The Lonely Entrepreneur

This post is a little personal. And it’s been a little hard to write for a couple of reasons.

Chris at his deskStarting your own business can be a bit of a lonely affair, as I’m finding out. Sure Gorgeous also works out of our house. I go out to meetings, do outside local networking and I am a social media guy so there are people around most times.

Even so, when push comes to shove it all rests on me. Unlike a traditional job, when you work for yourself  there is no one to pick up the ball if you should fumble.

And that loneliness can be insidious. It can sneak up on you when you lest expect it.

At least it did with me.

A Hidden Trap

A few weeks ago I was trucking along and things were going well. The self-employment thing is working out for us. It sure feels a lot less stressful than the jobs I’ve had over the last several years.

But I started having these weird sensations in my chest. It wasn’t really pain, per se. More like the feeling you get when you have a rush of adrenalin by being scared by something. Sorta like the thrill of a roller coaster. Or bungee jumping. Or something.

Only there wasn’t anything scary or thrilling happening. Just that tightness in my chest.

At first I pretty much ignored it. It was only happening a couple times a day in the beginning. And it never lasted more than about 10 seconds or so. Just enough to make me notice but not enough to get in the way.

I didn’t tell Gorgeous about it because I didn’t want to worry her.

The only real precaution I did take was I stopped working out. Rowing is the one form of regular exercise that really fits me and I had visions of my mother-in-law collapsing on a rowing machine with a heart attack several years ago. I am over 40 after all.

Ignoring it didn’t seem to work as eventually it got so it was happening several times an hour. That was the point where I finally broke down and told Gorgeous what was going on. She rightly insisted I head to the Doc the next morning after I refused her suggestion that we head to the emergency room.

Strange Correlation

But before I got into see the Doc I noticed something a little odd. You see Gorgeous and I have some things we want to achieve, not just with SuccessCREEations, but in other areas of our life as well. And we know that part of growing often involves changing the way you think.

So to help correct some of our faulty thought patterns that we felt were holding us back we both committed regularly reviewing some affirmations that are in line with where we want to be long term. But those statements are very much at odds with where we are right now.

And pretty much every time I read my own affirmations I would have that weird feeling in my chest. Sure it happened other times too for no apparent reason. However the only way I could seem to “make” it happen was by reading those affirmations.

Weird.

The Possibilities

So the way I see it there were a few things that could be going on.

Physical Problem
Obviously there was something physical going on. Now whether the cause was physical or not is something that can be determined. I don’t think that’s the case, but it makes sense to make sure. So I went to the Doc. She ordered some tests and has me heading to a cardiologist to make sure there’s nothing going on with my ticker.
Stress Induced
It’s possible that the whole thing was stress induced. I am probably under a whole lot more stress than I realized working for myself. Perhaps I didn’t realize it because it involves different stressors than when you work for someone else. If so, stopping my workout routine likely added my problem rather than helping things.
Psychological
Perhaps the whole thing is in my head. Maybe the disconnect between the affirmations and our current reality caused some physical reaction while my brain wraps itself around what it will take to move from here to there. If my problem is a head game I’m confident I can overcome that.
Spiritual
I don’t know what your spiritual inclination is but the Bible teaches that we are faced with a real enemy that actively works to destroy us. That enemy wants to keep us from achieving things and will use all those weapons above (and more) to keep us from moving forward and achieving our dreams. Fortunately that’s a battle I know how to fight too. The big trick here usually is simply realizing that the fight is on in the first place.

Negative Effects

The down side of having this going on is that it tends to isolate us. I realized that I was withdrawing and not writing. Since I originally started blogging because I wanted to write, stopping writing altogether was not a healthy move for me.

Nor was my backing away from my social media interaction. Fixating on activities that produce income but involve minimal social interaction such as building web sites for clients to the exclusion of social media activity was not a healthy move either.

Another negative effect of all this stuff going on is that I fumbled a couple balls I should have been carrying. As a solo entrepreneur the consequences of fumbling are yours alone. It’s good and bad at the same time.

Pulling Out

One of the things that is burned in my brain from my flying days in the Navy is our Out of Control Flight Procedures. Even the best pilot might one day find himself in a situation where his plane is spinning out of control.

Step 1 in our aircraft was to neutralize the flight controls.

airplane stallingThe biggest danger is loosing altitude and impacting the ground. Knowing that the natural thing for pilots to do is to try fight the spin and force the plane to fly again. The trouble is, when you’re out of control, fighting can often make it worse and ultimately guarantee you crash.

