The real cost of entrepreneurship lies with the ones we love

 
Charles Wiles
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The journey to success has been hard, beleaguered by the usual startup pains, but compounded by the challenges of divorce, loss and single parenthood.

Passion and love of work are prerequisites for success.

But what happens when entrepreneurs allow their love affair with business to erode their human connection with the ones they love?

The limited observational research out there indicates that spousal support is vital to the success of an entrepreneur’s life, but there doesn’t seem to be any published research on whether entrepreneurs are predisposed to doomed relationships.

One thing’s for sure: if such a study existed, I would be a negative blip of a statistic.

As entrepreneurs, we’re driven to follow our dreams. We’re passionate, work hard and make deep personal sacrifices.

These might seem like noble traits. But the same passionate dispositions that drive founders to business success can destroy the very personal relationships they hold most dearly to their hearts.

I am a divorced, widowed, single dad of two. I’m also at the helm of a rapidly growing edtech venture I set up three years ago, with a vision to transform student learning outcomes, and build the definitive AI classroom assistant that helps teachers personalise their teaching to each and every child.

My venture was a passion, spawned from a problem I faced as a single parent trying to get my smart, disengaged, and recently bereaved teenage son to enjoy learning, and do better at school where he was struggling in the bottom sets.

The journey to success has been hard, beleaguered by the usual startup pains, but compounded by the challenges of divorce, loss and single parenthood.

My dream was always to be a successful technology entrepreneur. From my time at Google, building the first version of Android, to the many other ventures I both succeeded and failed at, I was always forgoing time spent with family to work on “the next big thing”. My justification? Working towards something life changing – a more comfortable future for my family and a social legacy that would benefit the futures of many.

It’s an all too familiar story, and the excuses well worn.

As entrepreneurs, we continue pursuing the dream even when our families don’t understand.

The trouble is that when we get there, our families may no longer be there with us. Our partners may have left us and our children may have grown up and left home. We may have followed our dreams but at the expense of following our hearts.

And so it was. My wife, no longer assuaged by my reassurances of a better future, left me after 20 years together. A year later she was diagnosed with cancer and three years after that she died. The very success I had pursued and promised her I ultimately achieved, but at the cost of our marriage. Sadly, I never got to share it with her in the end.

Whether you are a hungry millennial founder or an aspiring young executive, you no doubt put in the hours and dream big looking for both a better future for your family and to have an impact on the world. But don’t do this at the expense of your personal relationships.

Make time for them and celebrate the small successes along the way. On the bumpy road to success the support of family can be the elixir that wards off anxiety and self-doubt.

It can be the very thing that makes you succeed.

The most important lesson I’ve learned? Never let your business erode the human connection you have with the ones you love. Make time to follow your heart. Your dreams will still be there to follow tomorrow.

Charles Wiles is chief executive of Zzish.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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