In early 2018, I attended a visioning workshop with 100-plus other entrepreneurs. Ari Weinzwig, the workshop leader and a successful business owner in his own right, asked us, "Who's tired? I've seen the excitement and energy you're bringing to your businesses. But who is also, deep down, just really tired? Raise your hand."
All around the room, hands shot up. Including Weinzwig's. "Yeah, you're tired!" he exclaimed. "This is hard work. People are always surprised when I raise my hand because I've been at it for over 20 years and my business is great. But of course I'm tired. I just got used to it. I learned to deal with it."
He continued: "Success doesn't mean you stop being tired. It doesn't mean you stop having problems. Success means you get a better class of problems. That's all."
That moment was a gift for me. I realized that I'm not alone.
As entrepreneurs, we bring a lot of energy into the world. When you look around at other founders and C-suite types, it can look like everyone is smooth sailing around your doggy paddles.
Then, non-entrepreneurial people in your life look at you and figure that outward success means you're the smooth sailor. I've had more relatives expect me to host, cook, and babysit this season than ever before because they assume that since my business is doing well, I no longer have deadlines or "real work" to worry about.
Projecting confidence and capability is part of the job. And while we're starting to appreciate some vulnerability from leaders (thank you, Brene Brown!), just plain ol' tired doesn't fly.
Being tired doesn't make me a fraud. It doesn't mean that my company is doomed. It means that as soon as I overcome one challenge, my company will get a new one. As long as you're in business, you'll never, ever be done.
2017 was rocky for my company, but 2018 was better. The problems we had last January are not the problems we have today. As Weinzwig predicted, 2019 looks to be full of a better class of problems. They should be good problems to have--but that doesn't make them easy, and it doesn't mean we're immune from missteps that could destroy the business.
Perseverance is exhausting.
Given that being tired is part of the job, should you despair? Hardly. Here are two practices I've learned from mentors who've learned to thrive while tired:
1. Seek the company of your peers.
If you had asked me before, I would not have admitted weariness. I needed to see other entrepreneurs own that struggle before I gave myself permission to even consider whether I might be tired, too.
Tasha Eurich, an expert on self-awareness and author of the book Insight says, "I always joke that on a good day, 80 percent of us are lying to ourselves about whether we're lying to ourselves."
When you get together with other entrepreneurs, it's like getting a roomful of mirrors. It's harder to lie about a truth when you see it in someone else's eyes. Some entrepreneurs you meet mirror who you used to be. Some reflect light on the challenges you face now. Others help you navigate around the sharp corners on the path to what you'll become.
In 2019, regularly seek the company of other entrepreneurs who can help you know you're not alone and who can be your mirror.
2. Mind your natural MEDS.
Exhaustion is real. Every long-term business owner I know who's managed to stay positive learned to manage their exhaustion with what mindfulness expert Hugh O'Donovan calls the Natural MEDS: Mindfulness, Exercise, Diet, and Sleep.
This one, you know already. January is the perfect time to embrace it, because MEDS is what it takes. Block out time for these practices on your calendar now before the new, hard, better problems of 2019 arrive in full force.
And as you look ahead to a new year with the excited apprehension we all feel, please know that you're not alone. We're all tired. Of course. And we wouldn't have it any other way, because that's the rewarding, challenging, never-done reality of what it means to be an entrepreneur.