Surviving and thriving as an entrepreneur can feel draining. It’s not from the hardships of business. It’s not because of financial risk. It’s not from the difficulties of selling, the no’s you hear on the way to a yes, the time invested, or the other ups and downs of successes and failures.
“Humans don’t mind hardship,” Sebastian Junger writes in his book, Tribe. “…in fact, they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary.” When you feel like you’re struggling, you might ask, “Does my business matter? Do I matter?”
If you’re overwhelmed, frustrated, or feeling down about running a business, it’s quite possibly rooted in the pressure of running a one-woman show. It’s all on you. This often equates to working long hours, juggling multiple projects, feeling too overwhelmed to come up with new ideas, and forgetting to take time for yourself.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to build your tribe. Every business owner needs to be a part of at least one tribe.
Junger’s book takes an in-depth look at the subject of war veterans and PTSD, showing how some of their struggles stem from the lack of a tribe when they return. It’s a stark contrast, as he saw throughout his career as a war journalist, to the tightness and “tribeness” that men and women experience while on duty.
Reading this book, I couldn’t help but resonate with Junger’s points. I realized that tribes have been the key to my own successes — throughout every step of my journey.
Nearly twenty years ago, I finished high school with perfect academic scores. I went on to a good university with an academic scholarship, but transitioning to college classes was hard. As I struggled through my first semester, I realized I did better in classes where I had people to study with.
My second semester, I enrolled in 17.5 credits, 4.5 more than the previous semester. Let’s feel challenged, hey? My classes included an intense 6-credit Spanish class, along with Biology, History, Religion, and Karate. If you ever take a tough semester of classes, take karate — excellent outlet!
I went in with a game plan. I found people. I found tribes. For Spanish, I teamed up with a study buddy, plus I spent time with teachers’ aides in the school’s language lab (I also watched episodes of the Simpson’s in Spanish. Talk about immersion, right?). For History and Religion, I joined study groups and signed up for the classes with friends and roommates.
I struggled with Biology, because I was alone there. I failed to reach out to another classmate or two and create a tribe. Biology, as it turned out, was my only C that semester.
After that, I was pulled away from school and lived at home for a year and a half. When I finally returned to college, I earned four C’s and dropped out of two classes. The following semester, I had two D’s and a C. The pattern continued until I was on academic probation and threatened with expulsion.
I needed my tribe.
I sought out an English professor who helped connect me again. I recovered and graduated a few semesters later, eventually going on and earning a master’s degree, graduating from that program with honors.
Many times, you learn the hard way what you need to succeed.
Three years ago, as I prepared for a career transition from working as a Business Systems Analyst to starting my own businesses in writing and music contracting, I knew what I needed to set up for myself. I worked with my spouse to create our game plan, which included creating very specific tribes. These covered both business support areas as well as personal interests. And guess what? They’ve worked.
They matter even more when you’re going it on your own as an entrepreneur.
Junger writes that “human beings need three basic things in order to be content: they need to feel competent at what they do; they need to feel authentic in their lives; and they need to feel connected to others. These values are considered ‘intrinsic’ to human happiness and far outweigh ‘extrinsic’ values such as beauty, money, and status.” These are the three pillars of the self-determination theory: autonomy, competence, and community. Who do you have in your community?
Sometimes the hardest part about this is finding your tribe. Try attending conferences, taking a class in your industry, or joining online groups like the HER Circle VIP Lounge. Join a sports team or attend a meetup — put yourself out there. When looking for tribes, you’ll need to kick shyness to the curb. When you meet others you’d like to connect with, summon the courage to ask. How? Simply remember this: people love hearing that someone respects and admires them! So be bold — and connect with someone you admire.
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