If entrepreneurship was on the stock market, the shares would be at an all-time high. The dream of working for myself, being a top performer, and living my passion was so enticing that it led me to leave grad school.
One entrepreneur in particular who seemed to have it all was Tony Grebmeier, host of the Be Fulfilled Podcast and CEO of ShipOffers (a multiple Inc 5000 recipient). From the outside, I saw a wife, a car, a likable person, a happy family, a successful group of friends, a plethora of money, and a wildly successful business.
I saw all of this and thought to myself, "this guy has it all together." I reached out to Grebmeier to discuss the entrepreneurial journey because I was hitting some bumpy moments.
And much to my surprise during our talk, Grebmeier didn't always have it all together. In fact, his outside world was a complete contradiction of his internal world. On the inside, he had marital problems, a broken family, one million dollars in debt, and was resorting to drugs and alcohol for relief.
Combining all of these factors led Grebmeier to prepare to take his life in 2008. While writing his goodbye letter, he received a timely phone call from his good friend John which served as "the knock" to beginning the ascension. After "the knock" and finally admitting he needed help to his mom also, Grebmeier picked up more momentum and got on track to become his present day version.
This conversation reminded me that what we see on the surface is far from the actual story. Also, it reminded me that being an entrepreneur serves as fertile ground for becoming lonely, depressed, burnt out, and unintentionally alienating yourself from those closest to you if you aren't careful.
Here are two key lessons that I learned from my talk with Grebmeier about how to navigate the tough terrains of entrepreneurship without it leading to loneliness, depression, and burnout.
1. Don't live on an island.
If you're struggling with something and have a particular issue that you're ruminating on, there's a high percentage that many others are similarly dealing with the same issue. As Grebmeier mentioned to me, one of the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make, which I'm still working on is to stop "living on an island".
It's easy to fall into this pattern. Many of my friends aren't entrepreneurs, which makes it difficult to relate at times. This is where the power of community comes into play.
But the power of community can only happen by not being afraid to ask and reach out. If you're like me, asking for help and reaching out may bring along a sense of weakness or incompetence.
But don't fall into that trap. One of Grebmeier's key statements that stuck out to me was "I've spent a lifetime trying to look good to avoid feeling bad."
Ironically, trying to look good leads to feeling bad in the long run because you didn't receive the essential information needed to grow due to the ego being in the way.
If you're living on an island and feel lonely, take a moment to write down five people who you can reach out to if only you asked. If you don't have five people, start searching for local meetups or online communities of shared interest.
2. Disruptions are necessary.
Grebmeier and I were going back and forth with questions until he asked me "What would it take for you to have fun while building the business up?"
This seemingly easy question was tough for me to answer. It literally felt like an eternity of silence for me to come up with an answer. I, along with many early-stage entrepreneurs and founders take pride in our ability to make sacrifices and "suffer" for the process.
However, there's a big difference between staying in on a Friday night to work on the business as opposed to turning your back on everything that you love for the sake of growing the business.
If you're seemingly in a rut, answer this question that Grebmeier posed to me "Where in your daily cycle do you need to disrupt?"
Perhaps it's your daily beliefs and self-talk. Perhaps it's to navigate through life with more self-compassion and less comparison. Whatever the case, as Grebmeier mentioned to me numerous times, it's important to "get out of your head and into your heart."
Growing a business requires a lot of sweat equity, patience, productive habits, and persistence. But more importantly, it also takes a commitment to keeping your identity intact by using the foundational principles from above.