If you’ve ever branched out on your own in business the odds are, at some point, at least for a season there’s an awkward season to endure of “who you are” and “who you are becoming”, which usually means that at some point, you’re stepping out on your own, and you’re typically alone when you make this step.
Speaking for myself, when I decided to begin my law firm, it was met with mixed reactions by peers and friends. The truth of the matter is, a decision to become an entrepreneur means more than just a decision on how you’re spending your days- you, and those around you (and those around you), all suddenly found yourselves with the task of redefining your identity, and re-establishes your relationships.
This summer, a health crisis sent me across the country in search of answers. Not just across the country, but suddenly and unexpectedly away from two (technically, three) businesses during a significantly busy season….and because of that, I’ve never been more keenly aware of the distance that had arisen between myself and some of my non-business friends. I didn’t just have to think about the severity of the health crisis that sent me states away from help; I had to keep multiple businesses running, make sure my trust was up to date because I had no idea what doctors would tell me; which therefore meant I had to have emergency plans in place; and still be my own rainmaker for my firm, bringing in clients for my business in the following quarter.
(Disclaimer: I absolutely don’t share that story as an attack at anyone at all) This scenario is just as an example of the inherent distance that can arise when you choose a different path. Regardless of your circumstances, I have yet to meet a business owner who hasn’t felt that distance, or loneliness at some point. In fact, according to the Gallup Wellbeing Index, depression rates in the entrepreneur world may be as high as double than the rest of the population. I’d say a large part of that is because the majority of us are spending our days in ways others don’t understand.
Here are some thoughts on the subject:
By owning a business, you’re breaking the mold from who you were, to who you are becoming. This can have the effect of creating a level of separation from you from friends or former peers. Some of those people may not understand at first (this is usually temporary, even if it doesn’t feel like it). It may cause some tension and discomfort in the interim, and some won’t know how to show their discomfort with your new role in the most graceful manner. This is because you’re re-writing the rules; re-defining the lines of your identity and that takes some time for everyone to adjust to. People rarely go through “identity shifts”; and those shifts are typically the results of important, rare catalysts. You’re doing something rare: you’re creating disorder and redrawing the lines, and some people won’t know how to define your identity in the interim. This means that friends can sometimes turn to acquaintances, at least for a time.
Even if you are walking through one of these seasons of transition, remember that in most cases, these relationship shifts are temporary. Admittedly, some friends will never understand what you’re doing or your decision to do so; and they let their confusion, ignorance blind them. It may seem selfish to some, offensive or confusing to others (always ask yourself if there’s truth to that). Those friends were probably just placed in your life for a season anyways.
Some of them may be right or not; and it matters on some level even though it shouldn’t.
To the others; the ones who still don’t understand your shift of not just career, but your mindset; your identity: give them grace. Try to explain that you’re doing things different now, and committing all that entrepreneurship requires of you isn’t easy- but again, its for a season. Support them in their differences; offer kindness.
Speaking as someone who has pulled a 180 in their career; and then shifted even within that new career: here’s ones lesson I’ve learned:
An important method to navigate this season means taking time to define the truth and originality of your motivation.
Building a business doesn’t happen overnight, which means for a (long) season, the (endless amounts of) time, energy, and interest you’re investing will gain no accolades until “success” is perceived/received from outsiders. This typically happens much later in the process- in other words, basically any time other than while you’re in the thick of the work.
If you decide it’s important to you to get that reception/respect from your friends, peers, etc, your “fuel” for your motivation can’t come from the praise of people who aren’t in your positions. That may well come later; but it may never come. Those people may try to still be fitting you into a box you don’t fit into or exist in; those old frames of identity you’ve chosen to redefine.
Which leads me to:
By choosing to step out of your former box and create something new, you’ll inevitably cause tension. The tension may not be permanent, but it may shift the scope of the landscape as well. Don’t forget that stepping out and being a visionary is a lonely road, and don’t let that current misunderstanding or lack of recognition stop you from doing the work that matters, or from generously giving out grace to yourself and those around you.