By Casey Briody on June 18, 2014
Today many people struggle managing work life balance in order to make the deadline, advance, or because they simply enjoy what they do. Whatever the reasoning may be, it is possible to balance your home and work life. Entrepreneurs especially feel the pain of overworking themselves in order to make their dreams a reality. Many will do whatever it takes to build their business, something Dr. Jeff Cornwall can relate to. Dr. Jeff Cornwall, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Belmont University joined fellow entrepreneurs and business leaders at E|SPACES in Belle Meade last Monday to share his secret to managing work life balance in an entrepreneurial life. Dr. Cornwall, Co-founder and President/CEO of Atlantic Behavioral Health Systems, told of his trials and tribulations of the start, maintenance, and exit of his business.
After nine years of working 80-90 hour weeks to build his company, Dr. Cornwall was presented with the opportunity to exit and leave everything he had worked so hard to build in the hands of another. Upon this exit, Dr. Cornwall found himself working even harder by sorting out the details of the deal while continuing to grow the company during the process. Due to the stress of finalizing deals, Jeff had worked himself to the point of a small heart attack. He was only in his 40’s and found himself so consumed with the stress of work that it was seriously affecting his health.
After the deal was done and the stress of the exit was off his shoulders, Dr. Cornwall immediately thought, “what’s next?” He had put his heart and soul into building and selling his business that he was left feeling uneasy and anxious to take on his next venture. Like any entrepreneur, Dr. Cornwall immediately started dreaming up his next big idea, and within 48 hours he had a team and the funding he needed to get the job done. However, this plan was stopped short by the wise advice of his wife Ann. While Ann usually responded positively to her husband’s ideas, she knew he needed a break and thus insisted he be on a “time-out” for six months to relax.
Jeff took his wife’s advice and started doing what every retired man does, play golf. Alas, 18 holes can only hold the attention span of an entrepreneur for so long. After a few short weeks Jeff went back to his wife with his idea for the new company and Ann suggested a healthy alternative, returning to his roots of teaching.
At the time Ann’s idea seemed crazy, but it only took one week for Jeff to come to the realization that his return to the world of education could be his next big thing.
Although education seemed to be less stressful for Jeff, he was still plagued with multiple offers to write new books. Amidst all the offers, Ann was quick to remind him to slow down and take one thing at a time, “I had a lack of temperance, I needed to step back because I loved it too much.” Jeff told his story as a way to help fellow entrepreneurs find balance in their life, and mentioned some of the greatest lessons he has learned along the way.
Lessons Learned for Managing Work Life Balance:
1. Find time for reflection. Jeff learned about something he hadn’t experienced in a decade and a half. It was called silence. During his time out of work he realized how beautiful silence could be; time for reflection allows you to listen and let things come to you.
2. Seek out wise counsel. For Jeff, this was his wife. We need people to speak to the rest of who we are; these are the people who will call out what you are supposed to do in this life.
3. Get over your legacy. Jeff shared with the audience how he often takes his students out for a walk around campus to see if anyone can identify the person whose name is written on the building, many having no idea. This walk is an attempt to humble his students and show the importance of slowing down to enjoy what is going on around them. Most importantly he wants his students to stop thinking of legacy as something material.
4. Make integration the goal, not just balance. Integrate who you are into everything you do and try not to focus just on yourself.
Entrepreneur or not, Jeff’s words should be taken to heart in order to find balance between work and everyday life. If one strives to find this balance, it can make for a healthier, happier, and more successful life.
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