By neutralizing the controls, bringing them back to center, the pilot can quickly evaluate what is really going wrong and take effective corrective action, stabilize the aircraft. If the plane is still in a dive after the spin stops, then he can pull back on the stick and pull out of the dive before he hits the ground.

I’ve learned that the same thing applies in life. When you realize things are getting out of control often the best thing to do is to take a step back and look at what you are doing. We naturally want to take immediate corrective action, but doing so without first “neutralizing the controls” in our lives can things spin even further out of hand.

Take stock. Only then should you make adjustments.

In my case I went to the doctor so we can hopefully rule out any physical causes. On my doctors advice I started working out again to help manage my stress levels.

I’m also getting my head back in the game by writing and re-engaging on the social media front. I’m doing those things I know I should be doing and facing the consequences for the fumbles along the way.

Finally I’m paying attention to the spiritual challenges that are facing me. I am equipping myself to resist that enemy so that I can move forward toward those things I believe I am called to do.

Even so, it can be lonely sometimes.

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Comments

  1. Very brave and very healthy for you to come forward and talk about this in a very public way. Chris, there is no doubt that everyone in your sphere will rally for you both spiritually, and with some concrete (and sometimes uninvited :-), no-nonsense advice. Be good to yourself and let us know how you’re doing. Give over what you can to your Pilot in Command!

  2. Chris, what a thoughtful post. I know it was deeply personal but I’m sure it will resonate with a lot of people.

    It sounds like you’re doing all the right things by getting help and enlisting Gorgeous to your side. Do listen to your own body – your unconscious mind might be trying to tell you something, and it’s worth listening (else it’ll just knock harder).

    The good thing about social media, even strange things like RSS feeds, is that we’re all still here, and we care, however remote we might seem.

    Love and best wishes

    Joanna

  3. I get severe headaches (not often) just enough to ground me and let me know who is in control when things get hectic. Hope you get to feeling better soon. Nice to hear about your affirmations as well. Affirmations allow one to assimilate and accommodate. Good luck and feel better.

    Cheers,

    Dr. Judy

  4. Great post. being a newly self-employed guy I can relate to everything in you post.

    Cheers
    Scotty (AKA Tybee Guy)

  5. It has been about a year now since I walked away from my full time income, less expensive benefits, etc… and you sum a lot of it up with what we go through sometimes. As a man, father, husband (at the risk of sounding old-fashion) sometimes I feel the stress of not being a consistent provider. I know the future will be better than the present, so I just try to keep my eyes focused on what will be and not what is.

  6. Having worked for myself for several years, I can certainly understand where you are coming from.

    Being self employed often means working 12 to 15 hour days, 7 days a week.

    I was also starting to have health problems. Bad diet, lack of exercise and constantly thinking about work. Not so much thinking about the stressful side of work, but just work in general. Overall, being self employed can be extremely harmfull to the body and the mind.

    I’ve found that it is of paramount importance to balance spirituality, work, family, diet, time off and excercise into ones life. Particularly for the self employed.

    Great post. I’m sure many here can relate.

  7. I recommend traditional Catholicism i.e the 1962 Latin Mass. ‘Spirituality’ is vague, and you can be led astray by the Adversary.

    If saints can manage on bread and water and living in a cave, we can manage too.

    Simple food, shelter, clothing and a connection to the Lord God are better than having huge riches and being ill.

  8. BigOlliG says:

    Thanks first and foremost for your honesty in your posting. You got your weapons, Chris, prayer and the Word, and you have the greatest ally on your side. And sure, while the enemy’s arsenal of attacks is vast, with God on your side, even those attacks are futile.
    You are taking care of the physical aspect … that’s the right way to go.
    You got Gorgeous by your side, with love and sound advice.

    So, one thing left to do … next time we talk on the phone, tell me about it, so I can pray for you, man. Cause I will always have your back with that, my friend. ;-)

  9. Sounds like you’re approaching things the right way, Chis.

  10. I’m not sure what it is, but I think being self employed is a bit masakistic (I don’t think I spelled that correctly). It’s like an ultimate fighter of sorts that just enjoys getting hit in the face over and over. It can be super stressful, but at the same time super rewarding. Great post by the way. You hit a home run on that one.

  11. Being self-employed can be stressful at times, and over a long period I’m sure it can do some damage. As you said with your plane analogy, just step back, look at the big picture, and make changes to rectify the situation.

