I wanted to take a moment in this article to talk about a trap that a lot of business owners (and just people in general) fall into all the time. I know about the trap because I spent more than ten years in it. Looking back now, I know it caused me extra stress, gave me less joy, and limited the growth of my business substantially.
What was the trap? It was the belief that I (or we, but I’ll get to that a bit later) had to do it alone. It didn’t necessarily matter what “it” was, but this belief showed up all over the place in everything from delegating emails to seeking wisdom on big decisions. I lived in a world that I created, one in which I had to find, execute, and be the solution to my problems. If I wanted it done, I had to do it. If I didn’t have the answer, I had to find it. If I wanted things to be better, it was up to me to get it done.
For a while, this worked, and it worked well. I was independent, a self-starter, and I got stuff done. I can attribute a great deal of my early success to this very trait.
However, slowly but surely, as the organization grew, my return on these traits was getting smaller and smaller. The more I pushed for my independence, the less coordinated my team was. The more I self-started, the more confusion I created. The more I got stuff done, the more the important things that only I could do went undone.
Eventually, my independence became a liability. My push to do it alone created bottlenecks for my team and chronic high blood pressure for me, but it was all I knew.
As CEO, I bought into the lie that to be on top was to be alone. I did the same thing with the company itself and bought into the lie that our company was so different from others that it was to be alone too. My problems, our problems were mine and ours to solve, even sometimes going so far as to believe we were the only ones having these problems.
I want to pause here for a moment to say this. If you find yourself relating to my story, please know, you are not alone unless you choose to be. Many people have had the same challenges as you and come out on the other side. Many people will have the same struggles you are having.
If you push hard enough for long enough, you’ll probably solve most of those problems, but two things are going to happen. First, you’re going to find out that alone takes a long time. Second, you’re going to find out that life’s biggest challenges cannot be overcome by just working harder and longer. They aren’t solved alone.
The turning point
My isolation continued for years. Sure, I had friends and even mentors. I had a truly wonderful executive team, as well. But it wasn’t until I started to truly open up outside of myself and my company that I began to see what I was missing.
I joined a group of other business leaders. For the first time in a very long time, I felt like I belonged again. Over time, meeting with this group regularly, I began to discover a few things. For starters, I don’t know half as much as I think I do. The problems I am facing are hardly unique to me, and the same was true of my business. I know I work better, live happier, and think clearer when I am leaning into the support of a community of others who care about me and are rooting for my success.
I believe this is true for you too. I don’t know of a single successful professional athlete that does not have a coach. I don’t know of a single person who has single-handedly changed the world. I don’t know of a single, genuinely happy, and fulfilled person, who doesn’t enjoy deep connections with their friends and loved ones.
We aren’t made to live, be, do, or work alone.We aren't made to live, be, do, or work alone. Click To Tweet
If you’re still not convinced, consider the results of an 80 year Harvard study in happiness.
“Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes. That finding proved true across the board among both the Harvard men and the inner-city participants.”
I’m now a few years into my no-longer-alone journey, and I’m never going back. I’m leaning into help professionally and personally. I’m actively engaging myself in fostering and maintaining real connections. I can truthfully say I’m healthier for it, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Now when faced with a challenge, my first question is who and not what, and I love it!
How can you start getting connected?
As business owners, our wiring and our positions both make us prone to isolate. Fortunately, there are some great coaches, groups, and resources out there to help. If you don’t know where to start, here are a few that I personally recommend.
Remember, alone takes a long time. You can grow your business faster and even be happier if you open up and shift your focus from what to who!