An Entrepreneur’s Guide For Knowing When To Take A Vacation


Most of us suffer from something called overconfidence bias, meaning that there's a significant gap between our belief in what we can accomplish, and the reality. I would imagine that the gap gets even wider for most entrepreneurs. I don't have any research to back this up, other than proof that if you can quit your job and step into an unknown world, create something new, and expect people to actually buy it, well, you must be pretty damned confident.

Most of us suffer from something called overconfidence bias, meaning that there's a significant gap between our belief in what we can accomplish, and the reality. I would imagine that the gap gets even wider for most entrepreneurs. I don't have any research to back this up, other than proof that if you can quit your job and step into an unknown world, create something new, and expect people to actually buy it, well, you must be pretty damned confident.

Where overconfidence bias tricks us up is when the rubber meets the road. It's the end of the day, your list of to do's is still long, and you make the decision to forego personal time and just keep grinding.

This seems like a great idea at the time, but it's only short-term thinking. I propose that entrepreneurs take a long-term thinking approach to their productivity, much like we should be doing with our business strategy, finances, and everything else. In fact, when it comes to your personal health, it feels like that should be priority number one, simply by reasoning that if you fall ill or drop dead, the rest of the planning really doesn't matter. With this in mind, here are 5 ways to know that it's time for you to take a break. Whether it's a formal vacation, or simply a meditative walk, the goal is to clear your mind so that you can perform to your best, over the long-term.

1: You're exhausted, but forcing yourself to keep going.

Jeff Bezos recently said that sleeping 8 hours per night is key to him, and his shareholders, in making good decisions. A host of other entrepreneurs, including Arianna Huffington, are declaring lack of sleep, and burnout, a multi-billion dollar crisis. Regardless of how much you want to keep going, when you're feeling lethargic you have to stop. You decision-making skills, logic and reasoning are not in the right place for you to work. And the risk of burning out is simply too high. Make good micro-decisions, for long-term greater productivity. Follow the example of the greatest entrepreneurs today and be sure to get 8 hours per night, catch up on any hours you lose, and take mental, and physical, breaks throughout the year. Your overconfidence biased brain may not believe it's necessary, but all research points the to the opposite.

2: You're stressed.

I do a lot of work in corporate culture design with emphasis on workforce wellness. Researchers have found that the costs of high-stress environments will kill a business. It's only recently that many businesses are willing to break free of the high-stress leadership styles and adapt to more long-term thinking. This applies to entrepreneurs as well. Imposing high levels of stress on yourself and your work will speed up short-term productivity, but at a great cost. Organizations with high-stress show 40% more absenteeism, make 70% more accidents, and have 50% higher healthcare costs[1]. Why are the numbers so high? Depleting your cortisol levels is bad for your mental state and bad for business. It leads to health issues, less precision, and burnout.

Take a daily assessment of your stress levels. If you're feeling out of balance, the answer isn't to work harder, it's to stop work altogether. Think about how many times you've made yourself sick from stress. All of us high-performers do it naturally, so the need is urgent to stop ourselves. A week out of work because you're not well is a greater cost than taking an hour of mental vacation to do something you enjoy.

If some people didn't tell you, you'd never know they'd been on vacation." -Kin Hubbard, American Cartoonist

3: You feel weak.

Your mind is still whirring away at your entrepreneurial venture, but your limbs just don't seem to keep up. In the fitness world we call this “dead arms" or “dead legs". It's the byproduct of over-fatigue. This can happen to you from typing on a laptop too much, just as easily as it can from lifting weights. Dead arms or dead legs means that your body is fatigued. To get your limbs back to operating at their best, its time to increase blood flow. Get a massage, or even better, get a workout in. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but when you're fatigued, a workout will increase your blood flow, which reduces the fatigued feeling you're getting. Force yourself outdoors for a run, on the treadmill, or take a fitness class. If you aren't the fitness type, I am a huge proponent of cryotherapy for body recovery. Find a cryo spa near you and give it a try. Most offer a discounted first time rate. It only takes stripping off your clothes and three minutes to get your body feeling brand new again.

4: You Feel Depressed

Depression is incredibly common among entrepreneurs for a laundry list of reasons. If you're feeling down, a great way to overcome your blues is to get out and attend a networking event or social gathering. When you're depressed this is exactly the opposite thing of what you want to do, and absolutely what you need to do. Connection is the opposite of depression. Neural networks are shown to improve in mid to moderately depressed people who attend social events. Get out and re-wire yourself, ASAP.

An often-overlooked aspect of entrepreneurial management is emotional self-management. We have to focus on our mental and emotional game as a priority if we're meant to perform at our very best. As an entrepreneur, you don't have a boss to tell you to keep going, or to take a break. Take on the role of your own boss. Keep your body and mind feeling great. Your business is counting on it.

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Miss America 2014 on Colorism, Self-Worth, and the Skin Lightening Industry

Growing up, I hated how I looked. My mother is Irish, Polish, German, and Dutch, while my Dad emigrated from Nigeria. I was a biracial girl living in a majority Caucasian town. Not only was I surrounded by people who looked different than me, but I also rarely felt represented in the media. This lack of community during my adolescence gave me little to no self-esteem, self-worth, or self-confidence, which led me to want to change everything about myself: my hair, the accent I picked up from my African family, and even my skin color.

I remember a particular dream I had when I was younger. It started with me at the hair salon getting my hair relaxed straight. Now, in real life, whenever I would get this treatment, my scalp would feel a burning sensation. It felt like firecrackers were exploding on my head. Sometimes, I wouldn't be able to hold in my cries and would tell the hairstylist to wash the chemicals out immediately. Other times, I would wait it out because I wanted straight hair, and as the saying goes: "beauty is pain."