  12. Chris:
    I think we are going through the same thing at the same time.
    My entire life I have had Panic Disorder – random panic attacks for no perceptible reason. I know I am not on “track” spiritually when the attack flair up. For me not being on track means not moving towards the actions and interactions that are a part of my life’s “destiny.”
    With going out on my own, struggling through the cash flow issues, the loneliness, and the ever constant search for inspiration, I have begun to get small spurts of that feeling you get before a Panic Attack.
    You are right when you say “The big trick here usually is simply realizing that the fight is on in the first place.” It is often too, determining what that fight encompasses – what is the winning side and what is the loosing side? Which part of your life is off balance. What should you be working towards?
    For me, my passion is art – painting combined with spirituality to complete a work that moves me and hopefully will move others, whereas my day job is art – but art that is made specifically for the client whether I like the final product or not.
    How do we find balance between our calling and what pays the bills?
    Or if we follow our true calling will we be rewarded in a way that allows us to pay the bills? I would like to believe the latter.

  13. Sometimes, being self-employed does not guaranttee freedom, from overwork. One just need to do periodic review of progress made and compare it with the origninal blueprint. Else, he/she may just suffer a major burn-out and never recover.

  14. Hey Mr. Lonely,

    (Wasn’t that a Bobby Vinton song back in the 60′s?) How about an update to this post? How are you doing?

    Mike

  15. Belay that request! I just read the rest of the post. D’oh!

  16. Going out on your own and being self-employed truly has its own set of challenges. As you discussed, being at home or out on your own, typically, there is a lot more pressure on your to “make it happen”.

    I felt as you expressed when I went on my own:

    “Even so, when push comes to shove it all rests on me. Unlike a traditional job, when you work for yourself there is no one to pick up the ball if you should fumble.”

    I think that is one of the greatest pressures of being self-employed. It is ALL on you. No doubt that pressure like this could lead to health issues, over time. I think that is the biggest misconception of those who are not self-employed but want to be. You think there is less pressure. And, in some ways, there is… but, there is a different kind of pressure that is equal to what you had before.

  17. For me the own business is about taking it easy. I don’t know if I can post a comment here ’cause I didn’t start a business alone but with the guy I knew for a long time, but I think that the relaxing approach to it is what’s required. It doesn’t mean working half-day but it means a bit of philosophical approach rather than hard-core capitalist one.

    I’m sure that the hard work will always lead to a success. But if it’s achived through sleepless nights and nervous times and God knows what else, it’s not worse it. Remember that we don’t live to work, we work to live.

  18. George the Web Designer:

    You are right. We work to live – but, for me my work is my life – as an artist my brain is always thinking about new creative ways to do things. Taking a “break” to clean the bathtub is merely a brainstorming session for me. But as an artist, I think that I have chosen a lifestyle rather than a “job.” But you are right about the philosophical approach. I meditate twice daily to calm my mind and to relax. Working for yourself, especially if you are a Type A personality can really make you hate your boss! :) By owning and operating our own businesses we do have the ability to take regular breaks, to enjoy what we do, and to find peace in our work. We just need to realize this and use it to our advantage.

  19. Hi Chris,

    I used to be self employed about 5 years ago and it got to me so much I subconsciously ran a thriving business in to the ground two years later.

    I have been starting to work part time again on some projects so that I can be self employed because I soon realized that working for someone else was not the answer.

    Take Care,
    Brett

  20. Wow!
    Its an interesting article and I really enjoyed it.

  21. I do completely agree with your thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

  22. It’s nice posting, thanks for your sharing Chris :)

  23. Working around by yourself sometimes can be a little bit frustration. But it can a good way to improve ourselves. To reach financial freedom, we must try to start our business. Working with other people is a good place to start in the beginning. After we have enough knowledge, we can start our own business.

  24. I like it!
    It’s nice posting =)

  25. I know I am getting in on this a little late but I couldn’t help but leave my 2 cents.

    I have been self employed for the better part of going on 4 years now and I have to say they have been the greatest, most fulfilling, stressful years of my life. I think you hit the nail on the head when you say that being an entrepreneur can leave you with an extreme sense of being isolated and alone if you do not manage your time and activities very closely. These issues become greatly compounded when things fall through the cracks and there is no one there to help pick up the pieces, distribute the responsibility or tell you everything is going to be okay.

    It is so important that while stepping out on your own you also set up a very strong, sound support system (which it sounds like you have) that will be there to listen to you, provide guidance when you stray and console you when you stumble. Without that not only does one put their business at risk, but their sanity as well.

  26. Somebody said it in his/her comment and i must agree with that its very honest post but at the same time very personal as well. And you managed to express yourself nicely but i have to be honest with you too, don’t know why but i stopped reading in between, couldn’t read till end. Unexplainable emotional feelings i am facing.

  27. Great post. It’s so true that entrepreneurship isn’t the posh, live-your-dreams job that people mistake it to be. 1 in 10 businesses fail the first year! Appriciated your down to earth approach to the article.

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