There are those that tell us that the only way to get ahead is to grind, grind, grind. But is that really the case? Is that a sustainable model? I talked with Russ Perry on the podcast this week and he has some refreshing thoughts on entrepreneur life and much, much more.
Keeping a good work-life balance is tough, but it’s even tougher when you’re a business owner. Especially in the beginning, many of us tend to bury ourselves in our work at the expense of just about everything else in our lives. It can often seem like working your ass off is the only way out of whatever rut you’re in… But is it really?

Building a Business Around Your Lifestyle vs. Having a Business Design Your Lifestyle

When I talked with Russ on the podcast we both agreed that you have to build your business around your lifestyle. When your business designs your life, you’re never going to come out on top.
Russ learned this lesson earlier in his life when he was flying around the country nonstop, pitching for his design agency. It quite literally sucked the life out of him—as it would anyone else—and he ended up on the verge of divorce with a drinking problem to boot.
When the time came for him to launch his own business, he took a hard look at what he wanted in life and made sure his business was in line with that.
He wanted the freedom to spend time with his family.
In order to achieve that, he purposefully built his business in a way that would allow him to step away while everything kept running. His company, Design Pickle, operates as an online subscription service. Russ points out that it wasn’t a business choice to do that—it was a lifestyle choice.
The coolest takeaway that I got from this is that once Russ made that decision, it was like a positive feedback loop. It had a tremendously positive change in his life, which made him want to work harder on Design Pickle—but instead of getting burnt out, the work he was doing on Design Pickle was actually making his life better.
Pretty awesome stuff.

Mental Health As An Entrepreneur

Studies have shown that 32% of entrepreneurs struggle with two or more mental health conditions. Now, that can fall into a handful of categories but the most common are ADHD, depression, and some form of substance abuse.
Why is that? Well, in this episode Russ points out that entrepreneurs tend to be the black sheep. Chances are most entrepreneurs didn’t grow up in an environment full of other entrepreneurs. Most of the time they’ve had people telling them what they want to do is crazy, their business will never work, they’re doomed to fail and they should just get a 9-5 desk job.
Sound familiar? Not surprising that this could lead to some problems down the road.
Russ has dealt with alcohol abuse in his past, but has been sober since October of 2013. He even wrote a book about it, called The Sober Entrepreneur. He has had some pretty profound realizations about alcohol and its effect on entrepreneurs—which, I have to say, are totally spot on.
We’ll get into that in the episode.

Isolation Is a Problem

Being an entrepreneur can be extremely isolating, especially in the beginning. Just by the nature of being an entrepreneur you’re setting yourself up to be isolated.
Isolation in and of itself isn’t great, but what can come from being isolated is even worse. When you have no one to reach out to and you get hit with all of the problems we’ve talked about—stressing out about work, getting burnt out, problems with your marriage—one easy way to avoid it all is to dive into substances.
This is how so many entrepreneurs end up struggling with addiction.
Russ is now on a mission to help other entrepreneurs—and really anyone at all—realize that they’re not alone. There are plenty of people out there in situations just like you, and they understand what you’re going through.
Facing these problems is a lot easier when you’re not going at it alone. This is a big part of Russ’s philosophy and I think it’s something that every entrepreneur needs to know about.
The first step is getting out of isolation.

Replacing Destructive Habits

The second step is replacing destructive habits with good ones. Just about everyone has heard of this as a strategy to deal with addiction or bad habits—and it does work.
But let’s be honest with ourselves. Sometimes, it can really suck. The key is that you have to look at it with the right mindset.
When Russ quit drinking he had a lot of time and money on his hands. He came to the realization that he had been using alcohol as a  temporary stress reliever, so he had to figure out some way to manage that. For him, it was fitness and meditation.
Is fitness and meditation always fun? No! Russ mentioned that he worked out a couple days ago at 5AM, when it was 45 degrees out (in Arizona!). Not many people are thrilled to go do that, and he wasn’t exactly keen on it either.
We often look at people on social media or we hear authors talk about self help work and they make it seem like we should be loving this stuff! Is that the case all the time? NO!
There are going to be moments where you’re not psyched to go work out at 5AM. Maybe your kids kept you up until 2:00 in the morning and you’ve only gotten three hours of sleep. You are not going to be thrilled about waking up in the morning, but having the discipline to go do that is important. And if you are able to channel the time and energy you’ve spent on destructive habits into things like working out at 5AM, you’re going to see a huge change in your life.

Guest Bio: Russ Perry

Russ Perry is an author and entrepreneur that uses his personal story to help people achieve success through sobriety.
He is the founder of Design pickle, a flat-rate unlimited graphic design platform that brings in over half a million dollars every month. He is also author of the book, The Sober Entrepreneur, which explores problems that entrepreneurs often face around mental health and addiction. Russ has a fascinating story—from working at Apple, to burning himself out at design agencies—and he has learned a lot along the way. Whether the topic is marriage, entrepreneurship, addiction or graphic design, Russ has a lot of wisdom to share.
Personal website:
The Sober Entrepreneur
Design Pickle
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Editing & Mixing by: Aaron Johnson