The Lonely Entrepreneur: Why Creating Community Is Critical
Everyone talks about the freedom and space that entrepreneurship creates. No one talks about the toll it takes on your psyche.
I’ll never forget the feeling as I drove away from my job for the last time that morning. I was exhilarated. Lighter than air. Colors were more vivid. I felt an unshakeable sense of peace in every cell in my body.
I knew I’d made the right choice.
“I want my paperwork to say terminated instead of voluntary,” I’d told my supervisors.
“But then you don’t have the choice to ever come back and work here again!”
“You want me to leave, right? I appreciate the gesture, but I am not coming back.”
My manager and the HR rep looked at each other incredulously.
“I’m going to keep helping small businesses succeed. I’m just going to do it on my own terms.”
I wanted to burn the ships. No looking back. Even when a competitor company called me a few days later and made me an offer for the same position and a five-figure raise. It was time. Time to create signature processes, systems and training programs to generate revenue and scale growth, not for a company or a boss, but for myself.
I created a beautiful workspace at home. As I say down in front of my new work setup, I felt elated.
But the elation quickly faded into obscurity as the days progressed. I was alone. As the days progressed, it became difficult for me to operate, focus and get things done.
I bombed phone calls I could previously crush in my sleep. My proven systems fell to the wayside. Anxiety would take over on the walk downstairs to my home office every morning. It got to the point where I would wake up and vomit every morning, dreading the day ahead of me.
What was wrong?
Then it hit me.
Whenever I wasn’t having a good day at work, I would seek out ways to be of service to others instead.
Without exception, in every job I have ever had, no more than 6 months would go by without my being asked to mentor new employees or struggling performers.
Helping others reach their goals and realize their true potential brought me such joy, such light, such elation, even on the days that I sucked. Contributing to others, even writing a smiley face on a post-it and putting it on someone’s computer, just to watch them smile when they got it was a way to take me out of my head, and realize it was more than just me in the world.
It wasn’t just about me. It was about the team. Team energy is a powerful thing. In entrepreneurship, on bad days, I had no one to turn to but myself. I sat chained to my desk, day and night. No wonder I was struggling.
The more I worried about being able to be successful by myself, the more thoughts of self-doubt and failure crept in and grew faster than wildfire. The more I worried, the less money I made. My sadness and desperation in this vicious cycle was clear. And the worse I felt, the less I wanted to be around other people—even when I knew it might help me. I would receive social invitations, but I wasn’t making enough money, so how I could I justify going out and having fun?
“You’re not allowed to enjoy yourself,” said the voice in my head. “You’re an entrepreneur now. Isn’t that what you wanted?”
Eventually this led me back to my parents’ house after my fiancé became endlessly angry with me for no longer making money and my inability to take any forward action in my business. I was sad, but relieved. I was going to a home where I was unconditionally loved and supported. I thought it would be better.
I was wrong. It was worse. Scarcity mindset took over completely.
Instead of working in the gorgeous 3 story home I owned with my fiancé, where I had an entire room dedicated to being a home office, I was back at home. In my childhood bedroom. Working from my parents’ dining room table.
Worry quickly joined the fear and anxiety party. Misery loves company. My family worried about me. I worried about myself. My dad saw me frustrated sitting blankly in front of the computer at the dining table and told me, “Don’t you think this is unhealthy? Chaining yourself to your desk and not interacting with others? Life happens outside with people, mija.”
Finally, I started listening. I went to my first industry event as an entrepreneur, surrounding myself with people with dreams as crazy as mine. I found solace in like-minded groups on Facebook: digital marketing groups, copywriting groups, paid traffic groups, sales groups. I would ask questions in those groups and seek opportunities to answer questions for others. I was contributing to people again, and letting people contribute to me.
The more I learned and interacted with others online and in person, the happier I felt, and the more productive I became. My mojo was coming back.
I got a business coach, and joined a women’s entrepreneur coaching group. We had weekly meetings online. I eventually met my coach in person, and she introduced me to more millennial, entrepreneurial women just like me. The more I sought out my tribe, the more the right people started showing up like magic.
Before too much longer, I was able to see that the heaviness and anxiety of being alone was a choice I was making. And I could make a different choice.
If you’re struggling with this, know that you can make a different choice as well. Just because you work for yourself, doesn’t mean you have to be alone. There are others just as wonderfully crazy as you. It’s up to you to go forth and find them. Your world will be transformed when you seek others, and allow yourself to be sought out.
Nothing in this world gets accomplished alone. Community is everything.
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