The entire notion of “work till you drop” has been greatly embedded in the respective philosophies of entrepreneurs worldwide. It has also been masked as a passage of right in transitioning from the idea stage to the product or service stage. Growing up in Ghana, I would observe business owners, consultants, and traders work countless hours year-round with zero intention of taking a break. Like most in my immediate surroundings, I accepted this as the norm and as the way of survival. Henceforth, I transitioned into a full-time role immediately after college, while actively participated in side-projects to pacify my entrepreneurial curiosity. Yet, there strangely seemed to be an unfulfilled void paralleling my approach to working. The attitude to constantly work was recently put to test during an abrupt decision to set aside my responsibilities and travel.
In his book Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg makes prevalent what it takes for an activity to become a habit. According to Duhigg, for a habit to be ingrained into our way of thinking, a three-step loop must occur within our brains. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then, there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.
Although more and more result-oriented entrepreneurs today are generating cues overnight to turn their ideas into reality, the cold truth is approximately 90% of all startups fail. Based on Duhigg’s logic, most startups begin with a trigger to address a specific challenge (cue), then the entrepreneur formulates a thorough process to address the challenge (routine), and finally she recruits a highly competent team to aid in a superbly calculated execution (reward). Although entrepreneurs understand the level of complexity accompanying the plausible reality of their dreams, the camouflaged link for most boils down to the routine. Unfortunately, routines have been programmed to be analogous with the “work till you drop” mentality as opposed to being enthralled as a catalyst to fuel entrepreneurism.
Here are 3 of the most important entrepreneurial lessons I’ve learned from traveling:
Traveling promotes empathy
In one scenario, let’s assume you are the founder of a thriving startup yet frown upon taking vacations. A few challenges you may naturally face at the workplace include bringing together a diverse group to work towards a common goal, handling the constant naysayer, or even working with very limited resources. Understandably, this may prove infuriating to the point where negative energy grows increasingly difficult to contain. In scenario two, let’s assume you commit to travel at least once a year. During these trips, impediments include a language barrier, time difference, or a cultural shock. As social beings, we crave to be understood so naturally, our bodies and attitudes will adapt. Though inexplicit, this experience carries on into professional workplaces where we learn to understand our colleagues and empathize in scenarios distant to us. In addition to that, 76% of people say traveling has made them embrace diversity. As Ernest Shackleton, a Great Antarctic Explorer, said, “Adventure is the soul of existence because it brings out true harmony among men.” Based on a meticulous analysis, with harmony comes unity, and with unity breeds entrepreneurial growth.
Traveling helps uncover abrupt realizations
An old legend has it that Archimedes once wracked his brain for countless days to find the density of gold. After long frustration, his wife convinced him to take a bath. As he unwillingly jumped into the bathtub, Archimedes realized the water spilled out. This led him to infer that the amount of water his body displaced, would measure his body’s volume. From the abrupt realization, he successfully calculated the density of gold. Once an entrepreneur comprehends the essence of stepping aside from a problem to immerse herself in old or new experiences, things begin to align effectively. For example, during a summer getaway to Mexico, Kevin Systrom had a vujá dé moment as he walked along a beach with his girlfriend, Nicole. Nicole openly shared that she doesn’t think she will utilize the platform her partner was building because her photographs weren’t that good. This conversation sparked the idea of filter apps and how it could superbly enhance the platform being discussed. That simple realization is what skyrocketed the growth of Instagram.
Traveling serves as a catalyst for creativity
Procrastination is one of the few things that is equally frowned upon and unconsciously embraced. Battling with boredom or fatigue is common for most. As a result, we procrastinate in work settings and even in our homes without being fully conscious of our actions. As the deadline for an assignment approaches, we then expedite the routine to attain a means of satisfaction. In Adam Grant’s book, “Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World,” Grant argues why procrastination is actually a great avenue to explore for creative juices. Based on substantial research, Grant proves that those who rush to complete assignments are actually the least creative while those who wait until the very last minute usually do not have any ideas. In his book, he highlights the middle ground; the group which procrastinates consciously. Grant shares that when an idea is still active in the back of your mind, you naturally begin to incubate as it gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in nonlinear ways and to make unexpected leaps. As entrepreneurs, we race to the finish line because we associate urgency with virtue when it comes to productivity but fail to realize urgency can be a vice when it comes to creativity.
Traveling broadens our cultural and social horizons beyond our usual experiences. It encourages us to see things from different perspectives to give us greater flexibility in problem-solving in our immediate surroundings. Today’s population in the labor force are better educated, better traveled, more ambitious, and worldlier than ever before. They resent being managed and driven; they want to be inspired and led. Unless entrepreneurs learn to fuel their entrepreneurial growth from a vantage point, it would be increasingly difficult to accomplish their reward of building a competent team to successfully execute on their divergent ideas.