CHAPTER :
Lonely at the Top.
With entries from:
Steve Guengerich   —   6 years ago

Being an entrepreneur can be a solitary journey. Even though you are constantly interacting with people, you bear extra weight.

You may have quit your job. You may be using your savings and credit cards to pay your bills. You may have a family and others who depend on you - not counting your employees, customers, investors, and other stakeholders.

How have you learned to cope with the pressure? Which responsibilities have you learned you can delegate and which do you have to keep? Where do you turn for advice and insights? What techniques have you adopted to "have a life" outside of work...or, is your work your life?

It may be LONELY AT THE TOP, but there are common bonds we all share as entrepreneurs. What are your experiences?

Sarah Hernholm   —   6 years ago

It's quality not quantity. Throughout the entrepreneurial journey (and really life in general) people will come and go. You have to be able to handle the ebb and flow of people that will come in and support your endeavors, those that will support and then turn on you and those that never get behind your mission.
What matters most is having your tribe. Your tribe are those that know all sides of you and still support you and encourage you...no matter what. My tribe is small but mighty. I can go to them with my failures and successes and they provide consistent support and feedback.

One of my biggest struggles at the proverbial "top" is dealing with those that just come to you because they want something from you. Over the years I've learned how to flush those people out pretty quickly...but every now and then I get suckered. When it happens I want to harden up and get bitter, but then I remember that I've chosen to live a life that focuses on abundance not lack (there's enough to go around for everyone) and that getting bitter would only hurt me in the end. I won't let one person (or a few people) that are all about the "get" keep me from being about the "give".

So just stay in your lane...keep moving towards that vision....and when you look around and notice there aren't a lot of people around you...just smile...because the tribe may be getting smaller, but it's getting a whole lot better. Remember....cream rises to the top.

Steve Golab   —   6 years ago

I’ve been the co-owner, majority owner, and/or senior executive in a company for a long time. There was a long period, consistent with the leading business philosophy of the time, where I was very focused on managing change. I was always seeking to improve my ability to manage change and obtain better outcomes as a result.

But, in more recent years, I have come to release this notion of me “managing change.” Instead, I have embraced the universe as a partner who can and often does the heavy lifting for me. I’ve been illuminated by the philosophy of “wu wei” – which means “the action of non-action” or “non-doing” – that was taught by Lao Tzu and is a core concept of Taoism.

I liken it to waiting for a door to open. You don't have to knock. You can if you want and sometimes you do, but it’s not required per se. While you are waiting, you learn to pray. This could mean prayer in the spiritual sense, if you are so inclined. But, it also means prayer in a broader, richer sense that includes preparing, being contemplative, being present through observation and listening, sharpening one’s skills, etc.

It is surprisingly challenging to create space in one’s work and life, and that’s exactly why it is so important to practice. Soon you will notice when the right things show up because you are more open and ready for them. This is key because many of us are so busy with “being busy” that we do not notice when the right opportunity presents itself.

Improvising is difficult for many because it’s not the way of conventional business thinking. Professionals and organizations want – in fact, rely on – predictability. They aren’t structured to account for mystery, impermanence, and the natural process of change.

Sam Goodner   —   6 years ago

As a young person, I made a crucial mistake. Before I was an entrepreneur, I was not naturally gifted at keeping up with relationships. Those people who I’ve met since, who excelled at building and maintaining their personal networks – some, as early as their high school years – have a huge advantage if they decide to become entrepreneurs.

I only learned later in life the important value of your network…the ability to pick up the phone and call people in different industries, seeking their recommendations, referrals, or insights on a person or a topic. I missed out on many years of network building that could have been very useful. Fortunately, about 3 to 4 years into growing my business, Catapult Systems, I discovered the Young Entrepreneurs Organization, now the EO. It helped fill the void I had.

Even with founding partners, being an entrepreneur can be a solitary journey. Being around and getting support from other entrepreneurs in non-competing businesses was a blessing, through the EO and later the Young Presidents Organization, or YPO. That’s when I really started growing as a CEO and entrepreneur, when I started learning from my peers in all different types of businesses.

John Raymond   —   6 years ago

Sprinters Need Time to Heal

When I stepped away from my last venture in 2014 I was in need of a vacation. Maybe you can relate. I had led PowerIT, an edtech SaaS serving 1,200 schools and districts nationwide, for 11 years. Truth be told, my tank was near empty and vision too blurred to home in on a new project.

So I took some time off. Over the next few months I spent more hours reading the newspaper and doing laundry than I did thinking about what’s next. And reflecting on the past year I see that taking a break was the right move. As entrepreneurs we’re sprinting with blinders on for an extended time. We keep focused and can’t always see how the landscape around us is shifting. There are new dynamics, new players and new opportunities cropping up. Only when we step away and reassess can we make an informed decision about where, how and when to jump back in.

But more important than this, we need to let ourselves heal. Entrepreneurship is a tough game, physically and emotionally. We get dinged up. We fall prey to adrenal fatigue. Like a sprinter going back to the locker room for an ice bath and massage, we need to step away from the track and rest our muscles.

The time off allowed my mind to regroup and my spirit to recharge. Early this year my restored vision saw the most powerful and meaningful way forward. A few months ago I founded ImpactLab, an education innovation incubator focused on social equity and new models of teaching and learning. Fully renewed, driven by purpose, I’m back on the track and it feels great.

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