Achieving Work-Life Balance: 11 Inspiring Quotes from Successful Entrepreneurs

Josh Z by

Does being a successful entrepreneur always have to come at the expense of everything else? For those who think work-life balance is a myth or an impossible luxury, these 11 quotes from prominent founders, CEOs, and execs might just change your mind.

As almost every entrepreneur knows too well, founding and running a growing company can take a serious toll on your personal life. The responsibility. The long hours. The unenviable stress. The questions about your future. The sleepless nights.

Very often, it can be a thankless existence that’s in stark contrast to the Hollywood portrayal of entrepreneurship (Expensive cars! Big vacation homes! Gold-plated yachts!). And, unfortunately, that sometimes causes entrepreneurs to believe that if they don’t commit every waking hour to their business, they are doomed to fail.

Au contraire.

With Labor Day as a backdrop, we could all probably use a reminder of the importance of work-life balance.

So, take a few minutes to read these 11 quotes from entrepreneurial rock stars like Ev Williams, Marc Benioff, Sheryl Sandberg, and Brad Feld. While all of these founders and execs have sacrificed something to grow their business, it’s obvious that they also understand the importance of stepping away to unplug, recharge, and realign their perspectives with what’s truly most important.

11 Successful Entrepreneurs on Achieving Work-Life Balance

“When you’re gone would you rather have your gravestone say, ‘He never missed a meeting.’ Or one that said, ‘He was a great father.’”

— Steve Blank

@sgblank, author of The Startup Owner’s Manual

“You don’t have to make yourself miserable to be successful. It’s natural to look back and mythologize the long nights and manic moments of genius, but success isn’t about working hard, it’s about working smart.”

— Andrew Wilkinson

@awilkinson, founder of MetaLab

“I don’t think a lot of founders really want to hear this, but you set the tone from day one, so who you are is going to be reflected in the culture of the early team. So for us, that was a culture of being scrappy, but honest. Working hard, but also having that sense of balance and sort of respecting one’s life outside the office. Making it happen no matter what.”

— Julia Hartz

@juliahartz, co-founder of Eventbrite

Take care of yourself: When you don’t sleep, eat crap, don’t exercise, and are living off adrenaline for too long, your performance suffers. Your decisions suffer. Your company suffers. Love those close to you: Failure of your company is not failure in life. Failure in your relationship is.”

— Ev Williams

@ev, co-founder of Medium and Twitter

“Burnout is about resentment. [Preventing it is] about knowing yourself well enough to know what it is you’re giving up that makes you resentful.”

— Marissa Mayer

@marissamayer, CEO at Yahoo

“I believe a balanced life is essential, and I try to make sure that all of our employees know that and live that way. It’s crucial to me as a manager that I help ensure that our employees are as successful as our customers and partners.”

— Marc Benioff

@Benioff, CEO at

“The most important career decision you’ll make is who your life partner is.”

— Sheryl Sandberg

@sherylsandberg, COO of Facebook

“Once a quarter, Amy and I go off the grid and totally disconnect. It’s totally doable and it will change your life.”

— Brad Feld

@bfeld, Managing Director at the Foundry Group

“Imagine working 20% smarter instead of 20% longer…Work-life balance and startup success at any stage aren’t mutually exclusive. There are enough hours in the day to be effective and present.”

— David Cummings

@davidcummings, co-founder and CEO at Pardot

“Don’t take things too seriously. I would never de-value the importance of your business; but it’s not worth sacrificing your life for.”

— Ben Yoskovitz

@byosko, VP Product at GoInstant and Founding Partner at Year One Labs

“I tend to lose track of what is important in life when I am running around the office. A vacation with my family helps correct that…Your entrepreneurial spirit should help build what is important…not destroy it.”

— Kyle Lacy

@kyleplacy, Senior Manager Content Marketing & Research at ExactTarget

Bonus Quote and TED Talk Video

“It’s up to us as individuals to take control and responsibility for the types of lives that we want to lead. If you don’t design your life, then someone else may just design it for you, and you may not like their idea of balance.”

Nigel Marsh, author of Fat, Forty, and Fired


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  • scottw

    Okay, it sounds pretentious, but a long-time adage of mine is a quote from Socrates, “the unexamined life is not worth living”. If you can’t gain perspective, you won’t know what balance is, despite any thoughts of “other-than-work”.

  • Guy Mucklow

    I couldn’t agree more. It’s very easy to become too emotionally attached to a business that you have created and nurtured to the point where it can stand on its own two feet, sometimes forgetting about the other things in life, like family and friends, who can give you a different perspective.

    Most of us struggle to varying degrees to find that balance, however, I’m personally trying to make my business work for me rather than the other way round.

  • Vanessa Davies

    We recently shared an article on this very subject: how we achieve work-life balance in a busy, growing business. Read it here: Thanks for this useful article.

  • serial_entrepreneur

    Not to discount the value of family life, but … I don’t think many Olympic gold medalists thought about work-life balance until after they won their medals. Those athletes trying to address that work-life balance were probably in the opening ceremony, but not on the pedestal. It’s a question of choices and the intensity of competition, which is usually related to the height of the stakes at hand. It’s a lot easier to make that work-life balance in varsity sports vs. the Olympics.

  • Michael Figueroa

    This is a very good issue to address. It really comes down to looking at your life and what you want as your purpose and goals. If your work is your life and you align the rest of your life to this activity, you would end up having a spouse and family who were part of your work in some way. Either employed in your business or somehow associated. If you have your family as your top goal, then you would align your work to your family goals and purposes and not take a job which kept you away from them for long periods of time. You need to set the importances in your life and align your activities to this so they all forward that same purpose and goal. If you have goals in your work that are incompatible with your family life or vice versa, you will have a tremendous amount of friction in your life. The balance comes from aligning these activities rather than limiting any part of them.

  • Michael Hanna

    The concept of work/life balance is fundamentally flawed. It implies that work and life are mutually exclusive: work is necessarily not life and life is necessarily not work. If you feel that way, then you’re probably in the wrong line of work!

    The real issue is how to leverage the various elements of our lives to improve each other. For example, my work has helped to develop me into a more organized husband and father, better communicator, etc. My home life has helped to keep me grounded and people-focused at work. I try as much as possible to bring the two together.

  • keithc17

    Work -Life balance is an integral theme inside of our CRM product

  • kenC

    Great stuff, from truly amazingly great people, in their own right.

  • BobbyMcGee

    In reply to “Michael Hanna” who indicated …
    “The concept of work/life balance is fundamentally flawed. It implies that work and life are mutually exclusive: work is necessarily not life and life is necessarily not work. If you feel that way, then you’re probably in the wrong line of work!” …fundamentally flawed…. you clearly don’t get the premise or the meaning of balance