The Truth About The Loneliness of Entrepreneurship
You hear a lot about entrepreneurship. You get to be your own boss, set your hours, make your own goals, and decide what direction you take your business. These are the great things that motivate people to take on the risks of starting a business. However, there is one thing that many entrepreneurs fail to share: the loneliness of entrepreneurship.
Why entrepreneurship is a lonely adventure
Ask around your entrepreneur network, and if they are honest with you, they will let you know that at times starting and running a business can be a lonely adventure. Even when they are having periods of non-stop client meetings and booming business, the feeling of loneliness can creep in. In my opinion, three main reasons cause the loneliness of entrepreneurship. These reasons are employee count, workload, and a lack of understanding.
Many new businesses out there have only one employee – the founder. According to MBO Partners® 2017 report, 16.2 million Americans are full-time, self-employed, independent workers. This means that 16.2 million Americans, like myself, have no coworkers to help avoid the feelings of workplace loneliness. It is just us and our work for hours at a time.
As a business owner, two things are clear from the start. First, if you have nothing to sell, you are not going to make any money. Second, you know that you cannot pay yourself until you pay all business expenses and commitments.
Due to this, entrepreneurs often throw themselves 100% into their work. We spend every minute possible creating or sourcing products, producing content, finding clients, and anything else that is needed to make that first dollar. Once we earn that first dollar, we set our sights on the second. We let the workload take over our lives, leaving no time for socialization because we have no choice if we want to succeed in a timely fashion. Once a profiting business has been established, it is hard to give up the bad work habits we have formed because we strive to reach the next level of success.
Lack of Understanding
Finally, it is the lack of understanding from those around us that might produce some of the most profound feelings of loneliness. Often, our friends and family do not understand what we are experiencing and feeling. They cannot answer our questions or relieve our doubts because they have never been in our shoes before.
When those we turn to for comfort do not understand why we keep pushing that three-ton boulder up a mountain for the possibility of success, it reiterates the fact that we are on our path alone.
Additionally, once we realize that those closest to us do not understand, we start to think that nobody will.
Loneliness – it’s an epidemic
Firsthand, I experienced the loneliness of entrepreneurship when I left my corporate job. I went from having coworkers to socialize with to working by myself day-in and day-out. It was a tough transition.
Then recently, I came across an interview in the Washington Post that talked about how loneliness is becoming an epidemic. The discussion was with former surgeon general, Vivek H. Murthy, and stated how fixing the feeling of loneliness needs to be a public concern.
Reading the interview intrigued me to perform more research. I discovered that the causes and impacts of loneliness Murthy spoke about were concluded from analyzing the results of over 100 studies. The findings linked loneliness and its effect on one’s health. Some of the conclusions shared in the Washington Post article include:
- The rate of loneliness has doubled since the 1980s.
- One’s life expectancy is significantly affected by loneliness. The impact is similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is higher than the effects of obesity.
- The rates of heart disease, depression, anxiety, and dementia are also negatively impacted.
When Murthy was asked why he and researchers were referring to loneliness as an epidemic, Murthy gave the following reason:
“I think of loneliness as an epidemic because it affects a great number of people in our country but also because one person’s loneliness can have an impact on another person. This is not a condition that is developing in isolation.”
Work is the leading contributor but also profoundly impacted
While many things can contribute to an individual being lonely, one of the most significant contributors per the studies was one’s work environment. With most people averaging over 40 hours a week in the office, the people one works with become their main social connections. However, in today’s environment, people are only seeing their coworkers as colleagues and not friends. Then, there are those of us who do not have coworkers. This is resulting in work becoming a lonely, isolating place.
Why curing loneliness matter for business owners
While curing loneliness is foremost a health concern, it is also a business concern. The studies showed that in addition to improving employee health, improving loneliness also positively affects businesses. Reliable, personal connections can improve productivity and overall company performance. Even businesses with only one employee can be improved with the creation of meaningful work connections.
How entrepreneurs can fight the loneliness
In the Washington Post article, Murthy talks about how leaders can start to cure the loneliness epidemic in the office by encouraging time throughout the day for more social interaction. However, for entrepreneurs, there is sometimes little opportunity to create broader, social relationships with coworkers. This is especially true if you are your company’s only employee or you work separate hours or at different locations than your partners.
The best way to overcome the loneliness of entrepreneurship is to make connections with other entrepreneurs. These relationships are not the same as networking. Instead of networking to find clients, you are connecting to form friendships. The best ways I have seen to establish connections with other entrepreneurs is through Facebook groups, mastermind groups, and local entrepreneurship social societies.
When I went into business by myself, I took the advice of top marketers and joined Facebook groups within my industry. Through the groups, I have met a lot of great people; people that I have learned to trust and often seek their advice. Slowly some of them have become friends.
Search your industry on Facebook to find groups to join. All groups are different, so feel free to join as many as needed to locate the connections you need. You can always leave groups later that are not a fit.
One thing to remember with groups is that no will know that you are there if you do not participate. With all relationships, you are only going to get something out of it if you put in the work. Ask questions, join conversations, and form connections.
A mastermind group is a group of peers that gather together for education, guidance, accountability, and brainstorming. Ran by a facilitator, the group consists of individuals who have committed to a set of meetings. Entrance to the group is limited to just a few people, and there is typically a monetary charge to participate.
Mastermind groups are great because you get to know and form a deeper connection with the people participating and the relationships developed often continue after the scheduled meetings have ended. Also, because most of these groups cost a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, members are generally motivated to the highest levels of participation.
Local entrepreneurship social societies
Local entrepreneurship social societies and groups are the best option to make connections with other entrepreneurs within your community. These societies and groups are designed to bring business owners together to meet one another and discuss their entrepreneurship journey.
While networking opportunities are often a benefit of these groups, you want to find organizations that offer more than networking. When searching for groups, find ones that focus on building relationships and entrepreneur support. Some organizations have membership fees, others have you pay for individual events, and some are free.