Going back to my dream, the latter would occur, and I would look in the mirror and see that the chemicals in my hair seeped into my pores and turned my skin white. I thought I looked beautiful. I finally looked like all my classmates, and the celebrities in magazines. I was finally the girl I wanted to be. Then I woke up and saw that my skin didn't magically change overnight. I was disappointed...It was a dream too good to become true.

All these years, I thought I was alone in my struggle, but unbeknownst to me, there are millions of people who feel the same way I did about their skin color, primarily in Southeast Asia. Nina Davuluri, an advocate, public speaker, and Miss America 2014, also has been faced with the pressure to have lighter skin.

Growing up as a first-generation Indian in the United States, the issue of diversity and colorism was not foreign to Nina. Like many of us, she wanted to fit in, and being Miss America meant being the "Girl Next Door," which primarily consisted of being blonde-haired and blue-eyed. Knowing she didn't fit that mold, she wanted to use her voice as an activist to change that narrative. So as the winner of the the 2014 Miss America competition, it was important for her to choose a platform that spotlighted an issue that is typically ignored by the media; one that focused on "Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency."

I had the honor to sit down with Nina and talk about the effects colorism had on her upbringing, her platform as Miss America, and her upcoming documentary that explores the intersection of colorism, skin color, and self-acceptance.

Colorism is defined by Merriam-Webster as prejudice or discrimination, especially within a racial or ethnic group favoring people with lighter skin over those with darker skin. In most groups, the lighter the skin, the higher you are looked at.

"I definitely remember comments from family members relating to my skin color," Nina said. "I grew up with a lot of stereotypes, especially being in a south Asian family where the lighter your skin is, the more beautiful you are considered.

I had relatives say to me, "Don't go out in the sun - you're going to get too dark."

However, it wasn't just comments from her family she had to endure. It surfaced on a national level in 2014 when she was the first contestant of Indian descent to win the Miss America competition. The morning after she won, she remembered reading various newspaper headlines in India that read along the lines of, "Is Miss America too dark to be Miss India?"

Screenshot of Buzzfeed Headline following Nina's Crowning

A study conducted by the World Health Organization found that 61% of women in India regularly use skin lightening creams. In India and many other Southeast Asian countries, a lighter skin tone represents a higher social class. This stems from their history of colonization by Europeans, when fair-skinned people were the rulers and in a higher class. In other words, people who did not have to work all day in the sun and in result, would never get darker skin from the sun. This ideology doesn't only affects India, as according to the same survey, 77% of women in Nigeria use skin lightening products. Nonetheless, in many developing countries, lighter skin is considered the standard of beauty.

"Winning Miss America was really the first time I had a platform to speak out about the skin lightening industry," said Nina. "I think it certainly affects women more than our male counterparts. Not only for our careers, jobs, and opportunities but also for our socioeconomic status. Especially for women living in those countries."

Now, people can only take so much without reaching a breaking point and realizing something needs to change. For me, it was after my hair started to break off. I would wake up at 5 a.m. every day so that I could straighten my kinky curls to fit in with my classmate's long, full, straight hair. It also had to do with the fact that I had gotten my hair chemically straightened since I was nine years old. My once healthy hair was now almost damaged beyond repair and would take nearly ten years to grow back to the same length.

For Nina, she realized something needed to change when she saw a real-life example of colorism affecting someone else's life - a young girl.

"Three years ago, I was in India on behalf of the State Department. I did a lot of work as part of the Obama administration. I was there speaking about empowerment, diversity, education, all the things I advocated for. When I was back in my family's hometown, I remember I saw this woman who clearly came from working in the fields, and she had a daughter who was seven or eight. She stopped at a side street stand and bought a pack of Fair & Lovely for five rupees, one of the most popular skin lightening products that sell on the market. She bought it for her daughter and said to her, 'So you don't have to have the life I have.'"

"I am sure this mother loved her daughter very much, but I think she truly believed that success or opportunities would be better for her if she were lighter-skinned. And this is such a problem, especially in those rural areas and villages," said Nina.

This was the moment that Nina knew this story, and many others had to be shared.

For this reason, Nina and a team from Aurora Vision Films developed the documentary COMPLEXion, a film that explores colorism, diversity, and the skin lightening industry.

"We really wanted this to be a global conversation. To be able to include all groups, colors, all shades, all people, was really important to us as we started really uncovering and unpacking skin and colorism in general. So, what started as several specific instances has involved into something so much bigger and really human acceptance is at the core of it," said Nina.

Colorism doesn't just affect darker skin females, although that is the majority. In a released clip from the upcoming documentary, Nina talks to a fair-skinned Italian man named Matteo, who wishes his skin was darker. Matteo is just one of many stories to be featured that unpack a conversation about the relationship between the environment you grow up and acceptance.

"Depending on what you hear, what you grow up with, what you're constantly seeing in your surroundings, you find a way to either accept that or push back against that ideology" said Nina.

While production for the documentary is still underway, Nina hopes that this documentary brings maximum change not only in the United States but worldwide. We already see this change in the beauty industry. Lines such as Fenty Beauty and Milk Makeup are inclusive to many skin tones and are showing models of all sizes, looks, and colors in their ads.

From my personal experience, more conversations and positive examples are needed, and I believe that this documentary will be a perfect way to achieve both. Growing up, I wish there was a conversation about the relationship between skin color and self-worth and to have known that I wasn't alone in this struggle. And I still wish there were MORE conversations about it. With advocates like Nina Davuluri, films like COMPLEXion, and inclusive beauty lines, I genuinely believe we are about to enter an age of seeing the true beauty of diversity and a society that shows that beauty isn't dependent on skin tone.

To stay up to date on the release date for the documentary, you can follow the documentary's Instagram page.