Best Advice from Our Fave Surf-Life Coach

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Is work-life balance a fantasy? How can you be content when you’re running on two hours of sleep, two liters of coffee and two emotions—exhaustion and dread—about the transition you are planning? Here, social entrepreneur and surfer Farhana Huq offers her best advice for doers and seekers.

The founder of Surf Life Coaching™ and a 2007 Ashoka Fellow, Farhana helps leaders and individuals transition to a business and life they love. Using her 15 years of experience as an award-winning change agent committed to the advancement of women and girls, she answers your questions about transitions, balance and leadership.

How can I launch a social enterprise while working 9-5? I can’t just quit my job!–Jasmeen, 26, London, England, UK

Everything starts with small steps. If you’re in a full-time job trying to launch your venture on the side, set aside some designated time each week to focus, research and execute ideas. Whether it’s three hours every Tuesday evening or five hours on Sunday afternoon, carve out disciplined time. If you don’t find the time to take the small steps, you will not be able to take the larger, more progressive ones. Discipline and structure, along with doing the things that might feel slightly uncomfortable at times, are the keys to building a great venture. Remember, if you’re too comfortable, chances are you’re not taking bold enough steps.

I really want to see my venture change lives in my community, but I am so tired. I never have time for anything else, and I am not making enough money to support myself. How can I make this work? – Amy, 31, Seattle, WA, U.S.

Social ventures, like start-up businesses, can be completely consuming to one’s life and relationships. Explore these questions with yourself and perhaps with your team: What is the change I wish to see in the future? Is what I’m doing the best way to achieve that future? What aspects of what I’m doing are essential to the mission? The purpose of these questions is to get you to think about whether or not you are being the most efficient with your strategy and time. Once the essential aspects of your mission are identified, then you can hone in and focus on the how of the work. There is no easy answer to supporting yourself financially through the start-up phase. But you can always carry a part-time job. Unless you start with a grant or have savings, having something part-time on the side is the way to go. Think of your umbrella of skills and all the things you are good at doing. Then go to your networks and contacts and offer up your skills to them on a contract basis.

After founding my company almost seven years ago, I am beginning to feel restless and think about other ventures. Should I move on? – Tika, 34, Jakarta, Indonesia

Seven years is a good amount of time for founders to consider leaving their organizations before the identity of the organization becomes too entrenched with the founder. But I wouldn’t recommend moving too quickly. Set an internal target for yourself as to how long you wish to remain in your position. Be transparent and give notice. Remember, if you leave others to pick up the pieces after a sudden departure, you may not be remembered in the most favorable light. Another option is to take time off to recuperate from your burn-out. Even if it’s a month or two of time away every six months, that can do wonders for your longevity and for giving you the energy you need to see the organization through to a succession or to stay a few more years.

How can I tell if I am overextending myself? – Adassa, 45, Lagos, Nigeria

You are likely overextending yourself if you find yourself getting sick a lot due to stress and low immunity, or if you feel like you want to delegate most of what is on your plate to someone else, or if you show up to work with bags under your eyes because you haven’t slept in days, or if you find yourself easily irritated or unable to express yourself in a productive way, or if you miss deadlines. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, I recommend a vacation to reevaluate – and fast!


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