About a year and a half ago, I made the leap. I left my corporate job, and many things became very clear to me--I even wrote about it in an article that went viral.
Having left the rat-race for what was for me a more independent and impactful existence as an entrepreneur, I've found the flexibility in my life intoxicating, discovered that meetings sucked my time, productivity, and soul more than I realized, and that all along I should have been chasing authenticity instead of approval. I've even found that I'm glad I snuck home so many office supplies over the years (just kidding HR).
My post-corporate life as a speaker, writer, coach, consultant, and work-shopper couldn't be going better--even better than I expected.
But there's one other thing I didn't expect.
Life as an entrepreneur is lonely.
I mean like, "Do people still remember me?" lonely.
I work at home most days and certainly could go the co-op space route to be around people more often, but it seems like a silly expense when I have a perfectly good study/office at home (and screened in porch for that matter).
Don't get me wrong, it's not like I'm on an island. I get to be around my business partner and wife each day, I have client and coaching calls, workshops, boards that I sit on. I teach classes to Executive MBA students at Indiana University several times a year.
When I go on stage to give keynote addresses, I'm often in front of big crowds (as many as 5,000), so I'm literally surrounded by people. But then those talks end, and I find myself finishing a strange pattern. Alone in the hotel room for hours prepping for the keynote, give keynote to big crowd, right back to quiet hotel room and solo travel back home.
As much as I absolutely love my new life and the ability to live my purpose and help others work, lead, and live fulfilled, a large portion of it is now solo.
What did I expect when I left corporate to become an entrepreneur?
I didn't expect to miss my co-workers and work friends as much as I do. The shared frustrations and laughs. The tiny light-hearted moments and the big we're-all-in-this -together moments. The wonderful minutiae of the morning greeting and the "How was your vacation?" inquiry. The privilege it is to share such extensive slices of someone else's life with them, side by side. The sense of camaraderie.
You know, all the things that put the human in human resources that we all are.
What we can do about it
I've learned an entrepreneur doesn't do it alone. In addition to my wife/business partner to connect with, I've hired a great publicist and communications strategist to be a part of my team. I have a website development agency, book promotion company, and event production group I work with.
I've been putting more effort into being the instigator in connecting with old friends over lunch, breakfast, or beers. I make sure to enjoy meeting with mentees or advice seekers when asked (something you'll get no shortage of as a successful entrepreneur). I'm building a different kind of support network--and you can too.
But most of all, I'm appreciating. I'm appreciating the time I get with friends and my different kind of co-workers now. And I'm appreciating, more than ever, the wonderful days and nights I spent with my co-workers back when.
Rejuvenated music artist Kesha sings in a recent Macklemore hit, "I wish somebody woulda told me then, someday these would be the good 'ol days."
That's one sentiment I understand.
The power of appreciation
Look, don't worry about me--I'm more than fine. But I wouldn't be living my purpose, the reason I became an entrepreneur in the first place, if I didn't ask my readers to go into work tomorrow, wherever that may be, before you rush into your first of seven back to back meetings, to stop, look around, and look differently at your co-workers.
See and appreciate them for what they are; co-pilots of shared experience in this journey called life. Creations of circumstance to be treasured. The single thing you'll miss most when it's no longer in your day-to-day.
I do this now with all my new (even if few) co-workers and each client and it has further added to my happiness. And research indicates that just one interaction underscored with appreciation and respect can transform transaction-based interactions into a relationship--which is where even greater happiness takes hold.
So don't take for granted the thing you can grant more time to--building relationships with co-workers. They're the thing you'll miss most someday, and to get all Kesha and tell you now, these are the good 'ol days.