Most entrepreneurs will tell you that starting a business is incredibly rewarding and worth the risk.
But what they may not reveal is that running a successful business often comes at the cost of finding happiness.
- Many successful entrepreneurs work all the time and rarely see their family.
- Many successful entrepreneurs are single or can’t maintain a relationship
- Many successful entrepreneurs experience emotional roller coaster rides and are generally not happy.
Several months ago, I tore my achilles tendon and it was one of the most gut wrenching injuries that I’ve ever sustained.
I was bed ridden for the first 10 days and then I couldn’t walk or drive for the next 6 weeks.
Meanwhile, my wife had to shuttle the kids to school and all their activities while taking me to my doctor’s appointments. During this period, I felt completely helpless and useless.
But the one great thing that came out of my injury is that it forced me to think about life, happiness and motivation in the context of running my businesses.
So today, I thought that I’d share some of my favorite life lessons with you based on my self-analysis.
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How To Find Happiness And Make More Money – A Video Overview
Lesson #1: Don’t Compare Yourself To The Masses. You Can Always Do Better
Back when I was in elementary school, I remember getting my 3rd grade report card and being really proud of my grades.
The teacher wrote that I was learning math and science at a 4th grade level and I couldn’t wait to show my Mom and Dad my progress.
But when they saw my report card, they didn’t say a thing. There were no congratulations. No high fives. No pats on the back.
Instead, they made me start studying for the SATs. And every weekend, I took practice tests and memorized words from a vocabulary builder workbook.
The following year, I took the Scholastic Aptitude Test(SAT) to qualify for an accelerated learning summer camp called CTY (Center For Talented Youth). The minimum SAT score to qualify was 930 and I got an 1150. I barely made it!
Anyway that summer at CTY, my parents signed me up for a self paced math course where they expected me to complete 2 years worth of public school math in 3 weeks.
I didn’t think it was possible.
But during those 3 weeks, I pushed myself as hard as I could and I ended up passing the final exam for Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Trigonometry during that span.
What took most students 3 years to complete, I finished in just 3 weeks!
Anyway my parents taught me over the years that you can easily learn things faster than everyone else if you have the desire.
You are in charge of setting your own speed limit and if you focus hard enough, you can greatly exceed the average.
Lesson #2: I’d Rather Make Less And Be Happy Than Be Rich And Stressed Out
Back when my wife and I first launched our online store, my primary focus was efficiency, optimization and maximizing our money making potential.
- I spent a significant amount of time eeking out every last dollar from our customers.
- I constantly added new products to our store to grow our topline.
- I ruined one of my wife’s favorite hobbies by forcing her to monetize it:)
- I tried to sell on as many channels as possible to maximize revenues.
But over the years, the mental costs of growing our business have increased while our happiness quotient has not.
- Growing our business by 2X has not doubled our happiness
- The mental stress of new product launches and managing new sales channels has been greater than the financial benefit
Today, I place less emphasis on extracting every last dollar and making use of every last resource. Instead, I spend that time trying to figure out what will make my life happier.
Most of you don’t know this but my wife has been satisfied with our income for many years now. In fact, she’d prefer that the business stay flat and large spikes in sales always stress her out.
As a result, we always shoot for steady, manageable growth instead of putting the foot down on the gas pedal.
Life is too short to lose sleep over making more money especially when it has diminishing returns on our happiness.
After all, we don’t spend that much money in the first place!
Lesson #3: If You’re Not Sure What Makes You Happy, Then Make Others Happy
Recently, I told the members of my mastermind group that I’ve been pretty bored ever since I quit my job over a year ago.
I literally have too much free time on my hands right now and I haven’t found a good way to spend it.
In fact, there was one point where I contemplated going back to work for a startup in the Silicon Valley because I needed a change.
Even today, I’m still searching for a new project to fill the void that my electrical engineering job left behind. But in the meantime, I’ve doubled down on helping the students in my Create A Profitable Online Store Course.
And it’s actually greatly improved my happiness!
Recently, one of my students posted that they are making 70K per month selling on Amazon! Another student is about to break 6 figures!
Even though I haven’t figured everything out for myself just yet, knowing that I’ve been helping others succeed has been especially fulfilling.
Bottom line, If you are feeling depressed or down, then helping others will lift your spirits!
Here’s a sampling of some of my other student success stories
- How My Student Abby Makes 100K/Month Selling High Heel Insoles Online
- Student Story: How Toni Made 100K In A Single Month Selling Jewelry On Amazon
- How My Student Carmen Makes 6 Figures Selling Kaftans Online Without Amazon
- How My Student Jen Makes 6 Figures Selling Shower Curtains Online
- How My Student Ron Makes 7 Figures Selling Childrens Wall Decals Online
Lesson #4: The Best Way To Help More People Is To Build A Large Following
If helping more people is a source of happiness, then it makes sense to try to reach as many people as possible with your teachings.
