The Lone Road

This post comes from pretty deep in the vault. I wrote this post over a year and a half ago and recently found it. I wasn’t going to post it because it felt a little vulnerable, but decided to put it out there because you can see some faint glimmers of me discovering what I need to feel happy or accomplished. I have found that having a routine and understanding these levers are key to me staying motivated.

Reading this again could give an indication that I am unhappy with my business partner’s decision to move. I’m not. It was the right move for him and his family, and seeing where I am now, it was the best thing to happen for everyone.

Now, let’s go back and look into the mind of 2018 John…

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

I thought that I had a pretty good idea of what the day-to-day grind of an entrepreneur was when I was running a company with a friend of mine. We worked in the same space, back to back, so it was easy to bounce ideas off of each other and get feedback on interactions with clients.

We spent a lot of time (maybe too much?) talking about goals, the future, and how we could get our company to where we wanted. It was also easy to waste a lot of time talking about the hobbies that we shared and about life in general. Quite often, we’d call it a day early, go to a good bar, have a craft beer, and plan for the future.

When the conversations about my business partner moving to another city started, I didn’t really take them seriously. He has a history of coming up with crazy ideas, which is why he is the idea guy. I thought this was going to be a passing phase.

It felt like overnight that the plans began to firm up for him to move to Seattle with his family. His wife also worked with us as our project manager. So two people out of our three person team were moving across the country. But the plan was for us to continue working on the company together.  

Then the idea guy got an idea. A business opportunity in a segment that we are both extremely passionate about. Understandably, he couldn’t pass it up. Even though he wanted to continue with our company, this shift increased my concerns about the future. But I didn’t say too much about it. The opportunity was huge for him, and I didn’t want to stand in the way.

The plan was for them to leave at the end of May, take June off to drive, explore, camp, and turn the long drive from Texas to Washington into an adventure. Then, when they settled into their new home in July, we’d get back into the swing of things. I wasn’t sure what to expect for how the business would run during June. My partner admitted that it might suck and to just wing it and stick it out.

I am not known for my ability to wing uncomfortable situations, but I didn’t have much choice. There was no turning back at this point, and I wanted to make this work.  

The month sucked a lot more than I thought it would. I had gone from working just a few feet away from a good friend and close business partner to almost complete radio silence for the whole month. There were other issues going on at the same time. My daughter was out of school for the summer, I moved offices to a smaller space since it was just me, and other common personal issues.

My numbers for that month were terrible, and my productivity plummeted. Before this, I was on the path to great self-care; waking up early, sleeping well, consuming a ton of personal development and business content. All of that stopped when I got stressed out.  

I started to reach out to my network to schedule coffees and lunches. I needed to spend time with people that I enjoyed being with and could also network with. This was how I justified my efforts when I was reaching out to them, not “Hey, lonely guy here, want to have lunch?” 

Thankfully I was able to dig myself out of the pit, but it happened slowly. I know myself well enough to know that I need people around me. To improve myself, I need to seek out people that are better than I am and learn from them.  

And, over time, it worked. I got to a place where I felt better about myself and my place in the world. 

But the fact that my business partner was in another state and busy with another company still made work difficult. I was still basically alone. 

However, the reaching out I had been doing cemented what I needed to do. When it was time to move on from the company I was at, I was confident that it was the right decision. 

Evolution and change isn’t easy, but with the right people in your corner, it’s easier.

Now, my goal is to help people with small teams, or people who are working remotely, build systems to avoid what I struggled through. It is so easy to get lost in the work, and keep your head down when you are finishing a project, but what happens after that?

I am lucky that my role forces me to build a network and keep it nurtured and strong, but for some people, there isn’t that focus. Your only interactions are on Slack, or you only hear from your team when there is a problem. In some cases, there isn’t a team at all. It’s just you.   

Not everyone has this concern. There are some people out there who don’t need that kind of interaction, and they want to be left alone to work. My belief is that even though they feel this way, it is actually because they are uncomfortable about trying to build relationships to make their life better.

But I could be wrong. I just can’t imagine doing everything alone.

If you do need the connection and don’t currently have it, there’s hope.

There are so many opportunities to create support systems that have some overlap with your business so you can get what you need socially and feel okay doing it.

There are Slack groups for a wide range of interests and topics. I am in a group focused on people who use the popular social media tool Buffer. There’s another one for people who are interested in the start-up business community. And I have created one for people that I network with as a way to have conversations about selling and networking and improving a little bit each day.

This does not replace human interaction for me, but it helps. I call on my network and try to schedule as many coffees as I can. I can check in on my Slack and Facebook communities as needed to quell my needs in this area.

Whether you are working remotely, work for yourself, or even if you are working in an office every day, it is important to know what you need to be productive. You might be unhappy and be looking around for a career change. But you might just need to make some small changes around your habits now, (or creating new ones), and it will improve your happiness and productivity. 

Reach out to people in your network that you look up to and ask them how they handle it. The struggle is real, and people deal with it in different ways. Who you are and how you deal with things makes a difference. Take an assessment if you don’t know yourself very well. There are plenty around and you might find a lot of insight into why you feel and act the way you do. It can be an enlightening experience and will help you understand what situations allow you to be productive and what stresses you out.  

If you can get everyone on your team to take an assessment so that you all know how to communicate within the team, that would be ideal. Though some companies don’t see any value in assessments, I beg you not to let that stop you from investing in yourself and building an environment around you that will let you grow and improve. 

And just remember, even if that’s what you’re currently doing, you don’t HAVE to do it alone. There are others out there like you, doing what you do and feeling what you’re feeling. They might want a buddy too. Figure out ways to reach out and find them. You might even be helping somebody else as much as you’re helping yourself.