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The solo entrepreneur’s notebook: Keeping the passion high in good times and bad
Guest post from Lori Wagoner
A solo entrepreneur’s journey is unlike any other journey. The trials, tribulations and elations are the same, but the difference is that you don’t have someone who commiserates or celebrates with you.
When you set out on the path of becoming an entrepreneur, you know the journey is going to be difficult. From obtaining legal permissions to finding new hires, nothing is easy. This difficulty rises to altogether new heights if you are a solo entrepreneur. While Paul Graham proclaimed not having a co-founder the top mistake that a startup could make, Mark Taber wrote otherwise. Brittany Hodak, Co-Founder of ZinePak, likened starting a company alone to raising a child as a single parent. And I think there is no better comparison.
Passion burnout is real and it can wreck your startup. However, my intention is not to scare you — the solo entrepreneur or single founder — away, but express my empathy. I know how lonely it gets at times and how difficult it is for you to keep going. (Sometimes, you secretly wish there were two of you, don’t you?) But, it is indeed possible to keep your passion high in good times as well as bad.
Before we try and do that, let’s get this small obstacle out of the way: ask yourself these three questions:
- Would I have been happier in my old job / another career?
- Is this worth the blood, sweat and tears?
- Are my goals too lofty?
These questions will help you to reflect upon your past decisions, weigh your present situation, and set a corrective course for the immediate and long-term future of your business.
The fact is no matter how down you are feeling right now, you wouldn’t have traded places and if you were given a second chance, you would have still chosen this path and shed blood and tears all over again. It takes a few minutes of introspection to make you realize that you are not on the wrong path and revive your confidence.
Sometimes, you will find that you have set the bar too high not only for your business but also for yourself. Understand limitations and boundaries: there are only 24 hours in a day, your employees are bound to make mistakes; in fact you are prone to make more mistakes yourself.
Once you take stock of your situation, revise your goals and then try again. Once you have a clear picture in your head, you can try these awesome, actionable tips to revive your passion and confidence:
1. Be OK with Being Wrong
Learn to accept that you are a human being and it is human to err. Don’t judge or criticize yourself too harshly. Most of the time, you feel low because you are beating yourself up about something or the other.
My advice: Simply note down your mistake and the lesson learned and stick it on a board where you can’t see it all the time. This way, it will be less about the mistake and more about the lesson learned.
2. Circumvent Decision Fatigue
Entrepreneurs feel real burnout when they are burdened with decision-making. From selecting the font for the new microsite to hiring developers, decision-making can cause fatigue. So how do you reach decisions faster and avoid decision fatigue?
The answer lies in plain sight – in technology and automation.
Instead of lingering over every detail for your branding and website, get feedback directly from your target demographics, using usability testing services and survey tools. You’ll remove the fear from your decisions, because you’ll have data to rely on.
3. Seek an Advisor
If you are finding yourself at crossroads one time too many and your instincts are particularly silent, trust an advisor. Don’t have one? Get someone onboard now. It could be anyone from your spouse to your best friend, or a senior whom you particularly respect.
A lot of startup incubators help startups not only with funding but also mentoring, so an alternative method would be to get help from these incubators and angel investors.
4. Do Something Totally Different
At times, you may feel you are stuck in a rut with the same old problems and challenges staring you in the face. This can be also one of the reasons why you may find the flame of your passion dwindling. At times like this, take a break from your current task and do something creative (if you are doing something creative, try some arithmetic). Take up physical exercise or sports. Take a day or weekend off if your schedule allows you. The idea is to break the chain of thought and recharge your brain cells.
If you don’t feel like getting up from your desk though, try simple games that can make you smile and rekindle your passion again.
5. Get a Liberal Dose of Positivity and Energy
Be around people who are excited or positive about their life and career. As you stay in the company of highly motivated people, you will find their enthusiasm rubbing off on you. Famous American entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn put it very nicely,
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
If you find yourself surrounded by toxic people who are sapping passion out of your life, whether they are buddies you drink with at the pub or business associates, make a point to minimalize contact with them and find better, positive company.
Clichéd or amateurish as it might sound, binging on motivational quotes works like a charm all the time. As attributed to Henry Ford,
“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right.”
Stick your favorite quotes up on the wall or read them whenever you are feeling the blues. Here are some of the most inspirational quotes by business giants that you can relate to at different steps of your entrepreneurial journey.
Over to You
None of the ideas we discussed chew away at your time. And all of them are easily actionable. If group talks are not helping you or you can’t hit the gym regularly, these small but effective pointers will keep your passion running high. I’ll let you get back to work now. All the best!
Image credit: Entrepreneurfail.com
Lori Wagoner is a market research consultant. She advises small businesses on new ways to find local and national business. She’s an avid blogger and writes for sites such as Small Business Can, Tweak Your Biz and Customer Think. You can catch her on Twitter @loridwagoner.