When Allee Evansen of Salt Lake City, Utah, finished her undergraduate degree around 2014, she was already plotting her way to entrepreneurial success with a snack box company she founded, Snackology, and running a small marketing firm. She was determined to break the stereotype that Millennials don’t earn wealth and become a millionaire by the time she was thirty. By 2017, after she’d finished her MBA, however, the mother of two young children was faced with an unwanted divorce, and soon found herself coming up short on her ability to do it all.
“I was trying to scale both businesses rapidly at the same time, and crashed hard. I ended up with almost $200,000 in debt and had to fire all of my employees. I was mentally, physically, and emotionally zeroed out,” Evansen says.
With a little hindsight on her side now, she can see that her expectations for her own success were too high.
“I was following all of the financial gurus that said you just have to hustle your way out of [the hardships]. You put in the hours in your twenties and it’s going to pay off when you’re forty. By trying to do everything according to the Hustler Book of Life, I lost the whole point of it,” Evansen says.
Instead, she says, she “crashed and burned.”
Organizational psychologist Kahlil King, MS, a PhD candidate and a professor of Economics and Psychology at several colleges including Hofstra University and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York advises entrepreneurs “stop propagating the notion that we have to be the best and reconsider what is best for us.”
He says that while entrepreneurs are often driven to be “the stand-out star” there’s a cost to achieving that status that might not be worth it in the long run.
“I say do a cost-benefit analysis…and consider what you have to give up each and every step of the way. Does working one more hour, just one more hour, get you close enough to your goals that you’d miss one hour of your kid’s soccer game? Does going to meeting after meeting with potential clients get you close enough to your goal that you’d miss birthdays, weddings, baby showers, graduations?”
Instead, he suggests entrepreneurs strive for being “good enough.” “That doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it means that you have set manageable, reasonable goals and boundaries.”
He encourages entrepreneurs to protect their mental health and fend off burnout, which brings emotional exhaustion, cynicism and depersonalization, by redefining the idea of success.
“Success is subjective. What do you believe you have achieved? Rather than hold on to inconsequential, obsolete measures of success, create your own and strive for those,” he says.
He calls this “sustainable success,” adding, “You are successful if the emotional, physical and cognitive efforts you exert can sustain your financial needs, while being aligned with your own beliefs and values, and allow you the flexibility to accept change…”
For Evansen, redefining success meant shifting her priorities and changing her mindset of success at all costs. She took a job working for someone else in order to achieve the financial stability that would enable her to find mental and physical balance. She hasn’t given up on becoming wealthy, she’s just going to take a longer, slower approach to getting there.
Her snack box company is still alive, earning off its debts, but she has revised her goals. “It’s better to invest in myself right now than to chase after exploding the business."