When you go seaching for start-up advice, you’ll find plenty on finance, marketing, and of course, business plans. These are all really important of course. However, in all the business advice I’ve found over thirteen years, loneliness isn’t a popular thing to talk about.
Whether it’s simply that business advisors haven’t been in that position, or that no-one wants to discuss it, I’m not sure. But, of all the challenges I’ve faced, loneliness has been the hardest to deal with…
Now before you suggest a networking group, please hear me out. I know of the many benefits of spending time with like minded people, I get that. Please, stop for a moment and cast your mind back.
Does anyone else recognise the feeling of lying wide awake in the early hours? The clock ticking, lying next to your partner who is also laying awake? You both know how bad it is. The cash is gone, the phone isn’t ringing and staying in that well paid job makes so much sense. How can you even speak the words ‘I’ve made a terrible mistake’ ?
Or how about the loneliness of being stuck at a customers address. They’re relying on you to fix the problem, but you’ve no-one to ask for advice. How are you going to explain to your partner, that you left the job and didn’t get paid. You couldn’t fix it, because you couldn’t find out the answer, you had no-one to ask. It’s a pretty lonely feeling.
Loneliness in a crowd
Worse than that is being lonely in a group, say a networking group. Full of aspiring, positive speaking, go-getters. Talking about uncertainty, doubt and fear isn’t going to get people making a beeline for you next week. Even amongst that support group, it can feel pretty lonely.
I’ve been in that place. It’s not part of anyones business plan and you won’t find a chapter in the ‘Ten Steps to Success’ book or Youtube video. However, loneliness is a real emotion that start-ups should know about and be encouraged to talk about. Just a few years before going alone, I was flying with a crew, surrounded by people that knew me through and through. There was banter, and respect and expectation, but never loneliness. Within four years, I was a man in a van. The difference was brutal and completely unexpected. Of all the challenges in my career, loneliness has left the biggest impression on me.
Oh and it’s not reserved for start-ups…when you’ve been around for a while and you’ve got employees and suppliers who look to you for payment, and you’re pushing close to the overdraft limit, who are you going to tell? Your partner? The bank? Your peer group who respect you ‘making a go of it all alone’. What do you mean you’re terrified of failure? Who on earth wants to hear all that?
For me, I was lucky. A chance meeting with a business coach allowed me to spend five years in ‘business therapy’. Pouring my soul out in the early hours, telling the truth to someone who wouldn’t judge me and being honest about where I really was. It saved me. Maybe I’m being dramatic, maybe it’s a state of mind, or, quite possiblly, I was just out of my depth. Whatever the explanation, one of my ‘Important Steps to Success’ , is to find someone, anyone you trust, who’ll listen, just listen. If you’re lucky, they’ll help you put things into context over a coffee, and loneliness will keep at bay.