When I started my own business 18 months ago I knew I was going to face some pretty hard, raw, in your face challenges but I had no idea loneliness was going to be one of them.
Who bloody knew? It wasn’t something I’d thought about or expected, but after conversations with other business owners I’ve come to realise it’s extremely common.
Don’t get me wrong I absolutely love my business and I most definitely wouldn’t change a thing. Some days are extremely rewarding then there are other days which can be particularly secluded. Drowning yourself in self doubt feeling like you’re a lone sailor lost at sea.
It doesn’t matter if you are a solopreneur or if you have an entire team behind you. Isolation is present in both scenarios. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to voice business concerns to staff, family or friends who haven’t had exposure to the nature of entrepreneurship or the rollercoaster ride that sometimes accompanies it.
It's also natural to seek perception, love and support from our friends and family. But what if, our endeavor is on a separate path to their own life? One that is not as conventional. Our support systems might be taken off guard with our non-traditional desires and aspirations of being entrepreneurs. The last thing we want is to be mocked for exploring the unknown.
An open discussion with staff regarding your worries could be inappropriate at the time too. It may have a negative impact on the team’s performance. Remember you are the driver, the visionary, the one the team looks up to for motivation, support and advice. You don’t want to risk shifting that emphasis.
Plus, work settings are also advancing. Two of my employees work from home, the other four staff members teach classes at the studio which I’m not required to be at. Unless I stop by the studio before/after a class I could potentially go weeks without physically interacting with my team. All our communication could be completed online if required.
For me being an independent, single, late 20 something year old female surely hasn’t helped my loneliness cause. At times I would work from 7:00am until 10:00pm because I had no reason to stop working and I actually enjoyed what I was doing. It gave me purpose and meaning. I genuinely got a kick out of pushing myself harder to see what I could physically accomplish each week. My standard daily interaction would be on my morning walk and even then some people don’t even say anything back after I politely say “Good Morning” so I’m basically talking to myself anyway. I also used coffee as an excuse to interact once a day as I thought a 30 second conversation with a barista would make me feel less isolated. I was wrong. I thought if I instructed more classes I would feel more connected to the barre community. In doing so I created a balloon effect as I still had to complete the behind the scenes business tasks. I ended up working even more losing out on time that I usually would spend with family and friends.
Clearly I was working hard and not smart. I was not listening to my mind (admitting to yourself you are lonely, anxious and/or stressed is super hard for me) so my body decided to tell me in a few health related ways. My body basically screamed at me slow down, smell the roses, look after me and start making meaningful connections with like minded people to put your mind at ease.
Ironically this happened one week after my businesses first birthday.
Below is a list of actions I’ve completed that have worked for me in the last 4 months to ensure I don’t feel isolated:
- Daily Coffee/Chai with a friend/s after training in the morning. Have a “Scrum meeting” so you are accountable to someone for your actions. 1. What did you accomplish since the last meeting? 2. What are you working on until the next meeting? 3. What is getting in your way or keeping you from doing your job? (Thanks for the tip Warren Swanson CEO – Visie Properties)
- Making connections with other entrepreneurs and bouncing ideas off them. If you’re having a low day, simply talking it through. Deconstructing is a great way to see what the core issue is and how is can be resolved. I suggest making a couple of connections who have had a bit more experience in owning a business then you. There business doesn’t have to be similar to your business either.
- Mediation 12 minutes a day is very powerful for me. This helps me to not sweat the small stuff and practice gratitude. I also feel connected to the earth/ universe and know that the universe will guide me when needed.
- Downtime on weekends. No work not even emails. Really being present in the moment and connect with whoever it is you are with at the time. No half assed responses or multi tasking texting, Facebook, and chatting when in the company of someone else.
- Create more meaningful experiences. Add value to your family, friendship circle or work life. You can do this by creating or attending events, going on adventures or booking a holiday. Try spend your income on experiences not superficial things. You lose interest very quickly.
- More phone calls, less text messages.
For people who don’t own their own business or who haven’t been exposed to entrepreneurship below is a metaphor which I thought explains the highs and lows really well.
The easiest way for me to explain the highs and lows in a business is imagine running into the roaring ocean. Your goal is to swim out past the white wash and break where it is nice and still. You run into the surf. The waves start failing into you every 10-20 seconds. Your stomach is above the water. You start listening to the inner voice “I’m totally fine, I got this”. You trip in a couple of sand pot holes but nothing major. You keep moving forward, now the water is at your chest, now chin. The water is still, but only for a little bit. The next set is massive, you dive but not deep enough and you are pulled back 10 meters towards the shore in the white wash. You get up and shake the sand off. You start making your way towards the break again, digging your toes into the sand for extra grip. Pushing through the waves you make it back to where you were last time. It is between sets, still and silent. Your inner voice chatters “self doubt” but you try block it out. The next wave crashes and you dive to the bottom of the ocean floor, syncing your fingers into the sand for security for a number of seconds. Holding your breath, you make your way to the surface however the water has risen and you cannot touch the bottom. You manage to get your head above the water, breathing. Thinking okay what to do next do I go deeper, stay or go to shore. This is the never ending battle of being a business owner but one day you can hopefully get through the break and stop the feeling of being a lone sailor swimming out to sea. It can be completely exhausting especially when you don’t have another human by your side who has had business experience.