Over 50% of CEOs have felt loneliness at some point in their business journey. That’s according to one study, but the likely reality is that it affects many more than that.
Most people only see the illusion of success, not the hard work, sweat, and tears to get there. But there’s a loneliness that comes with being an entrepreneur bubbling underneath, too, and it can happen at any stage of your business.
Furthermore, if you let your loneliness linger, it starts impacting you as a wife, mom, friend, and so on. So the question is… how can you recognize these signs of loneliness and combat them?
In this episode of Time to Level Up, you’ll learn how loneliness can show up for you in the three stages of entrepreneurship. I’ll also teach you how to put checks and balances in place so you can combat that loneliness and prevent it from negatively affecting other areas of your life.
What’s Covered in This Episode About Loneliness In Your Business
3:54 – Why surrounding yourself with people who understand you as a business owner is key
9:46 – How stage one of loneliness looks and feels like for entrepreneurs
11:58 – Why hiring contractors or employees exposes you to loneliness of a different sort
14:12 – How success can lead to isolation in the third stage of entrepreneurial loneliness
17:00 – Three checks and balances you need to implement to recognize signs of loneliness
Mentioned In How to Recognize and Combat Signs of Loneliness In Your Business
She Thinks Big Live Event
She Thinks Big by Andrea Liebross
The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster by Darren Hardy
Quotes from this Episode of Time to Level Up
“Being an entrepreneur is a journey in personal development disguised as an entrepreneurial adventure.” – Andrea Liebross
“Sometimes we don’t recognize how being this solopreneur in the beginning is affecting other aspects of our life.” – Andrea Liebross
“Loneliness can creep in at any stage of entrepreneurship.” – Andrea Liebross
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Welcome to the Time to Level Up Podcast. I'm your host, Andrea Liebross. Each week, I focus on the systems, strategy, and big thinking you need to CEO your business and life to the next level. Are you ready? Let's go.
Hello, my friends, and welcome back to the Time to Level Up Podcast. I am recording this episode in January of 2024. This is my first episode of 2024. Hopefully, it's not the first episode that you've listened to in 2024 but it is my first episode of 2024 to record for you. I hope that you had a great holiday. I hope you're ready for 2024 and all that it's going to bring.
Today's topic is actually something that I've been thinking about a lot. I thought about it a lot in 2023. I continue to think about it a lot now. I have been experiencing it over the past few weeks and I even verbalized it to my husband, which is pretty big for me because I don't usually verbalize much to him in terms of my business or how things are going.
It's probably something I need to work on but I don’t know. I’m just going to keep it clean, keep our relationship clean, and don't bring him into the business too much. But here's what I want to share with you today. I want to talk about loneliness and entrepreneurship.
Loneliness and entrepreneurship. You might say, “Andrea, that is not a very uplifting topic.” It's not a very uplifting topic, but I think that it is a very relevant topic for entrepreneurs, especially for entrepreneurs as they move through different phases of their business.
I myself experienced that a bit in 2023 as I was writing my book, it kind of felt like a lonely journey even though I had an incredible support team. I kind of felt like no one really gets it, or when I was thinking about this book, and not thinking about something else, no one would understand why was my brain so occupied by it.
Then in the past few weeks, I have been doing lots and lots of planning for She Thinks Big Live which is happening the week that you are listening to this episode. It is happening on January 19th. I'm super excited about it. Again, I have a whole team of people helping me with it. But there are a lot of decisions. I have people that I can bounce them off of, sure, but really, the buck stops with me, and that sometimes feels lonely.
I guess my thought is I wish I had a partner in this. When I think that, it makes me feel lonely, if I want to use my own model, and then the action that comes from that a lot of times is I just do own things. I don't make fast decisions like I want to because I'm too busy thinking about how I wish I had someone to help me make these decisions.
Let's face it, I do have plenty of people to help me make decisions. Plenty of people, I am the queen of securing support. But the bottom line is the buck stops with me. I did a little googling about loneliness and entrepreneurship and one study found that more than 50% of CEOs interviewed shared that they had felt lonely at some point in their business journey. I think we probably could say in reality, it's much more than 50%. In reality, not only do they feel lonely, but they might feel isolated.
In another study, I found that CEOs who feel lonely are a lot more likely to burn out. There's so much pressure, as a business owner, it’s easy to get up in your own head about how you’re feeling in what you’re doing, especially when you have no one to talk to about what's going on.
In fact, I really love the saying that being an entrepreneur is a journey in personal development disguised as an entrepreneurial adventure. It's almost like it's a roller coaster. There is a book out there, it has a red cover and now I can't think who wrote it, but it's something titled The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster and it truly is a roller coaster.
That is why I think surrounding yourself with as many people as possible who understand you as a business owner, this is different than surrounding yourself with your family, this is different than surrounding yourself with your neighbors on your driveway, this is different than surrounding yourself with your long-term friends, these are people that understand you as a business owner, surrounding yourself with those people is key.
