Article Summary:Loneliness as an entrepreneur is quite common. Here are three fresh ideas on loneliness.
A genius friend of mine is starting a new venture. He's an accomplished technologist, sales executive, consultant, and entrepreneur.
During a recent telephone conversation he said something striking. Before I tell you what he said, here's some background. Over the years, he's experienced his share of ups and downs in selling and business building, but he's unquestionably a success. He consistently earns in the moderate six-figures and it appears that he has recently become the beneficiary of a transaction exceeding $1 million. Now, after a short stint working for another consultant, he's itching to call his own shots. Here's what he said to me:
"André, I'm going to move ahead on my new business idea. Things are a little different than they were a few years ago. When I was working on that last business I was sitting in my basement, making calls and sending emails. I had no network. I felt alone in the process."
But now, he says, he feels he can make a go of it.
Here's what's striking. This is an individual who has no shortage of contacts. He once invited me over to his house for an impromptu get-together and I felt like I was waiting to get into New York's Studio 54 in its heyday. He had them packed in.
I would never think he would feel alone at anytime. He's got a great personality, he's scary smart, and has a sizable family and network of friends and business associates. He's also waist deep in church and community activities and has legions of people who admire him. Yet when he described the experience of his last venture, he emphasized loneliness.
You're Not Alone
Entrepreneurs have often felt lonely – believing that no one else shares their vision or their passion for building a business. But, we are not alone (pun intended) in that feeling. With today's growing workforce of soloists, telecommuters, work-at-home parents, independent salespeople, and virtual teams, loneliness is a feeling that millions are fighting.
During the ups and downs of completing a project, or finding new customers, the feeling of loneliness can set in and limit our vision and our productivity. It can be discouraging and be a wallop to that old self-esteem. And, with the gadgets we tote around, we unknowingly make it worse. Technology that's supposed to connect us – email, voicemail, and PDAs – often fuels our loneliness, enabling us to do a better job of isolating ourselves. For some reason we don't treat every email or voicemail like a real person is behind it. Why acknowledge it?
We're also intentionally distracted. We're plugged into our new I-Pods, or tapping our PDA screen playing a game. How about using technology to interact with real people once in a while? Teenagers are ahead in figuring this out, instant-messaging all day, but even they are lonely. Instant-messaging must often be combined with conference calls involving multiple friends for full effect. You see, you really need to hear someone's voice.
Speaking of voice, there's the mobile phone. It's one of those technologies that help us cope with our loneliness. However, the obsessive use of mobile phones in our culture is perhaps the biggest clue that we are all eager to talk to somebody willing to hear our story. Walk down any street and you'll see tons of people ignoring the people around them, talking to someone else on the telephone.
As soon as we get into our cars we call somebody, so we won't be alone.
So what does this all mean to those in business and professional careers? I have three thoughts:
1. Make money.
Loneliness is one of the biggest business opportunities I have seen in decades. If we can make our work and our businesses friendlier, more responsive, and more raucous like family gatherings, then our businesses will soar. No matter how big our businesses, we have to make our customers, our friends – and make them feel that way. Reach out. How about sending some freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookies to your friends? Better yet, how about delivering them?
2. Be nice to strangers.
I know this is not the advice that your parents gave you, but there are millions of people looking for new contacts, conversations, and ideas. So what are you waiting for? Stop isolating yourself, turn off your mobile phone and strike up a conversation with the person next to you in line at the bagel store. Remember the old fashioned "hello?"
3. Unite and connect.
How often have you called two people and introduced them to each other. If we are to cure this international epidemic of loneliness we must act now and decisively. Bring people together. Make life one big social gathering. And when someone gives you a new book, or tells you about a new restaurant, tell the author, restaurateur etc., how much you liked it. Write notes. Make calls. Be aggressively friendly. When people walk by and pretend they don't see you, shout "Good Morning," loud enough to rattle their wisdom teeth.
There's no need anymore to pretend that you're not lonely – that you're too busy dealing with important people and projects. I know the truth. I'm encouraging you to use your loneliness to your advantage. Most of the world is longing for what we used to call friends, to hear about their challenges, triumphs, and endeavors. Yes, this is you – and you're not alone.
André Taylor counsels and coaches growing companies and the entrepreneurs behind them. He started his management career on Wall Street working with financial information services companies. His businesses have included Interactive Sports, Taylor Insight Group, and The Taylor Grand Company.
André writes and lectures extensively on the subject of entrepreneurship and business growth, and is committed to helping other entrepreneurs benefit from the lessons he's learned creating and building high-value ventures from scratch.
He is the author "81 Lessons of The Natural Entrepreneur" and "The Natural Leader," as well as a complete catalog of audio, video, and workbook titles. His clients include many of the world's most prestigious organizations. For more information, visit www.andretaylor.com.
» André Taylor: Entrepreneur Coach