“I know it stinks, but I just don’t have time for my friends right now.” I hear this constantly from entrepreneurs who are in the thick of starting or running their business. It sounds reasonable enough. When you’re slammed and have to make tough choices, something has to give. You have to prioritize your kids, your partner, your sleep. But you also have to prioritize your mental health, and it’s very difficult to be in your right-mind when you don’t have your buddies reminding you to stay there. I know from experience just how difficult it is to make time for friends when it feels like you don’t even have time to brush your teeth. But here are five of my strongest arguments in support of friendship—and I encourage you to look at this list every time a friend asks to meet for a walk or a drink. Then, whenever humanly possible, say yes!
1. Friendship is good for your business. You are likely spending most of your time amongst people who are just as swept up in your business as you are. You need the viewpoint of outsiders, those who can look at your business model or a tricky problem in an unattached way and give you a completely different spin on it. (But don’t be a bore and only talk about your business! Your friends are trusted points of view, not market-research subjects!)
2. It helps maintain your full identity. As an entrepreneur, you must constantly remind yourself that you are not your business, that there is a place where your business ends and the rest of you begins. Your friends can bring out the you that is a kick-ass basketball player, expert chili-maker, or crisis-counselor extraordinaire. They can remind you of the facets of your personality that existed long before your business, and will be around long after. Don’t underestimate how important this is.
3. It helps heal you. Friendships have been connected to longevity, longer survival rates from cancers, lower stress levels, and more. Your business is nothing without your health, and friendship is good for your health.
4. It forces you to face reality. When I was at my lowest but in a fair bit of denial about it, it was my friends who said, “Sheryl, what’s going on? You’re not yourself.” They would not let me evade them. They didn’t care about my business, they didn’t care about whether I drove a new Tesla or a beat-up truck—they cared about me.
5. You’ve learned this lesson before. Remember when you were obsessed with that guy/girl when you were fifteen and you dropped your friends to spend time with the target of your raging hormones? Remember how much you regretted it after the infatuation ended? You’re a grown-up now. Don’t make the same mistake with your business. Because this phase of your business will end—you want to be sure your friends are there afterwards.