There is an old saying, “it’s lonely at the top”. And by old, we are talking 15th century. This is the most famous line in William Shakespeare’s play Henry IV, spoken by Henry himself as the English king. He is tired, sick, sad, and alone in his misery. His remark expresses the persistent idea that leaders tend to be isolated and lonely. And I’m not sure we have come that far, in some respects, to this idea of loneliness.
It’s as if we create our own torture chamber because of this exact thing. Isolated and lonely, with no one to share our celebrations when things go well, or our challenges when things don’t.
Ever since the pandemic, it’s been normalized to be at a home office. Alone. Have meetings over zoom, no need for networking events, and not a lot of in-person peer or colleague interaction. In the beginning, it seemed like a good idea. I mean, everyone joked about the pj bottoms they wore … with their blouse or blazer on the top.
And to be clear. Entrepreneurs have been like this long before the pandemic. It’s just that the pandemic is now the catalyst for the latest round of lonely entrepreneurs and leaders in the business community. I believe that it is swinging back around, but I also believe that with entrepreneurship there is a certain amount of loneliness that is just a part of it, and sometimes hard to get used to. I almost feel weird even typing this because I completely understand the benefits of entrepreneurship, and maybe that trade off is just that.
Appreciate what you have.
As an entrepreneur, or business owner, you call the shots. For the most part, you decide when you are available for meetings, or have days off. You get to be the one in charge. And for myself, I am available to drive my kids to school, and be a volunteer on school trips, and most days I’m home when they get home to hear about their day. I can have appointments during the day that would otherwise have to be left for weekends. That is a trade off for a solo office. And one that I remind myself of when I’m feeling alone. It’s being grateful for the good side of entrepreneurship, and making sure it’s top of mind when you start to feel alone.
This is something that has so many benefits. And the upside is that you get to decide when you need them. For myself, somedays I can power through my ‘to do list’ and I’m really productive. Other days, I just need to take a break, go for a walk, listen to my audiobook, and even then. It’s a struggle. I have zero guilt around taking a break. It’s part of the process. When I worked at a corporate office, I didn’t work for 8 hours straight. So, it’s hard to imagine doing it as a business owner either. It’s just that the breaks in a corporate office are disguised as coffee with a coworker at your desk, or a potluck lunch that takes 3 hours of your day. It’s different when you are an office of 1, and so guilt trips have no place in entrepreneurship.
Love what you do.
And, I’ve saved the best for last. If you are an entrepreneur or business owner, you have to love what you do. Or the torture chamber has a lock with no key. Life is an adventure. So do what you love. Don’t listen to people who say you can’t, or who tell you that you will be too lonely to do this for long. It’s just not true. Find what you love to do, and then go and serve others doing just that. Will you have days where you feel completely alone? Yes. Will you have days where you think, “I can’t believe I get to do this?” Also yes.
I know that this is a topic that not everyone wants to talk about, and it could be because admitting that we are lonely is vulnerable. And, for myself, even with all the benefits of entrepreneurship, it’s ok to admit that I’m lonely sometimes. It goes with the territory. And I’m ok with that. The trade off for me is worth it. If you feel alone as an entrepreneur, you are not the only one. The upside is to notice the loneliness and not stay there. Stay grateful, take breaks and love what you do.