Written by Mike Paton
“Alone” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “separated from others; isolated.” Far too many entrepreneurs know that feeling well.
If you’re one of them, I’m hoping this quarterly Clarity Break™ helps to change that. Because in today’s day and age, it is simply not necessary to feel alone in the world, in your business, or at home. It’s holding you back, and it’s holding your business back.
First, though, let me acknowledge that it’s not unusual to feel isolated when you own or run a small business. When you’re sinking every ounce of energy into doing something most wouldn’t even try – there aren’t a lot of people you can talk to about that. You can’t talk to your family – they were tired long ago of hearing about your business. You can’t talk to your business partners – they’re driving you nuts! You can’t talk to your employees – they want you to be strong, clear, and confident (not worried and uncertain). And so, the loneliness persists…or gets worse.
Many entrepreneurs wield loneliness as a badge of honor, and the world’s uninformed view of what an entrepreneur is (or should be) supports that view. There’s a romantic notion that great creators must be rugged individualists. We tend to revere founders and leaders who challenge the status quo, ignore the naysayers, and build something from scratch that “normal” people might consider impossible (even when good people get run over in the process). What doesn’t get talked about much is how often people who take the route of “rugged individualism” (and loneliness) fail. Or how often (even when their venture succeeds) leaders tend to make the journey and arrive at their destination…alone. Utterly and completely alone.
However, if there’s anything I’ve learned in a lifetime surrounded by entrepreneurs – it’s that none of us needs to be alone forever. Frankly, the vast majority of us would run better businesses and lead better lives if we weren’t alone. The good news is, tapping into a community of like-minded people who care deeply about you and what you’re building is much easier than you might think. If that’s hard for you to swallow, please find some time to really think about why you feel this way, and what you’re going to do to make this feeling go away forever. In other words, take a Clarity Break.
Because more than ever, today’s entrepreneurs and leaders are rejecting individualism and isolation and embracing the power of “community.” We’re recognizing that literally hundreds of thousands of other people just like us share common interests, values, goals, and challenges. With technology and travel making it easier than ever to connect – more of us are actively engaging in worldwide communities of like-minded individuals than ever before.
Community matters. This is why business round table groups like EO (the Entrepreneurs’ Organization), YPO (the Young Presidents’ Organization), WPO (Women Presidents’ Organization), Vistage, and others have steadily increased in number, size, and sophistication. These groups are designed specifically to help entrepreneurs and business leaders leverage a community of peers to share experiences, get real-world advice, and simply feel less alone. My clients and friends who are members get tremendous value from these experiences.
Sharing experience, passion, and vision together makes us strong. This is also why world-class coaches, authors, speakers, and thought leaders are seeing demand for their ideas, motivation, and coaching increase. We’re fortunate to have a profoundly powerful community of 233 Professional EOS Implementers™ around the world – talented entrepreneurs who run their own businesses AND are able to engage regularly with other people who share a common Vision, Core Values, and passion for helping entrepreneurs. We’ve also seen a sense of community develop locally and nationally among people running their businesses on EOS®, because it’s fun and helpful to talk with people using the same language and tools that you and your team use.
Connectedness multiplies. As our communities grow, the sense of connectedness we find in attending events or listening to podcasts increases exponentially. These days, in fact, it’s more surprising to run across someone who isn’t leveraging a group or using a coach than to meet someone who is.
It’s also possible to develop a profound sense of community within your own company. That’s what happens when you embark on a journey to strengthen the Six Key Components™ of your business. You work to clarify your Vision and Core Values, and, to make sure everyone in the organization is a “Right Person in the Right Seat.” You instill discipline and accountability, to get everyone working together towards achieving that Vision. You create a culture where people speak up when they see an issue, to roll up their sleeves, confront the issues head on, and help you solve the issues for the long-term greater good. When that happens, you don’t feel alone. You feel like the leader of a healthy, cohesive team that’s in it with you, no matter what.
Leveraging a sense of community in the world and at work can be transformational, but the place it matters most is at home.When you’re surrounded by family members and friends who love and support you and who respect the passion you have for your business – you’ll never really feel alone. When you don’t have that – the journey to build something truly great and to enjoy the ride is nearly impossible.
I know this, because I’ve lived it myself. I’ve come out the other side, seeing firsthand just how much better life is when I’m surrounded by people and communities who truly care.
To make that happen for yourself, connect with people who care about you – be they family, friends, or fellow entrepreneurs. Find one person (or a group of people) with whom you can be real, raw, and vulnerable. Let down your guard, and let these people see the real you – including your fears and foibles. If you’re really struggling, seek help from a trusted professional. The most positive, present, and confident leaders I know all rely on one or more world-class coaches, spiritual advisers, or therapists. Doing so is a sign of strength, not weakness.
If you’re feeling alone – anywhere in your life – my sincere hope is that this message helps you decide to do something about that. During your next Clarity Break, please decide to plug into one relationship or one group that will give you a stronger sense of community. It’s a journey – but taking that first step can change your life. As Charles Dickens once said, “A very little key will open a very big door.”