Just today, I did a coaching call for my mastermind, the Runway to Freedom women, and the number of heads that shake up and down that yes, I hear you, the person who's talking or asking for coaching, yes, I've felt that way too, yes, I get you, that's why we need those types of groups because oftentimes, we feel alone.
I think this is a little hidden. Have you guys ever seen the image of the iceberg where the top of the iceberg, you can see above the water and below the iceberg, you can't? I hope we can link this image in the show notes. There's the top of the iceberg. It's like the illusion of success. It's what the people see.
With social media, I think that's even more relevant and prevalent right now. What people see, but then under the water's surface, the other part of the iceberg, the part that people don't see, that's where all of your late nights, hard work, courage, discipline, commitment, determination, struggles, failures, doubts, disappointment, sacrifices, and loneliness hide.
People see someone as a success, but what they don't see is what's going on underneath. They don't see that. Science tells us that 90% of the iceberg is actually below the water's surface. I think 90% of what it's like to be a business owner is also below the surface.
The iceberg is floating alone. Similarly, entrepreneurs feel alone with no support or no understanding. Just like an iceberg, what's happening underneath the surface, no one often sees. I believe that we can better equip ourselves to recognize the signs of loneliness and have the tools to combat them.
I think there are ways that we can fight this loneliness. That's one huge reason why I am doing She Thinks Big Live, why I am doing that is because I need to bring more entrepreneurs together. We need to be together in a room where we recognize that we're not alone, where we can share ideas, where we can understand that there are other people just like us.
In fact, I was having an Instagram conversation—if you'd like to have a conversation with me on Instagram, I'd be happy to have it through DMs—with a woman who I don't know, but who messaged me and said, “I'm reading your book,” if you have not read my book, go get yourself a copy of She Thinks Big. Now there's a workbook, too. Can you believe it? There is a workbook to go with the book.
This woman is reading She Thinks Big and she said, “Oh, I love it. So great.” I said, “What are you planning for 2024?” She said, “I really need to get my act together with my business.” I asked her, “What would that look and feel like?” One of the things she said was, “I need to surround myself with more business owners.” I said, “Have you thought about coming to She Thinks Big Live?” By the end of our DM conversation, she had registered.
That is a huge reason why I am doing She Thinks Big Live. I want to go through the stages of loneliness that I see in entrepreneurs because remember, I work with women at all stages of their business but here's how I see it play out, and then I want to give you a couple of tips on how you might combat this.
Stage one is just you yourself and I. Me, myself, and I. You just started your business, you're on an island, you have no one to talk to you about your business. In fact, most of your friends don't even understand what being an entrepreneur is. They also are having a hard time adjusting to you changing. You're changing because you're a different person with your entrepreneur hat on than you are with your neighbor, friend, wife, or mom hat on.
Sometimes we don't recognize how being this solopreneur in the beginning really is affecting other aspects of our life. We get a little out of tune with what's going on around us and then it leads to confusion and frustration because then you feel like your friends and family are pressuring you to show up at their things more or “Why don't they just get that I can't do that anymore? Or maybe I shouldn't be doing that,” you start to question yourself.
Then you start to think, “Well, wait a second. What's going on with this business?” Then you start to reinforce, honestly, that lonely feeling because you start to think no one gets you. You already feel alone because you started this business all by yourself. Then as people start to catch on what's going on, they start to kind of question what you're doing, and they ask you, “When are you ever going to stop?” that even makes that loneliness harder.
Then the next piece of the puzzle happens, then maybe let's enter your first contractors or employees. You know that the only way you're going to grow after a while is to bring on these people, and the loneliness subsides a little. You're not on your own anymore, and technically, that's true. But practically, it's not really the way it works, because now you've got to manage those people.
You can talk to these contractors or employees about business but only so much. I see this a lot when people start to bring on contractors, they start to question, “How much should I tell them? Should I really tell them what my goal is? Should I tell them how much revenue we're creating? Should I tell them what my expenses are?” Now there's loneliness in a different sense because the tough decisions are still falling on you and that can be a lonely place.
Recently, what I did is I went into one of my client's businesses, and she brought in all of her employees and contractors. I kind of led a discussion around what they wanted to be doing, what were their aspirations, what things lit them up. Did they want to be more involved in the business, less involved in the business? Because the business owner, my client felt uncomfortable asking these questions. She didn't know how far she should go, what she should tell them.
By having me there, it's kind of like the third-party voice, it was superdee duper helpful to her and she got a better sense of what was going on. Now, did that create less loneliness for her? Probably not, but it did give her a bird's eye view into what they are thinking about. That made her feel like they were becoming more of a part of the team.
The first stage is you’re that solopreneur. Next stage, you bring in some employees. Now, the third thing that happens is okay, you're successful potentially here, your growth was slow at first, but now things have picked up, and all the hard work you've put in is paying off. Now this is when some people start to become jealous of your accomplishments. That in and of itself can be isolating.
Now there are people who are genuinely happy for you, but they still don't understand what your day-to-day life is like. They don't understand what it's like to be you. They think, kind of think back to that iceberg, they're a little jealous because, on the outside, everything seems hunky dory.
