Starting your own business can feel a bit lonely at times. Some days, if you have a problem at hand, it can feel insurmountable. In the early days, you might feel like no one understands your business or where you want to grow. Even as you build a team around you, there are going to be tough decisions that fall on your shoulders, and no one else can help you make them.
I believe feeling lonely is a sure road to burnout and being ready to quit, even though that’s not who you are. I would consider myself a pretty happy and balanced person, but as a founder of a functional foods company, there have been many times where I’ve felt very alone.
But, I’m constantly reminded that as leaders, we are not alone. We share so many of the same challenges. So, when I’m starting to feel a little bit of loneliness creep in, I double down on connection. These are four ways I’ve found to be incredibly rewarding ways to connect on a daily basis.
Connect with other leaders outside your exact niche.
It’s easy to get into a competitive mindset with the leadership teams of your competitors, which is understandable. But competition is the opposite of connection. I’ve found it very helpful to meet other leaders who aren’t in the functional food space. If you live in hubs like Los Angeles, New York City or Austin, Texas, it can be easy to find peers leading startups. I love being able to go on hikes around Texas with friends who lead companies in industries ranging from bidets to eyewear.
If you don’t live near a major city, however, there are other ways to network without it feeling like “networking.” Consider leveraging social platforms to help you connect with people from which you can learn.
Connect with people outside your work, business world and partner.
While solidarity within your work and field are important, sometimes you need to plug into your greater humanity. If you have a spouse or partner, I’ve found it’s also good to not always be turning to that same person as your sole source of connection and support outside of work. That’s a big responsibility and can start to weigh on a relationship.
So, every morning, I try to FaceTime with my mom. She lives on our family farm in Finland, and though a brilliant professor, doesn’t understand most of my role. Morning in Austin is late afternoon in Finland, so I usually catch up with her as she’s slowly ending her day. We talk about the farm, I catch her up on what her grandson is up to, and about world events.
Even if your parents or extended family aren’t available for daily calls, I recommend reaching out to friends or loved ones — who aren’t in your work world — at least once a week to help get your mind off of work.
Connect with your shadow side to find internal peace.
One of the most helpful things I’ve done for myself has been to practice connection with my “shadow.” The shadow is the (mostly) unconscious part of ourselves; what we fear we are but don’t want to be. But I also believe in the idea that the shadow can also be positive. Therefore, I often meditate and converse with my own shadow. This might sound strange, but I’ve found great comfort and internal peace in becoming comfortable with a previously unknown side of myself.
To find your own shadow side, I recommend journaling, talking with a therapist or guide and spending extended time in meditation. Get comfortable with exploring all sides of yourself, even the ones that you may have avoided in the past.
Write down your purpose, and read it often.
I feel great stress relief when I write out my stream of consciousness. When I’m starting to feel lonely, I’ll sit down with a pad of paper and write out all the reasons I started my business, as well as my thoughts about the future. I’m very future-oriented, and this always helps ground me and envision where I’m leading our company.
As you do this more frequently, you might also find it helpful to re-read your old writings. This can help you see progress in areas where you’ve improved more than you might realize, as well as re-connect with your true North.
Let me repeat: As an entrepreneur, you are not in this alone. Lean into connecting with your community to rediscover your purpose and personal mission. When you do, I believe you will never be alone in the startup world.