Why so many entrepreneurs run on empty
In the past few days I have felt humbled by the number of long emails people have written me in relation to a post that was published on Monday. It clearly struck a cord with many people; in fact tens of thousands.
There are wonderful organisations out there like the Entrepreneur Organisation that help support entrepreneurs building businesses. They provide a network and program of support that ensures that entrepreneurs are not alone. I was in this organisation for many years and saw great benefit in it. But unfortunately, at some point I out-grew it and the partner organisation for those in that boat was very family orientated, and as a single woman, YPO didn't seem to fit. Some people may differ from this opinion, but through my own experiences, I thought that it would only make me realise how unique my situation is.
On top of that, I found for around 10 years, I spent so much time with these wonderfully inspiring entrepreneurs, that somewhere down the track I missed spending time with family and friends.
Then of course, I made some strategic business decisions to catapult my company's growth into new markets, diversifying our offering and creating something that was so unique, that it would be hard to replicate.
I did all of this, and while I am definitely on the right track, going in the direction I dreamed of going in, it has been a personal struggle. And at times it has been overwhelming, particularly of recent. Finally, after more than 3 years of hopping on international flights every other week, my body and mind has said that it wants to slow down. I question if it's all worth it.
Of course, that is only momentary, because it is worth it. I provide an exciting career path for the people I employ, and help small to medium sized businesses grow - some exponentially. For me, I get to be innovative, creative and a friend to so many people who are making their way in life.
I have had enough hard knocks to be able to give value where many others cannot and my fearless approach to being able to say that I fall down more times than I care to count, and can share that experience - has merit.
I am still learning how to deal with the different generations, and have become that "old woman" who frowns upon things that maybe 10 years ago, I will let ride.
Business is a choice. We can choose to follow our dreams, create change in the world, and challenge ourselves to see if we really are capable of turning a small business into a big one.
This choice can also give us freedom. I am not sure when it was, but about 5 years ago, I knew deep down that I had surpassed my own expectations. I had grown, changed, and adapted with the confidence to make decisions without second guessing myself. I became a thought leader, and somehow knew things that others didn't about the discipline that I have spent my adult life perfecting. I travel and meet with people that are inspiring, each sharing their wisdom and helping me see a different perspective.
And above all of that, I am human. More human than I was in my twenties. More real and with a great, wider perspective. With this brings vulnerability; not fear of losing it all, but an inate gut instinct that there is more in life than working or being seen by your peers as someone successful.
When I was young, my excitement levels when I met someone like Jack Welch or an Australian business person I admired was high. I remember turning to my best friend when I was 30 years of age and saying "can my life get any better than this?" Of course it can, but 'better' comes in a different form. To turn back the clock and to have that excitement again over travelling, life, adventures, business - all would be amazing. But when you are older, you are more tempered and things change. You see things differently, and for me, no holiday excites me anymore. No invitation is necessary. There is no fear of missing out. A good book and bed always seems more appealing and fulfilling.
The title of this blog is about running on empty and the reason for this is that sometimes as an entrepreneur we get to the stage in life where we are being pulled in so many directions. For those lucky enough to have a family, that direction should always become the most important factor in your life. But even when this is the case, there are still business issues that pop up, people issues, and disappointment usually from where you least expect.
Then of course there is your health. And in the past two weeks I have realised how important that is. I thought I was indestructible. Being sick or getting a major illness or cancer was for other people. Reality check... it can affect anyone, even me. We have nothing to give ourselves or others if we don't look after our health. There is no amount of stress that is worth it. No amount of "that can wait" when it comes to your health that can be deemed as the right choice.
To all entrepreneurs out there being pushed in many directions; keep perspective.