How Aaron Sorkin can Restore the Entrepreneur’s Work-Life Balance

Have you joined my incredibly non-annoying, once-in-a-while email newsletter?

One of the biggest issues I hear with people trying to balance running their company along side of living their lives is this:

“I simply don’t have the time to do it all.”

I know – We hear that constantly. But in this instance, I refer to the fact that people feel like running their business leaves them just enough time to come home, hug their spouse, kiss their kid, and fall asleep, before waking up in the morning and doing it all over again. Missing out, of course, is the concept of friends – friendships, doing things with those you like for the hell of it – Racing cars, dinners, hell, just going out and catching up with a good friend over a drink. What’s the purpose of busting your ass an an entrepreneur if you don’t have the time to enjoy the perks that come with BEING that entrepreneur?

Here’s my suggestion to you today: You can have it all – You just need to be cool with occasionally having an Aaron Sorkin Relationship.

What the hell is an Aaron Sorkin relationship?

Simply put, an Aaron Sorkin relationship is one that works, (heck, thrives!) on the ability to constantly be flowing and moving. Up until the last second before you connect with your friend (and then there aren’t any guarantees,) it’s fluid. There are no “we’ll meet here at this time” conditions, because both of you know they won’t hold. Instead, what holds, is the promise of getting together.

To put it another way – When you promise to get together, instead of saying “we’ll meet at x place at y time,” say “well get together in the next four days,” and you’ll have a much better chance of getting together. And that’s HUGE.

Watch this scene from The West Wing. It’s an amazing, one-shot walk-through, the longest one of the series, shot in one continuous Steadicam shot, and they got it on take 13. It’s not my favorite “Walk and Talk” of the series, that one is the opening scene of the pilot, where we first meet Leo Mcgarry, but I can’t find that one on YouTube, and I’m exhausted. Anyhow – Note how much the entire staff gets done in four continuous minutes:

So I challenge you this: Why do we stick to the rule that states “in order to spend time with our friends, it has to be a planned, sit-down event, that relies on millions of things going exactly right, and nothing going wrong?” I’m not saying don’t make time for those events as well, but I AM saying that those don’t have to be the only way to make sure you have a life with the people outside your entrepreneurial world.

I’ll give you an example. My best friend Ty and I are very similar. In fact, he’s the one who coined the term “Aaron Sorkin Lifestyle” when referring to us. He’s like, second in command for one of the Stock Exchanges down on Wall Street. I don’t think that’s really his title, but given his schedule, it might as well be. He’s on a plane as much as I am, and we usually miss each other in airports by matters of seconds.  On the same note, I’m writing this from a plane on my way to Thailand for a speech and then boomerang back to NYC. I think I have three days there. It might be four, it might be two. I don’t know, because Meagan decided to go on damn VACATION THIS WEEK, and I don’t even know my name.

But I digress.

A typical email conversation between Ty and myself, trying to make plans, might go like this:

Tuesday morning:

Ty: Peter, you free Friday night after work to get a drink and catch up?
Me: I land at 3pm Friday, barring any delays, should be fine.
Ty: Cool – Meet you at Morton’s at 6pm for a drink and a catch up.”

Friday Morning:

Me: Ty, flight’s delayed. Can we do 8pm?
Ty: Gotta get home to my daughter. How’s Saturday afternoon?
Me: Should be fine. Call you tomorrow.
Me: Hey Ty. It’s 11am. Got home at 4am, flight delays, woke up a half hour ago. How’s 2pm for a coffee?
Ty: Got Karate at 4. How’s 5-7 near Wall Street?
Me: I’ll be downtown – Want to meet on the subway?
14th St. Station at 5:30pm, we can connect and head uptown, and grab a coffee before you head home.
Ty: Perfect.

I know what you’re saying – “Dude – You’re actually OK with being so busy that connecting with your best friend on a Saturday on the damn subway is actually ok?”

My answer? Yes. Without question it is.


You wouldn't believe it, but some of our best talks have happened like this.Because we chose this lifestyle, and it works for us And if we really want it, we’re willing to compromise, and do unorthodox things that other people might find ridiculous. And we get to spend time together! Why does it matter where it is?

Again why? Because in the end, our compromise works best not only for us, not only for our friends, but for our business, and our customers, without whom, we wouldn’t be able to write this from a plane, living the live we love, every single day.

Best part? We make plans for “real” dates months in advance, unbreakable, giving us something to look forward to. But we both know that if we tried to do that every time we wanted to connect, vent to each other, get advice from each other, or just catch up and give each other a hug, it would be a long, long time in between those meetings, and that’s unacceptable to both of us.

So I ask you – Are you an entrepreneur, mad because you can’t live your life the way people who work for other people can? (i.e., at 5pm, you’re done until the next day, and the night is yours, as is your lunch hour?) Sorry – That’s not a real problem. You’ve got the best of all possible worlds in front of you, and you’re bitching because you might have to alter some thoughts to make it work?

The whole REASON we become entrepreneurs is so we can manage our time, heck, our lives, the best way we know how, to work for our best interests, both professionally and personally. If you’re an entrepreneur, and you’re bitching about not having enough time to live your life, well then, perhaps you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur.

Want to rock the entrepreneur lifestyle bad enough? Then spend some time living the Aaron Sorkin way, and BE THANKFUL that you get the opportunity to live the Aaron Sorkin way. Because a lot of people don’t. And that’s a shame.

I talk about the Aaron Sorkin lifestyle, as well as making it work for your business and the customer service your business provides, in my upcoming book, Zombie Loyalists. Click through to see how you can have dinner with me, on me, to talk more about this lifestyle. And as always, I’d love to hear your comments below, and thanks for reading. 🙂

Join the discussion One Comment

Leave a Reply