L is for Look after yourself

Feeling pretty chilled and smug about your work-life balance? Probably not, if you're anything like the typical social entrepreneur. April is stress awareness month, so we're republishing this chapter from The Social Entrepreneur's A-Z, Liam Black's no-nonsense guide to leading a social business. Enjoy the read (and if you are one of the smug ones, maybe pass it on to someone less fortunate...)

When I start mentoring a social entrepreneur my first piece of advice is usually: “Book a holiday and get laid.” Not very profound I know but social entrepreneurs always believe they are indispensable and their work so important that the world will stop turning if they take a week in Greece. 

How effective do you think you are really being after working seven days a week flat out for a year? People who are jaded, knackered, running on empty are not very productive and rubbish role models for the people they lead.

And surprise, surprise – their relationships suffer. Plenty of marriages have foundered on the rocks of the social entrepreneur’s driven-ness and willingness to save the world and not their relationships. 


How do we support and nurture our entrepreneurs to avoid stress and burn out? Join us at this year's Good Deals + Beyond Good Businesss, on 21 May in central London, to explore this question, and much more. Tickets here.


Building anything – let alone something as tough as a profitable social enterprise – requires commitment, a probably unhealthy dose of self-belief, the ability to be knocked down ten times and get up eleven – and the insight to know when to step back, recuperate and recharge.

There is a reason why they tell you on a plane to put the mask over your face first before helping others. If you’re not breathing you can’t help.

There is a reason why they tell you on a plane to put the mask over your face first before helping others

The good news though for all the workaholic narcissists out there is that looking after yourself is good for business and achieving high performance. I have had some of my best ideas and insights whilst out walking the dog or running. Don’t believe me? Stanford University worked out that a person’s creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking. Peter Keen, an architect of Team GB’s cycling success at London 2012, says that getting off the bike – literally and metaphorically – and slowing right down, going for a walk alone, is a critical part of maintaining high performance. “Learning quicker by thinking slower” is how Peter frames it.

People can be divided into energy makers and energy takers. Purge the cynics and naysayers from your life. “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions,” advised Mark Twain. “Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

And a word on meetings. If you have to have them – and in my experience the more meetings I have the less effective I am – don’t rush from one to another. Give yourself at least half an hour between them to process and get your head straight. And don’t have more than three a day. 

So, look after yourself and your relationships. It’s good for business. And, who knows, you might get more sex.

To read the full book, order a copy of The Social Entrepreneur's A to Z here.