Most businesses fail.
There are many, many challenges to being an entrepreneur. Time, money, space, you name it. You're creating something out of nothing. But every entrepreneur faces the same challenge when starting a business: a tremendous feeling of loneliness. It's very lonely to stick your neck out there, to take on the world, even if you have a cofounder. You're in the trenches. You're trying to do something that has never been done before.
So how could anyone else understand?
I remember when I started my business two years ago, in addition to the startup stress, the general feeling of "what on earth am I doing?" and pounding the pavement, the late hours, there was and still is, sometimes, a persistent low hum in the background: I am alone in this.
Now, I realize that may sound like a grim prospect. It's not to say that entrepreneurship doesn't have its tremendous highs—the first client, the first employee, the first check, the realization that maybe you have "made it." It's a roller coaster, and sometimes I get really nauseated from all that up and down. Happily, there are a few ways to beat that loneliness, or rather, keep it to a dull roar. Here are some of the best I've discovered along the way.
Your Career Octopus
I've written about this before but it is important to reiterate: Feed that career Octopus. When you're really "in it," it helps to surround yourself with people whom you admire but who also care about you beyond whether or not you're in the black. I have a written list tacked to my bulletin board of people that I can call when I feel overwhelmed in business. I'm lucky that I continue to add to it. These mentors have talked me down from fears of failure, fears of screwing it all up, or just plain fear. Some are in my field, and some aren't.
The same goes for others in your field. I have a "brain trust" of other publicists that I email when I don't know how to handle a situation or need to vent. This is helpful because it is a reminder that yes, you and only you are responsible for your failures and your successes in this industry, but that they are having or have had similar experiences.
The Crying List
I also have a (written) list of people that I feel I can call when I just want to throw in the tear-soaked towel. When I want to have someone give me health insurance, and have an office scavenger hunt. It's exhausting doing it yourself. Be sure to cultivate a list of people that support you in any mood, and at any time, who love you for you.
This is crucial. This can mean walks or exercise. It can mean cooking to blow off stress, or seeing a funny movie in the middle of the day because you've worked this hard to become your own boss. It also means checking in with your overall happiness. Entrepreneurs are under a tremendous amount of stress—and that needs to be recognized. The mental health implications of taking on a business are being recognized more and more, but it's a conversation that needs to be brought out.
Alone Vs. Lonely
There is a counterpoint to this—that there is an important amount of alone time and loneliness that is necessary for creation. It's very, very important to learn how to be alone. Sometimes you need to feel those dips to be happy with the peaks. It's also learning how to disconnect, or to unplug from all that is going on around you in order to focus on what you need, what your company needs, and where you want to go.
[Image: Flickr user Mike Duggan]