Then it throws us into a different spot, a different tough spot because then we start to question these people, “Why don't they get it? Don't they get that being a business owner is way different than having a job? It is not the same thing.” I sometimes feel this way a little bit with my husband. Now he is technically a business owner, but he really can leave the medicine part of his job at the hospital. He cannot do his job unless he is in a hospital setting.
I wish I was him sometimes. Now he does own part of his business and they do have lots of business discussions after hours but he's not alone, he has true, true equal partners as well. Why don't these people get it? Yeah, they have a job but I own a business.
When you get to the seven-figure stage, things look like an overnight success. But in reality, you're like, “Oh, my gosh, I have been working at this for years.” Now because this business is seven figures, and I have all these employees, I have a payroll, and people are depending on me to pay them, the fear of failure feels even stronger because you feel like there's a bigger risk.
There's a greater risk of failure because if you fail or if the business goes under, it's not just you that's going to suffer, it's everybody else. Now you're facing a whole new set of challenges being a business of this size so it creates a new sense of loneliness.
Now what do you do? Here are some thoughts on what you do. Well, I had one client who decided that she was just going to take a month off, and she advertised this month off that she was taking and how amazing it was going to be. But here's the thing. With her month off, everybody else had an agenda for her. Whether it was her family, people in her community, or even her employees, “Oh, my gosh, you've got a month off? Can you do this for me?”
Taking a break, taking a sabbatical, I don't think is the answer. But here is what I do think is the answer. You need some checks and balances in place to recognize signs of loneliness because if you've become lonely, you're going to lose sight of the most important things around you: your family, your friends, your own health.
If you are someone who's getting lost in your business, who is not making decisions fast enough, that might be a sign of loneliness, and then you might notice that other things start to fall apart. What do you do? You need to find like-minded individuals, you need to find people that are just like you.
They don't have to be business leaders. They don't have to be more successful than you. They can be family and friends but they have to be people who you are willing to be honest and open with. They also have to be people who are there to be honest with you.
I've had to be honest with my spouse, like I said, and I'm getting better at this. I have to be honest when something's bothering me, and I need to set some boundaries if I need to work through it with him. I might not be available to watch the Colts game on a Sunday if I need to work on preparing for She Thinks Big Live. I just have to set that boundary with him and tell him.
So number one is finding like-minded individuals, also the people in my mastermind, my own peers, they help me see what's going on. Even my clients, they help me see what's going on. I am surrounding myself with like-minded individuals. That's number one.
Number two is not just surrounding yourself, but being committed to a group of like-minded individuals that you check in with on a regular basis. That's why one of the things about coaching is so awesome is that usually, if you're in a coaching program that I think works, it meets on a regular basis, it's not just when you feel like it so you know that you can count on a reset when you're meeting with these people.
When you meet with them, members help other members slow down. The coaching is really a way to hold space for you to assess circumstances, to assess what you're thinking, feeling, and doing, to hold each other accountable.
Putting a mechanism like that in place can be really the best antidote for loneliness, being part of something bigger than yourself, and I would argue, something that does include business owners at the same level that you're at, are they solopreneurs, are they bringing on employees, have they gotten to seven figures, where are they, put yourself in a group that's got a similar place, and use them. Be honest with them.
Being honest with your spouse or friend is one thing but being honest with these people who really aren't in your day-to-day life but get you can really combat that loneliness.
Then the last thing that I want you to think about is how do you check in with yourself? If your health is a goal, then weigh yourself regularly, exercise regularly. I had a client today on my call say that she recognized in 2023, in the beginning, she wasn't going to her WeightWatchers meetings regularly, and that is key for her. In the last two months of 2023, she did do that and she wants to continue it. But she noticed that when she fell off track there of going to the meetings, she fell off track.
When you have mechanisms in place to help you stay present, to help you check in with yourself, like weighing yourself, going to a meeting, going to the gym, having regular dinner dates, mechanisms in place to help you check in with yourself, you will be much, much better. Again, why did I do She Thinks Big Live? One of the reasons is I want people to gather with like-minded individuals.
Understanding that loneliness can creep in at any stage of entrepreneurship and recognizing what some of the signs are is step one. Step two is then prioritizing the things that help you stay out of that space, nurturing yourself, checking in with yourself, securing support, being something larger than you on a regular basis.
Taking some time off can help. Sharing what you've got going on with other people, all of these things will help you stay out of that loneliness mode. All of that is what I want to happen at She Thinks Big Live.
Okay, my friends. Depending on when you're listening to this episode, hopefully you're listening to it before She Thinks Big Live, and tickets are still on sale, but you can go to andrealiebross.com/live to check out whether or not tickets are still on sale, but you need to be at something like this. It is one of the keys, one of the antidotes to combating the loneliness of being an entrepreneur. Okay, my friends, have a great rest of your day. Remember, now is the time to level up. There's never been a better time than now.
Hey, listening to podcasts is great. But you also have to do something to kick your business up a notch. You need to take some action, right? So go to andreaslinks.com and take the quiz. I guarantee you'll walk away knowing exactly what your next best step is to level up.
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