4min readBusiness 19 July 2019
Being an entrepreneur is lonely.
Everyone says it but I don't think I really understood it until last year when I had a scary wake-up call that my body was not going to be able to keep up with the abuse.
I wasn't sleeping, I was putting junk in my body (and then eating kale and shopping at Erewhon like somehow that made it all better), I didn't exercise, I was constantly stressed out and working myself up over things I couldn't control. The list goes on. Sometimes, when we are so passionate about something, we don't see or hear the repeated signals that something is wrong. Starting a company can be like that.
Let me say it louder for the people in the back: starting a company properly, is like that.
I have always said that there is some level of delusion necessary to start a business - and I still think that's true. Embrace it! If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. To be even remotely successful, you have to pour your soul into what you are building and cannot let outside influences dictate your next moves. Frankly, if you were a reasonable person, you wouldn't be doing it at all.
In many ways you are unique but it's super important to remember that you are not alone and you are not the first person to feel this way.
Last year, a series of unfortunate things happened to me that threw me into a tailspin. I shut myself off from the world and isolated. I was suffering from what a dear friend of mine calls, "terminal uniqueness." I was absolutely certain that I was the only one going through what I was going through and nobody could ever possibly understand. It's funny how human beings can do that, and it's even easier when the issue is something that is seen as a weakness. To be honest I even had a little zing of fear posting this because it would be admitting to the world that last year was really hard. But here's the thing, humans are amazing, resilient beings and asking for help is one of the strongest things we can do. One of my personal heroes, Sophia Amoruso, is a perfect example of a successful, resilient entrepreneur. Her "failure" at Nasty Gal brought her to the mega success that is Girlboss.
Social media may have a lot of down sides but the biggest upside is watching some amazing founders tell the truth. Maybe that is a post for another time. I know it helped me get out of my head and realize that my situation was really not that bad - and truly not that unique.
I bet, right now, you are thinking about a situation or feeling where you believe you're the only one who feels that way. I promise that whatever it is you aren't. You probably don't believe me, but that's okay, I will prove it. No matter what it is, mental illness, physical pain, tragic loss, major mistake, god forbid you are human, there is a way out and someone has done it before.
When we're ready, if we pay attention, there are people who are talking about what we are going through, almost exactly. We live in 2019, where there are literally instagram pages, podcasts, blogs and more dedicated to the things we're going through right now.
I just started recording a podcast called, The Truth Is…, to start talking about this more specifically. No question, problem or scenario is too stupid, taboo or untouchable so feel free to comment or email me with any questions. I will do my best to answer and if I can't, I promise to direct you to a resource or person who can. In the meantime, I wanted to share some books that cover a variety of subjects that we don't talk about enough as women or otherwise. Hopefully one of these will help take some your blinders off.
You got this. We got you.
Brené Brown is one of my personal heroes. Like Sophia Amoruso, she talks a lot about the mistakes she has made both privately and publicly. She has dedicated her life to studying shame - in fact, you should watch her Netflix special about it! - and has written a ton of thoughtful books on the subject. In 2019 (much after this book was published) the need for showing public perfection on social media is at an all-time high. I highly recommend this one - and frankly, every one of her books. Pro tip: get the audible version if she is the narrator herself.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz
This is my all time favorite book about business ownership. I read it once a year at least. Ben Horowitz is a visionary and writes honestly about starting a business. If you have ever wanted to start a company, read this book first.
Almost 10% of natal-born women suffer from this invisible but debilitatingly painful disease. Invisible physical pain can play a massive role in your day-to-day life and even more frustratingly so, in your work balance. Especially when it arrives once a month.
My friend Michael recently published this book about his experience with his addiction and entrepreneurship. While his addictions are specific (gambling & cocaine), the book is honest and in its entirety talk about many of the feelings that plague all business owners. Anyone will take away something solid from this book. Highly recommend.
Mel Robbins talks a lot about how her life was falling apart before she started this book and came up with her 5 second rule. Sometimes it's helpful to hear how far someone went down one direction before they decided to turn around. No matter how far you go one way, you can ALWAYS go another. Remember that.
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"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before." -Willa Cather
A logical fallacy called bifurcation (yes, it sounds like a disease) is used to make people believe that they can only choose between two extreme choices: love me or leave me, put up or shut up, etc. In relation to my career and my love life, I was once stricken by this crazy malady.
I spent over a decade in and out of love relationships that undermined my career and drained my creative energy along with my finances. The key problem was that I was convinced that I had two options: be a kickass, and powerful professional who scares off any prospective mate or surrender to that deep and profound love such that my ambitions blow away in the wind. For years, my psyche ping-ponged between these two choices like that was the only game in town. But why?
Turns out we women are often programmed into thinking that we can't have love (at least that good, juicy heated kind) and any sort of real career. This is not actually that surprising given the troubled history that America has with women in the workplace. Post WWII, women were supposed to quit their jobs and scurry back home and leave the careers for the returning men. And if you think we've come a long way from making women feel they don't belong in the workplace, consider Alisha Coleman. In 2016, she was fired because her period leaked onto a chair!
But try to keep a good woman down, and well, you can't (Alisha sued her former employer). Given enough information we will always find a way to overcome our situation. As we teach in my practice, Lotus Lantern Healing Arts, we are all our own gurus. The light in the lotus just offers a way to illuminate your path.
So what was I missing so many years ago when I kept struggling between two suboptimal choices? The answer is the understanding that if I wanted to have it all, I had to start living right now as if I could. For me to be with someone who supported me having a fantastic career, I had to believe that that was actually one of my choices and start living that way.
Of course that is easier said than done (like most life lessons). So once I made that realization, here are the three key changes I made (and no they didn't happen all at once):
First, I stopped apologizing. Why the hell do women always feel the need to apologize for everything! (Sorry for swearing! Jk.) In particular, why do we have to feel bad about time away from the homefront? Remember Don Draper stopping off at the bar before heading home? I took a Madman lesson from him and stopped apologizing for my free time and let go of my usual rush to get back. Instead I focused on enjoying the transition, which was often needed to release the stress of work. Whether I was slow-driving listening to my jams and singing at the top of my lungs or stopping off for a pedicure, a little ritual went a long way to making me feel like a real human when I walked through the door.
Second, I let go of perfection in order to be present. I stopped stressing over a work deadline and instead rescheduled it to tend to my love life or postponed a romantic dinner because a juicy work opportunity appeared. In this way, I did not force an unnatural choice or one I did not want but really paid attention to what felt right. Instead of feeling subpar in each realm, I end up getting the most out of my time in both places.
Third (and perhaps most significantly) I began to welcome and expect encouragement from the most significant person in my life. I made it clear to my partner that I wanted insight and not criticism. And since I knew I needed understanding and not saving, I said, "Please help me look at my career woes from a different angle instead of offering me advice." Ultimately, I only accepted partners that truly supported my dreams and didn't let me play small.
Today, some of the most exquisite pleasure I feel comes simply from my partner witnessing me. Having a cohort who really appreciates my struggles, helps me integrate work and life, and enjoys the wins together can be mind-blowing. Likewise, when the shit hits the fan (again, not sorry!), it's really important to have a partner that can hold space for you and help you remember those wins.
It's a constant battle. Our culture still perpetuates the myth by pitting love and career against each other (ever see Fatal Attraction?). Men don't always get this message, but then we don't need to wait for them to get it. All we have to do it start living right now in the way we truly deserve and bring others along with us. When my friends see me and my partner together separately killing it in the career department and fiercely loving each other they say, "Your relationship gives me hope."