Best selling author Nick Williams started off as the owner of a small business and has now morphed into an inspired entrepreneur.
“I am fascinated by leadership and what it means today, especially for inspired entrepreneurs.”
I write, speak, coach, mentor, create products and programmes, and broadcast, and run a business, but I evolved my job description to include the idea of also being a tribal leader after reading Seth Godin’s book, Tribe.
“The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.”
Today, anybody with a message can build a following and create their business serving their tribe.
Inspired entrepreneurs know that they need to create positive and life affirming structures for themselves. Most have had some employment history before doing their own thing, but they realise that just because they have left a structured environment, they are not necessarily free. It’s a myth that freedom is the absence of controlling or restrictive structures. They consciously seek to create life-affirming structures.
Two of the most important human needs are: structure and strokes. Structure is the need to fit in, belong, fit in, have goals, plans and boundaries. Strokes are “units of social recognition”, the human interaction, teamwork, the positive and negative feedback that we get. Often we dislike our employed work because it is over structured and we crave greater freedom over our time and goals. But to succeed and be happy and healthy emotionally and spiritually, you still need structure. It is easy to believe that freedom is the absence of structure, but I would suggest that you create success by putting in place supportive and life enhancing structures.
You have to be honest sometimes and acknowledge the good that working for someone else gives you: it does provide structure and it does provide strokes. You need to create a plan of action for building them back in. There can initially be a big and sometimes unacknowledged loss when you start your own business: the loss of structure and strokes. Sometimes that alone can cause people to go back to an old job because they don’t recognise and acknowledge that loss and don’t get to a point where they build it back in.
A big obstacle for you may is this: you have been institutionalised to some extent. You are used to having other people creating structure for you, telling you where you fit in, what your goals need to be and what you should be doing and when. You need to do two major things:
1. Give your permission to establish what your personal dreams, goals and ambitions are, and give yourself permission to follow your own goals
2. Create positive structure and take action on your own dreams and goals
Often we carry a myth around that in effect says, “Doing your own thing means doing it all alone.” That can be a recipe for loneliness, feeling unsupported, being unaccountable, not getting encouraged and ultimately for failing.
Ways to create structure back into your life as an Inspired Entrepreneur:
1. Coaching and mentoring relationships – whether paid or unpaid, or co-coaching relationships
2. Joining inspiring networks – such as the Inspired Entrepreneur community in London – where you feel the fellowship of kindred spirits and you belong
3. Having fellow inspired entrepreneurs for friendship to have lunch or coffee to support each and hold each other accountable
4. Identify your own goals, create action plans and steps and stick to them
5. Ensure you invest in continuing education and development for yourself, through talks, reading, audio and seminars
6. Finding ways of taking stock, appraising your own successes, celebrating them, looking at areas that didn’t work so well and take the learning points from them
7. Joining or creating some kind of mastermind group where you can get brainstorming, feedback and accountability for what you are doing
When you work alone, it is often easy to slide into believing that you are the only one experiencing particular problems or situations, when in fact you are probably experiencing what most people do experience. It helps you understand that your challenges are not a result of any character defect on your part, but simply part of the territory. This enables you to remain free to forge your own path, whilst at the same time benefiting from the wisdom and experience of others who are also forging their own paths. It can save a huge amount of time and heartache.
When you transition from employed to self-employed, your sense of identity may change a lot. You may have a temporary identity crisis, as you are no longer who you were and are not yet who you are becoming. You may lose confidence, recognition, appraisal, feedback, training and support. This can be painful and enough to send you back to the structure you knew. You may need to sit in a place of discomfort for a while as your old identity dies away and a new one begins to emerge. There can be some grief as well, which often catches people out. They make a conscious positive and life affirming decision to do their own thing, but they didn’t anticipate the loss and grief involved. This is natural and normal.
Build community and avoid naysayers
One crucial aspect of structuring your life as an inspired entrepreneur is to belong in a community and to limit the amount of negativity you let in. I do suggest to plan this. Your journey is your own, and it is more fun and effective to journey alongside like-minded souls and friends, and this often quickens your journey too. Isolation and a sense of loneliness nearly caused me to give up my early days.
Sadly, one of the biggest challenges you may face trying to alter the direction of your own life whilst surrounded by people who don’t you to change. Who are stuck in old ways, who don’t want you to follow your dreams because they’ll feel bad about not following their own; who are worried that you might fail would rather you stick to conventional paths that they trod themselves. People who see adventure and pioneering as reckless rather than exciting.
Whilst you probably have a lot of inspiration, excitement and anticipation, in your early days you may well have a lot of fear and doubt too. You don’t need the fears and doubts of others too, as that on top of your already fragile dreams and hopes may be too great a weight for you to carry.
You are highly likely to experience what I term naysayers, people who at best feed your own doubts, and at worst are actively hostile to you and critical of you. These are often people close to you that you love and they love and care for you too. That can cause tension and friction. To counter those influences, I suggest joining or creating a community of like-minded souls who are encouraging, supportive, and not threatened by the changes you are making.
You are likely to receive a tremendous amount of unsolicited and often erroneous advice from people. Some advice may be helpful some may not be, and often it is hard for you to know which is which. One suggestion I have is that you always consider the source of this advice. Is this someone who has only had a job telling you their opinions about self employment? Do they have relevant experience themselves or are they are an “arm-chair expert?” – lots of reading but no personal experience? I found a line from the mystic poet Rumi that has always served as a useful reminder to me. He says, “When embarking upon an adventure, do not consult someone who has never left home.”
There are lots of great ideas, wonderful advice and supportive community available to you – including my own – I urge you to seek it out.