This Entrepreneurial Loneliness

Of all the feelings we experience in running our own businesses, surely loneliness must be the most pervasive. That feeling of being on our own against a hostile conspiracy that descends on us each time our beloved government thinks up yet another innovative way to extract more blood from our desiccated veins; or that solitude that grips us when our biggest client takes his business elsewhere; or that insecurity we feel when firing staff members because we can no longer afford them because the government is making them too expensive.

There seem to be so many triggers that lead to this loneliness. But the reality is that few folk are really interested in our sharing our successes. Sharing our successes is also known as bragging, and my Mom said it wasn’t nice! Even fewer people are interested in sharing our challenges. They’re scared we’re about to ask them for a loan! And that’s not even as nice as bragging is.

Maybe what we’re all craving is some form of recognition. Something that says that selling clutches all day is a good reason for our existence; or that repairing video machines is the work God intended for us. Something that allows us to feel, in some small way, that we’re fulfilling our potential – and maybe meeting those childhood dreams of becoming a fireman or an astronaut.

But surely anyone who has enough courage [even if it was acquired involuntarily] to take on the whole world deserves some recognition? Anyone who is providing for his/her family in a world where most folk feel they’re owed a living is surely doing very, very well? Anyone who can keep all these myriad entrepreneurial balls in the air is already doing a damn fine job – irrespective of what others think. And irrespective of what we ourselves think at 3am when we’re contemplating the challenges of tomorrow. [As a diabetic I have found that this really hits me when my blood sugar drops too low. A small chocolate by the bedside puts me right back to sleep. Try it. Not only does the chocolate make you feel real good, but it makes you realise that you probably will survive the challenges!]

It’s interesting that much of the criticism we face, and many of the challenges, come from folk secure in their own jobs – because someone else [their employer] is taking all the risks. And then these same people have the gall to ask that they should share in the rewards of entrepreneurship – without even considering the angst that drives most of us. I don’t think so! [Scratch a little deeper and I bet you find the deepest fear of any employee is the loss of that job – that security. Some security!]

When we leave school we have absolutely no confidence in our decision-making ability. So we make as few decisions as possible! That’s a product of the school system methinks. We’re taught that there is usually just one answer to each question. [This makes it much easier to mark the examinations.] We’re taught that it’s not good to question everything. [Remember that twit in school that everyone hated because he kept asking questions because we all wanted to go play/drink/smoke?]

As children, our every decision is questioned by an adult who knows better. And this person then tries to persuade us that our feelings and desires aren’t valid. The result of all of this is that we leave school with a very poor decision-making ability. We’re so used to the black and white stuff that we struggle with the greys in between. But this entrepreneurial experience is fraught with grey. Somebody whose lateral outlook I deeply respect put it into perspective for me the other day. “Black, “ he wrote “is a very dark shade of grey, while white is a very light shade of grey!”

This carries itself into our business lives. If we go to university we learn to make technical/professional decisions quickly and easily – and often these are also yes/no decisions, or questions with just one answer.

But what about life? Often there is no easy answer. Often we don’t even know what the questions are. And often there are too many answers. So what to do?

How about we just accept that it’s uncomfortable and lonely – and start to revel in it? Where in the lexicon of life does it state that we’re supposed to be comfortable all the time? Surely the more we live through these lonely spasms, the stronger we become. The more we think through the present situation, surely the more accomplished we become because we’re learning so much? [When it’s going well we’re so busy celebrating and drinking so much beer that there isn’t time to reflect and learn – even if we were sober enough to!]

And why should we need all these answers? Surely there’s a bunch of stuff we don’t need to waste energy on; stuff that simply isn’t important to our own future – even if it does affect people 10,000 kilometres away.

In conclusion, why not try this loneliness thing over a cup of coffee? My office is a local restaurant [coffee is better, rent is cheaper, and the staff aren’t on my payroll – so no PAYE, UIF, SDL, RSC, and all those other very dark grey things that our beloved government adds to our light load.]

Written By:
Peter Carruthers
Business Warriors