The Loneliness of Being an Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurship can be the lonliest job in the world. But sometimes showing that vulnerability can be the most comforting thing you do.
Your employees rely on you. Your investors expect a lot from you. Your family wants the best for you. Your spouse has sacrificed for you. So many people have expectations, hopes, wishes, and dreams, that you might feel like there's no one to really confide in. And since you are at the top of the company pyramid, there's no one who even understands what things are like for you.
Entrepreneurs are a lonely bunch. This is especially difficult for them considering the emotional roller-coaster that they experience, and the fact that they've put so much on the line. There are few people inside the company or out who understand what entrepreneurs go through, and with the time it takes to build companies, entrepreneurs rarely have the time to socialize with like-minded individuals.
As a result, when things are not going well entrepreneurs can feel very, very alone. Several well-publicized stories of suicide and depression underscore the problem of emotional distress and isolation that some entrepreneurs experience.
But other entrepreneurs are able to find ways to connect with others and not get too down. This can be one of the best ways to avoid crippling depression or sadness when things are not going well. Trusted friends who are also entrepreneurs, coaches, and therapists can all be good people to talk to when things are looking their worst.
Some entrepreneurs also feel that they can't be vulnerable to those closest to them. Usually that's a perception that doesn't match reality: people inside the business can be there to help problem-solve or empathize without freaking out. Other senior members of staff such as cofounders, the CFO, COO, or other managers can often be useful sounding-boards when things aren't going well. Friends outside the company may be less judgemental and more understanding than you expect.
To cultivate these relationships, begin seeing them outside of work or in informal settings where you can sound out their ability to listen without judgement. Having an internal cheerleader can be an valuable asset. While entrepreneurship will always be a lonely endeavour, entrepreneurs can find ways to get the support they need, whether it's inside the company or out. Doing this will not only help you feel better, but will also help the company get the very best from you.