Do you think it’s possible to do it all? Myself and entrepreneur Martin Bjergegaard are making it our mission to find this out in hopes of writing a book outlining the lessons of our findings. We are searching far and wide for those that fit the profile outlined below. If you know of any entrepreneurs who you feel are great examples of this please let me know. If you don’t feel it’s achievable or have any feedback on the book concept I’d love to hear that as well. These people will serve as a vivid example of what IS possible. You can be very successful while living a balanced life.
Profile (they definitely do not have to be well known--in fact we would prefer if they weren't):
Not only is it possible, it's really inexpensive to achieve, too. Here's how to do it:
Granted, it has an infinitesimally small chance of working, but nothing is guaranteed, right?
My point with this is that anything is possible, and that your quest to find said entrepreneur will inevitably show you one thing: there was a lot of good luck involved. That individual just happened to do the exact right thing at the exact right time and was infront of the exact right people to pull it off.
The reason entrepreneurs work so hard and sacrifice so much is because the only way to have a reasonable guarantee of success is to do lots of things (most wrong, some right) at different times (most wrong, some right) in front of all sorts of different people (most wrong, some right).
Maybe Derek Sivers?
He sold CD Baby for $22 million. From this discussion in HackerNews, it seems, the business ran by itself since 2002. Of course, i have no idea if he satisfied all those criteria.
I left the day-to-day operations in 2002, and had been living in California and London (while the business is in Portland Oregon). So it had been running without me for 6 years.
Yeah I might have made more if I promised to stay with the company, but that was completely out of the question for me.
There were no super key employees. (Some great people, but everything quite documented so someone new could step into any role at any time.) It was just a working system.
The two main techies were probably the most key in explaining the system to the new techies.
I set it all up this way to give myself personal freedom, but it definitely helped for handing over the keys to the new owner. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=880464
I think its pretty rare. Why?
Because mostly if you are balanced enough to know that work isn't life and you just do business because you enjoy it as a hobby (as it should be done)... then your goal isn't to make $20 million.
I make really, really awesome money doing applications that run themselves. But, well below $1 million a year. Its not worth it. I've made enough to be comfortable and now its less about making more and more about making my life more fun and work on more non-profit stuff, etc.
My point is, if this is supposed to resound with the average person, don't talk about those who make $20 million+ and live on a yacht, talk about people who earn really great livings working 20 hours/week and stay creative, healthy, and moderately successful.
You might want to get in touch with someone like Tim Ferris to see if he could connect you with someone who has used the strategies outlined in his "4hour work week" book to reach the status that you have described above.
However on the flip side I think you may have generalized a whole rich life with your own perspective of what that should mean. I know many ultra successful entrepreneurs who love what they do every day regardless if they have to work 90+ hours a week. The balance they have created in their lives is according to what they perceive to be living a whole rich life and not what society dictates that balance to be.
I've worked at a couple of start-ups for a CEO who uses that philosophy: Family First. It hasn't impaired the success of the company. Now maybe his companies haven't been Googles or Facebooks, but they have been more successful than the average start-ups. Employees have been treated well, and made money on the sales of the companies to larger entities.
I think it is definitely possible. And yes, there is luck involved. But NO start-up is ever successful through hard work alone!
I think you are going to find Entreprenurial minded people are workaholics. They think, eat, dream, and sleep their work. They are consumed by their passion and what they want to accomplish. There is no 9-5, 8-6 ideal. Their time clock is 24/7/365.
That being said there is an interesting article written by Keith Hammonds on fastcompany.com entitled, "Balance is Bunk." It may change your perception about the balance issue. Read it during one of my MBA classes at Babson. Enjoy.
I am not talking from experience here, but I think it is totally possible. One condition would be that you have a different attitude to growth and size of business. I'm wondering about this myself, but it all depends on how you define "whole rich life" for yourself and then make the decisions needed to pursue that (as hard and un-businesslike as they might be). Here are a couple of blogs I read by people who do exactly this - pursue the life they want and being entrepreneurs:
Maybe not exactly what you are looking for but my favorite story is Zynga.
Company founded in 2007 and worth 3 billion in 2009 (2 year span!)