for next year. Work on your plan for your product.  When the rest of the world is taking a break, it gives you a chance to actually think – something that I’m sure you don’t feel like you do very much during the year.

It’s one thing to say the rest of the world doesn’t get it. It is quite another to recognize that this time of year is to celebrate, take a break and even to think a little.  I know we have things to get done. I know we are impatient.  That’s fine. Just try to appreciate the time and use it the best way you can.  

Don’t worry. I haven’t given up on my efforts to create the 30 hour day. I’ve raised some money and we have a prototype.  In our focus groups, people are working 30 hour days and cranking out more work than ever before. And I promise you once the 30 hour day comes to life, you will be the first to know.  We still have some bugs to work out – like when it is light and when it is dark.  And how we make it work across different time zones and cultures. And yes once we launch it we will be working on the 40 hour day right behind it. In the meantime, try to enjoy the holidays.