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The Entrepreneur’s Dilemma

Randi Zuckerberg (you may have heard of her brother, Mark) sparked an interesting conversation in the entrepreneurial world with the following tweet:

She identified five priorities: building meaningful relationships, having a successful career, getting enough (or even close to enough) sleep, spending time with family and staying in shape.

Then she said it was impossible for entrepreneurs to accomplish all five. Randi suggested there were only enough hours in the day to focus on three.

Her tweet made me stop and reflect. As I looked back on my life, I saw how my goals and ambitions had changed over time. I also saw that there were periods when I had been so hyper-focused, I only made time for two of the five priorities Randi listed.

As you can probably guess, this imbalance eventually turned my life upside down.

Starting a Job. Making New Friends.

Before I went to law school, I taught eighth grade for several years. I loved it.

It was my first “real job” after college, and I wanted to give it my all. The other teachers on my team were equally dedicated, and we became fast friends. Soon, my life revolved solely around my work and colleagues.

To top it off, I was in a long-distance relationship at the time. Whenever I did have “free” time, I spent it with my boyfriend.

Sure, my life was unbalanced, but I didn’t care. I loved my job and new friends. I laughed every day. And I was able to fully tap my creativity in the classroom, which gave me the energy to push through the consequences of not making time for family, sleep or exercise.

It was a great time in my life, and I look back at it with fondness.

Growing My Skills — and Family

As much fun as I had teaching, there came a point in my life where I wanted a change — actually, two changes. I wanted to become a lawyer and I wanted to have children.

As they say, be careful what you wish for. The summer I gave birth to my son was also the summer I was accepted into law school.

Caring for a newborn and attending law school are full-time jobs in their own rights. But I was determined to accomplish both, at the same time, no matter the sacrifice.

And there were plenty of sacrifices.

I spent almost two hours a day commuting back and forth to classes. The day started well before 7 am and didn’t end until after 10 pm. In between classes, there was no time for friends, sleep or exercise; my baby boy needed me.

As devoted as I was to my professional development and newborn son, I failed to see that I also had a husband who needed me.

Cracks were starting to form in our relationship, but I was too focused on my goals to notice them. By the time I graduated from law school, I was nine months pregnant with my daughter and looking forward to an exciting career in the legal field.

The future seemed bright.

Everything Falls Apart. And Comes Back Together.

All of those years of imbalance finally caught up with me. In 2005, everything around me started to crumble, starting with my marriage and then my health.

To make life even more complicated, I decided to open my own law firm.

I threw myself into building my new business and picking up the pieces of my broken family, both of which seemed to require 24/7 attention. The relationships and friendships that could have supported me during those tumultuous times were neglected, as were self-care activities like sleep and exercise.

I believed money would solve all of my family’s problems, which shows that I had no idea what it takes to have a meaningful and rewarding life.

Finally Finding Balance

Even today as I look back at the effects the two-priority imbalance has had on my life, I still struggle to find my footing.

Work and family are still my main focus. Maybe even more so now than ever. I saw how not putting family first — and the entire family, not just my children — had failed me in the past. And with 20 people relying on my firm for their employment and livelihood, I can’t turn away from my business for even a second.

But I also finally see that in order to be a successful parent, spouse and business owner, I have to take care of myself. That means getting enough sleep and exercise and spending time with good friends.

Maybe Randi’s right that we can’t focus on all five priorities at the same time. But I hope that by making time for the occasional yoga class or girl’s night, I can at least try.

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