Subconsciously, I’ve been running my podcast, my blog and my conference for the past 8 years because I wanted to create a name for myself. However, I never really appreciated the positive effect it has had on my psyche.
But recently I came to the revelation that building a following has been a key contributor to my happiness and I’m extremely appreciative of my fans that have supported me over the years. I love you all!
Here’s the thing.
Most of us have useful information to share with the world that would greatly benefit society. Most of us want to make a larger impact but don’t have a platform to reach the masses.
If you want to help as many people as possible, you need to put yourself out there and share your knowledge. Whether you want to create blog posts, podcasts or videos, it doesn’t matter.
Don’t keep your knowledge to yourself.
Lesson #5: You Can Get People To Take Action By Charging Higher Prices
Sharing your knowledge is important but you must also encourage people to take action. As part of running my blog, I’m often asked why I charge so much money for my online store course.
First of all, I sincerely believe that I offer the best class out there on ecommerce.
But outside of that, I simply don’t have enough time to give personal attention to everyone who wants to learn. Instead, the high price of admission is my way of weeding out the serious students from the tire kickers.
Think about it this way.
The more expensive something is, the more likely you are to use it. I’ve given away my class to many friends and family members over the years and none of them have ever taken any action.
Contrast that to the paying students in my class where 56% are now making at least 4 figures per month and 9% are making over 50K per month and you’ll realize that putting your money where your mouth is makes a difference!
Bottom line, if you want people to take action, then make them put something on the line.
Lesson #6: Mentally Prepare Yourself For The Worst
The reason most people don’t succeed in business is because they are way too optimistic. When you expect all the pieces to magically fall in place, you are much more likely to give up at the first sign of danger.
So instead of dreaming about how successful your business will be, spend your brain cycles preparing for the worst case scenario.
That way when adversity inevitably arrives, you are mentally prepared to persevere through it.
Even though I run multiple 7 figure businesses that are doing well today, I tell myself that it could all disappear at a moments notice.
This mental attitude keeps me from getting too comfortable with the status quo and carries the added benefit of making me appreciate what I have.
Lesson #7: Be As Self Sufficient As Possible With Your Business
The less you are dependent on 3rd party services, the less points of failure your business will have.
Recently, my friend Dana Jaunzemis told me a horror story regarding her rental property that reinforced this lesson.
Here’s what happened…
In order to streamline rent collection for her properties, Dana signed up for a service to allow tenants to pay their rent online instead of having to mail in a check.
Long story short, this rental payment service abruptly filed for bankruptcy and as a result, she has not been able to access any of her rent money.
In fact, thousands of landlords using this service have not been able to get their rent checks because it’s all tied up in the limbo of the bankruptcy proceedings.
It’s stories like this that make me paranoid about depending on 3rd party services to run my business. As a result, I go out of my way to own as many aspects of my business as possible.
It’s also one of the main reasons why I’m terrified for people who depend on Amazon for all of their revenues. At the flip of a switch, you could lose your entire business overnight.
In general, the services that I choose to use are not single points of failure for my business and I can easily migrate to a competitor if necessary.
If you are currently heavily dependent on a 3rd party as your single source of revenue, remember that life is always good until it’s not.
Lesson #8: Focus On Experiences, Not Possessions
If your house was on fire and you could only take a single possession, what would it be?
For me, I wouldn’t save anything of monetary value. For example, I wouldn’t take my car, my computer or my phone. Instead, I would go straight for my family photos.
Here’s what’s funny.
When I was younger, I used to spend all of my money on material possessions. But over the years, I’ve realized that my stuff just weighs me down.
For over a decade, I lugged around my old college textbooks, various pieces of computer equipment and random knick knacks. But once I got rid of them, I felt liberated.
Today, I spend most of my money on experiences because they create lasting memories that make me happy.
Lesson #9: Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
This has been the hardest lesson for me to learn and it’s still a work in progress. Because I went to Stanford, I’m constantly surrounded by classmates and overachievers who are killing it.
Recently, I attended my college reunion and I felt intimidated chatting with some of my wildly successful friends.
Because many of my classmates are executives or founders of 8 and 9 figure companies, I felt inferior when talking about our unglamorous business selling handkerchiefs online:)
That being said, being incapacitated for these past several months has taught me to appreciate what I have. Because I run my own business, I can afford to be injured and not have to go to work.
I can spend as much time as I want with the kids, I don’t have any obligations and I have the flexibility to earn money from anywhere. It’s priceless!
