Over on my Facebook and Instagram I recently asked a question ‘what is causing you frustration, stress or anxiety in your business right now’
I was expecting issues around social media, not making enough money or lacking confidence in knowing what to do next but it was an exercise in getting to know you better. Clearly I needed to get to know you better because you threw me for a loop with your answers.
Not a single one of the things I mentioned just a moment ago were sent to me in answer to my question. Every single one was about the same thing. You said:
“My husband, he doesn’t understand how important this is to me”
“I’m lonely, I have no one to share the ups and downs with”
“I can’t talk to my wife because she just tells me to get a job”
It was like a gut punch for me knowing how upset you were all feeling. How isolated you felt building a business was and for some, there was an overwhelming feeling like you had to hide a part of your identity from your partner. Each response was in some way linked to the emotional support needed from a partner or support network when building your business.
I’m really fortunate, my partner Ryan will encourage me in whatever I do but I always felt like he just didn’t get it and by extension me. There were lots of little comments about spending time together, being ignored and whilst I knew they were jokes I began to find myself working differently to accommodate time with my partner and family differently, regardless of the impact this had on my business or my time. It was them first, business second, and after everything else I needed to do in the world of a mum, girlfriend, relative, friend and human I found myself at the very end of the list.
Not only was I lonely and feeling unsupported but I was tired, ill and utterly resentful.
Add to this that I also didn’t have any entrepreneur friends and you could say I was feeling just as stressed, anxious and frustrated as you.
The problem is that by the time you realise this is a problem then you’re at risk of burning out and feeling completely disconnected. It’s really bloomin hard to get yourself back on track and it’s also often really difficult to broach that subject.
Ryan and I are a great fit, we balance each other pretty nicely and I knew that he didn’t understand how his relationship with my business goals were affecting me. It wasn’t easy but I had to open up to him. Whilst we were on holiday, I asked him a question.
“Do you know why I want to build a successful business?”
Unsurprisingly he didn’t, not deeply. He thought it was just about money. So we talked ( mean really talked) We spent an entire morning discussing my the ultimate dream, supporting and inspiring other people to build successful businesses on their terms and in doing so running a successful business on my terms. One that affords myself and my family a life of freedom and choice. To be able to choose what we do and when we do it without fear or judgement or someone elses control pulling us back.
I could see the cogs turning, the understanding but not the knowing, not the feeling so I took it one step further. I asked Ryan what freedom and choice looked like to him. We chatted for a while and then I asked him to do an exercise with me. I asked him to chat to me about his ideal Thursday, assuming there was no financial pressure etc, he could literally live his best ‘normal’ day ever. It was super interesting (I prompted quite a bit as Ryan isn’t used to visualising in specifics – i.e. I asked whether he had an alarm set, what the weather was like, what he was wearing etc)
As we worked through the exercise it became abundantly clear that mine and Ryans ideal Thursday looked very similar. We both still worked but that was on our terms, he was in fact doing some sort of consulting work rather than an ‘employed’ role. He still did much of what he does everyday like gym and lunch but we did a lot of it together, we ate lunch together and were both finished work when my son got home from school. We were making plans and living much more openly in our home. What we did was meaningful for those we supported but also allowed us a meaningful work life.
His ideal day turned out to be that of an entrepreneur with businesses that afforded us a life of freedom and choice whilst successfully supporting other small businesses.
He was actually pretty shocked by what he realised, that he would commit himself to an 8-5:30 job for others but that ultimately he too wanted to captain his own ship and focus on family, home, health and freedom far more than he currently does.
Now he gets it. Now he is all in. Now Ryan and I are talking about the targets of my business and when I work from the laptop at 8:10pm on a Sunday night he asks if there’s anything I need and uses his headphones to play the X-box so that he still feels close to me but isn’t kicking me out of the lounge to work from my study.
It’s been completely freeing and whilst I still have to make the choice to speak with him, I am also able to ask for more help and support and actually, so is he.
Then there’s the other thing. The not having any entrepreneur friends – that was a little bit of an omission actually because I know quite a few people who have their own bricks and mortar businesses and who are working as consultants etc. I guess for me I meant I had only a few close female friends that were building online businesses. It’s hard because it can be like talking to a neurosurgeon about how you’re struggling to find your ideal client and likening it to performing a complex surgery on the prefrontal cortex. They hear you and you hear them but the knowing and understanding is somewhat limited.
One of the ways I am working on this now that I am firmly back in the business saddle is to reach out to my existing friends that are also building online business (if you’re reading this I’m talking about you Helen!). I am also making a point of interacting more in the Facebook groups I’m a part of to start to get to know the women in there.
Finally, I have created my very own Facebook group for people just like us. If you’re struggling with feeling isolated and needing support. Finding ways to learn new things without paying a fortune for it and generally want to build uncomplicated but genuine relationships with people in the same boat then join Entrepreneur – With Amy Johnson here