This is a guest post by Dave Schneider, who restarted his life in his early twenties to travel the world with his girlfriend and build an online business that supports his lifestyle.
I love his passion for online business and freedom-based lifestyle and this post tackles the very important topic "entrepreneurial loneliness".
Being an entrepreneur can be down right lonely. Sean Ogle, for example, has expressed this sentiment from time to time, and I believe at one point or another almost all entrepreneurs have been there.
Many people hate the office, but they forget about the things they are giving up when they seek locationless living. Things like fantasy football leagues, water cooler talk, and group projects that unite people around common interests.
While there are plenty of digital nomads out there, the sad truth is, most of us aren't connecting in a meaningful way.
This has become so pandemic that it has resulted in the phrase "entrepreneurial loneliness".
It's so pervasive, even, that a quick Google search shows over 200k results.
If you think loneliness is not a problem, think again. It hurts our motivation, our drive to to be successful and add value to society, and without this we'll become quickly overwhelmed and spiral down a long staircase. It also is being attributed to various health problems like heart disease.
So what is going on here?
How can we stop entrepreneurial loneliness by utilizing all the tools and opportunities we have at our disposal in the digital age? It is, after all, easier than ever to get in touch with someone no matter where in the world they are.
Firstly, we have to understand what it means to be lonely.
What Causes Loneliness?
The most common misconception about loneliness is that it is the result of not being around enough people.
But as many of us know, this isn't really true, is it?
For example, have you ever shown up at a party or social gathering where you didn't really feel like you fit in?
Maybe you didn't know enough people. Maybe it wasn't your kind of crowd.
Whatever the reason, you probably felt more lonely surrounded by those dozens of people, than you ever were surrounded by two of your best buds.
Why is that?
Loneliness comes from not being around the right people and not connecting with them on an intimate level.
We can be surrounded by people morning, noon, and night, but if they aren't the right people and we aren't connecting with them, then we might as well be alone.
Why Are Entrepreneurs So Lonely?
Entrepreneurs tend to be mavericks of society. They're often very self-motivated, go it alone types that go against the norm. While this is a fantastic trait about entrepreneurs, if you do it long enough, eventually you will start to distance yourself from everyone around you.
It's a mentality problem.
Our very nature of breaking out of the norm makes it extremely difficult to relate to the bulk of society, because we perceive them as so different from us.
Even after only two years on the road, I find it hard to relate to people from the office world. I just don't understand their life choices, and they don't understand mine.
However, there is a lot more of "them" then there are of "us", and it often leads to a small pinging of loneliness.
This is essentially what we refer to as Entrepreneurial Loneliness and it can be quite nasty when it strikes.
In its most benign form it might result in you being unmotivated and lethargic in your work. This is particularly concerning due to its self-perpetuating nature.
The thing is, entrepreneurs pride themselves on their work. If you are feeling unmotivated and lethargic, you are going to produce low quality work. If you are producing low quality work, you are going to get poor results. If you are getting poor results, you are going to start to get depressed.
And if you add depression to loneliness, you have a recipe for disaster with no clear way out.
What To Do About It?
While there is no panacea, there are definite steps that you can take to rid yourself of Entrepreneurial Loneliness.
Go For A Walk/Start A Conversation - If we just start with the lowest hanging fruit, the first thing you should do is get out and go for a walk. It might very well be the case that you've just been cooped up in the same environment for far too long and you need a change of scenery plus some sun. Clear your mind, and if you're feeling up to it start a non-business conversation with a "stranger". It may be the case that that the local grocer does not want to discuss how to start a blog, but that doesn't mean that there isn't another level on which you can connect. There's more to you than just your work, right? You'll probably find with out much effort that you have more in common with "other" people than you realize.
Focus On Nutrition And Physical Fitness - To continue looking at the changes we can make on ourselves before seeking out external factors, consider nutrition and physical fitness. Are you eating healthy? Are you getting daily exercise? Both of these contribute to having a clear mind and having a clear mind reminds your purpose and goals. If you want to take it a step further you can join a physical fitness class or gym. Again, you are finding an area where you can relate to people, to whom you previously had no relation.
Listen To Podcasts - Now we move closer into bringing other human beings into the mix. The easiest way to do this is through listening to podcasts. You can see that you’re not the only one out there working day in and day out towards your goal. I love the intro to the Tropical MBA podcast - "No matter where you are in the world right now, you are not alone". It serves to remind us that there are other entrepreneurs all over the world going through the same processes.
Do A Podcast Or Interview - If you have your own blog consider starting your own podcast or interview series. This will connect you with new entrepreneurs on a weekly basis and is a nice ice breaker that has the potential to form long lasting relationships. I love spending 10-15 minutes after a podcast just chatting with the guy, microphone's off, about life and all its mysteries. It's a nice way to get to know someone else.
Join A Mastermind - Connecting with a group of like minded individuals is the surest way to rid yourself of loneliness. Masterminding groups are perfect for this. I have just started one myself recently with two other friends and I am really find it cleansing for getting out all that daily stress of day to day problems.
Start Working On Group Projects - It's typical for entrepreneurs to try to do everything themselves, or at best, with a few virtual assistants. Stop it. Just stop it. It's one thing if you were working on your personal brand, but not all projects need to be done independently. In the last six months I made a concerted effort to make the next projects I started group projects and I'm really happy I did so. Firstly, this guarantees that you will have people around to sympathize with, at least for that project. It also allows for someone to be there to pick you up when you're feeling down. In my group projects we email and talk quite frequently as well as have weekly meetings every Saturday.
Finding A Mentor Or Coach - Everyone should have a mentor; someone who has been in your shoes and can show you the light at the end of the tunnel. You can informally approach someone you look up to, or more formally by something like SCORE mentor. I always think a great mentor is someone about 12 or so months ahead of you. They're far enough along to be able to provide valuable advice, but at the same time your problems are still fresh in their memory.
Attend Networking Events Or Meetups - Entrepreneurs forget that there are tons of networking events all over the world. In fact, sometimes even in the most "random" places like Vietnam you can find a bunch of events, because so many entrepreneurs choose to live abroad in these areas. There are also sites like Meetup.com that help.
Join A Community - There are many communities out there for entrepreneurs to mix an mingle. For example, the Dynamite Circle (the DC) which is run by the Tropical MBA guys has around a thousand members from all over the world. They organize masterminds, meetings and events as well as have a very active forum.
Put It Into Action!
At some point or another Entrepreneurial Loneliness is going to strike, so it's best to be proactive and put the safety nets into place so you have them to rely on when it comes. The best medicine is prevention after all. Start forming your circle of people now and you will be very thankful to next time you are feeling a bit lonely!
About the author:
In 2012 David left his corporate banking job to travel the world, and it's been the best decision he's ever made. Since then he has started his own online business and blogs about it at SelfMadeBusinessman.com. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.