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Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Co-Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

Entrepreneurs Anonymous

I was writing this FounderTalk article over the weekend and during that I realized something: I'm never alone.

In the past I've encountered so many challenges that I just didn't know what I should do about them. On numerous occasions it felt like I was out of my depth and that I would never be able to be an entrepreneur. I always needed answers, but instead every question seemingly just lead down a rabbit hole where I'd uncover even more complicated questions.

Part of why it is hard to be an entrepreneur is that there never seems to be an absolute, 100% correct answer to anything. That sucks, because it means that we're basically progressing by trial & error at all times and our success rate mostly just comes down to: a) how quickly we can iterate; and b) how much we can mitigate the down-side of any error.

It's great that we can access online resources, learn new skills and figure out things on our own. There's so much content out there to do so, and services like Clarity are an effective way of getting specific answers to our questions and challenges too.

None of this however considers the emotional aspect of feeling alone, feeling like we know nothing and that we're ultimately only stumbling forward in the dark.

When entrepreneurs reference the "rollercoaster ride" that resembles their journeys, they're not talking about a revenue graph that goes up and down. Instead they're talking about their emotions and how everything that happens within their businesses tends to cause an up or down emotion.

It sucks that it took me almost 5 years, a heated argument with my wife and a diagnosis by my therapist that I'm mildly depressed, for me to finally start dealing with those emotions. And I mean really dealing with them; not using revenues or traction or good publicity from my business to plaster over the very obvious, emotional cracks.

I'm not alone

18 months ago I joined EO and it's been one of the best things I've ever done, because it showed me that I'm not alone.

One of the biggest benefits of EO is the monthly forum meeting that I get to share with 6 other entrepreneurs. Between the 7 of us, we literally represent all the shapes & sizes of entrepreneurs:

  • Our ages ranges from 28 - 56;
  • Our industries differ greatly: software development, IT, corporate education, advertising, production & fashion; and
  • Our businesses are in various stages of growth.

On the surface the only common denominator would be that we're all male.

But delving a little deeper, you'll find many similar experiences and emotions related to all spheres of our life: business, friends / family and personal (me).

Universal Challenges

These interactions with other entrepreneurs has helped me understand that I'm not alone and I'm definitely not crazy or irrational to experience the emotions (rollercoaster) that I do at times. What's more, I've learnt that most emotions and challenges (as an entrepreneur) is actually relatively generic and universal across the board.

One of the most prevalent emotions I experienced in the last couple of months (as I decided to work on a new startup) was fear. Since I've opened up about this, I've heard so many stories from other entrepreneurs who have confirmed thatthey're scared as well.

Similarly, every entrepreneur struggles with (some of) these things:

  • Finding your first 100 paying customers;
  • Managing cash flow;
  • Growing your business from $10k to $100k;
  • Building a business that suits your lifestyle or allows a work-life balance;
  • Picking the right idea; or
  • Really knowing what you should be doing next.

Figuring those things out isn't so tough; the emotion of going through the trial & error process is daunting though.

Get Help

If you really care about your professional ambitions, personal dreams and your company, you have to stop treating yourself like shit. Start by taking care of your physical and, most importantly, emotional well-being.

I'm lucky in that my wife is an entrepreneur too, so she understands the challenges and how my emotions fluctuates as a result. Beyond that, here's a few things I've done to help me out:

Your business is only dead and you have only failed when you give up. You are the entrepreneur and with that, you are the life force that keeps your business going.

So make sure that you take care of your most valuable asset.

PS. I'm busy putting together a couple of Mastermind groups for like-minded entrepreneurs to meet once a week and discuss their challenges. This will be a paid membership. If you would like to hear more about this, shoot me an e-mail.

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