Lesson #10: Don’t Get Used To The Good Life
To this day, I have never flown business class on a long plane flight. And secretly in the back of my mind, I want to avoid it as long as possible because I don’t want to get used to it🙂
Even though I earn enough money to enjoy some of the finer things in life, I’ve discovered that the more luxury I experience, the higher my expectations.
For our last vacation, my wife went all out and booked us penthouse suites on a cruise and I remember her saying to me afterwards that “I don’t know if I can go back to the economy cabins now”.
And hearing her say this actually terrified me:)
The truth is that I don’t need half of the things that I own and one of my greatest fears is that I’ll develop a tolerance for what’s supposed to be special. After all, I want to stay excited! The problem is that…
When you go luxury all the time, it’s no longer a luxury.
When you do anything all the time, it’s no longer a novelty. It becomes the status quo.
As a result, I prefer to reserve the finer experiences in life for special occasions.
The Secret To Finding Happiness
Having time to think about life 24/7 as a result of my injury has made me realize that happiness is fleeting if you don’t take some time to appreciate what you have.
Whenever I compare myself to someone who is doing better than I am, I feel terrible.
Whenever I reach a business milestone and immediately set new goals, I forget to appreciate the accomplishment.
The secret to being happy is to show gratitude for what you already have and to recognize how lucky you are to be where you’re at. Would love to hear your thoughts below.
photo credit: The National Guard Pennsylvania National Guard A man stressed at work! Happy Flying Solo Water Nuclear Bomb rope Surveyors Scope
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Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at ProfitableOnlineStore.com.
His blog, MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times, Entrepreneur and MSNBC.
He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.
In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts.
To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store, BumblebeeLinens.com, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.
Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses.
12 thoughts on “Finding Happiness – 10 Lessons For Entrepreneurs On How To Avoid Depression”
I enjoyed your reading your thoughts in this post.
That’s up there with some of the best thoughts about life, money, and success.
Well said. How many of us never figure that out until the end?
Reminds me of the saying, “No matter where you go, there you are.”
Some intriguing points here, Steve. I’m wondering if you managed to feel grateful that you injured yourself because you ended up having time for reflection. If you did, you have mastered gratitude!
I think about #2 and #3 often. I have a H@A shop and a couple of Etsy shops, and I often see people post in forums and FB groups about how incredibly busy they are. I honestly don’t know how they do it without getting stressed to the max. Although I’m nowhere near lazy, I’d rather leave some money on the table rather than drive myself relentlessly.
As far as #3 goes, I enjoy helping people out and one of my dreams is to have enough free time eventually to be able to inspire and help other people to start their own business. The points your discuss in Lesson #5 never occurred to me before but it makes sense. I’ve noticed that people often don’t value things that are given to them.
Thanks for another enjoyable post, Steve!
Great post. Makes sense. Keep up the good work.
Great post, I agree with everything! Many of the wealthiest people I know lead relatively simple lives while many wannabes spend everything they make and then some. The Millionaire Next Door discusses this, I recommend this book…it basically says that the vast majority of self-made millionaires opened a small business and tend to be conservative spenders.
As they say on the radio; long time listener, first-time caller. Great post! As you have mentioned in the beginning, I am also dealing with the high-highs and the low-lows, when it comes to running a business.
When I reached one of my all time lows, what definitely helped me get through was just insane amount of gratitude moments. When I woke up, before eating anything, before going to bed.
Situation has improved a lot since, but I see how I keep upgrading my life (but notice it only a few months after it happens). So your lesson #10 is definitely something focus your attention to. Any specific tips how you are able to do that?
Great Great Great Post, Enjoy Your Post….
Great Informative post
Thanks for sharing this article.
“The secret to being happy is to show gratitude for what you already have and to recognize how lucky you are to be where you’re at”. Steve, that right there, is the heart of the matter. I have been encouraging clients to develop the “gratitude attitude” a lot more. Be thankful for any and everything. If it’s going well, be extremely grateful. And if it’s not pleasurable, be thankful, because it’s probably there to keep you grounded and prepare you for the good phase. Thanks for an excellent article.
I loved the quote, If You’re Not Sure What Makes You Happy, Then Make Others Happy. Even though I have found what makes me happy, I still find that making others happy delights me in ways that nothing else can. The law of reciprocity applies here too.
Great post, Steve. I really appreciate your humility and honesty especially when you talk about your Stanford peers. Similar story here as well. It has taken me a long time to let go of comparisons and just lead my own life by my own principles. I am still not making much money from my small, unglamorous business but I am certainly feeling happier ever since I stopped comparing. Lot of truth in your post.
It’s reassuring to hear that you struggle with the same challenges that the rest of us do. It’s also interesting to hear that these feelings don’t change even though you’ve “made it” (able to quit your job and work on what you care about).
Also made a mental note about the reliance on 3rd parties. It’s a good reminder. Thanks for the insights.
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