The world of business ownership is not all glamor and sunshine. Contrary to popular belief, owners of established and successful businesses do not always enjoy the kind of freedom and lifestyle that people may think. While it is true that working for yourself allows you more flexibility in a number of ways, that comes at a price. Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of owning a business is the necessity to constantly bring forth positive energy and enthusiasm. Make no mistake; this is no small weight to bear. Over the years, the daily grind of thankless tasks can wear down the spirits of the best of us.
Unfortunately, businesses try to use technology to solve the problem of disillusionment, without realizing that it often makes the problem worse. Technology is a great example of how the solution becomes the next problem. Social media has “connected” us over a distance, while substituting real face-to-face relationship with superficial cyberchatter and cat photos. Email enabled instant communication, while creating a new source of information overload and daily drudgery. Smart phones put the world at our fingertips, and became a ball-and-chain as people now expect all of us to be available and responsive 24/7. For this reason, technology is never truly a solution in itself, but simply a tool. Tools require skill and craftsmanship; they require a steadfast commitment to mastery of one’s art. Achieving greatness in any field requires discipline, which comes from a love of one’s art.
The Labor of Love
Successful businesses are born of inspiration. All entrepreneurs, at some point during their careers, feel some sort of inner nudge or calling. It’s not always easy to identify at first. I remember experiencing a feeling of extreme dissatisfaction with the state of my life, and in the first few months after leaving my job in 2007, I came to recognize a clear calling. I wanted to help others begin the transition that I had begun: most especially introverts like myself. For more than ten years, I had hesitated to take the first step and declare my life’s purpose, because I was too afraid. I was afraid of the backlash I would receive. I was afraid I’d fail, that I’d end up poor, that I would disgrace myself and all who had believed in me.
Unfortunately, I crashed and burned. I had failed to recognize the nature of what I was up against, and I had not yet developed the skills and disciplines I needed. I had jumped prematurely, before I was financially and emotionally ready. That would not have been too bad, except for the fact that I didn’t see it. I thought I was ready, and I wasn’t. Excited? Yes. Inspired? Yes. Prepared? No. The result was a financial disaster.
I slowly started to rebuild the foundation of what I was to accomplish in the world, using my business efforts as a financial vehicle. It was years later before I could begin to see my fundamental mistake: I was trying to bring a service to the world, when the core of my being was fundamentally broken and empty. I had seen and felt the first glimpse of what was available to me by surrendering to the will of my creator, but I failed to see just how much I still had to learn. I had been momentarily filled to overflowing with the joy that comes with living in alignment with purpose, but I did not foresee the difficulties I would encounter when it came time to stay the course day after day, year after year, through many dark nights of the soul.
I have never been married, but I suspect that keeping motivated in a business must be similar in many ways to what happens after a wedding. When the guests have gone home and the honeymoon is over, the real work of creating a marriage begins. As many couples have discovered and as the high divorce rates in our society can attest, it is much easier to feel elated for a little while than to build a marriage that endures through all seasons and tribulations.
Rediscovery and Revival
When the fire of passion has gone out and the spirit is broken, it may seem nigh impossible to even envision loving one’s work again. Financial obligations and heavy burdens may make escape seem impossible. But inside the soul of every entrepreneur dwells an eternal flame that cannot be extinguished. That which once fueled your drive can be awakened once again. There are a few keys to making this happen, and like anything else, they are simple but not easy. The difficult part is remembering them at the moment of truth.
Practice your labor of love on the days when you don’t have time for it.
This is the single key to reawakening your motivation and discovering your will to thrive. We were made to do something, and we’re not happy unless we do it. You know that you’ve found your labor of love when you’ll do it for free, during your spare moments. Allowing our talents to sit idle is lethal. The world bombards us with an endless stream of distractions that keep us from doing what connects us to our power source. The discipline to push forward and continue to be what we were meant to be is vital to recovery.
Revoke deals with devils.
Sometimes, our soul’s calling is kept locked in a dark basement by oppressors, which often include abusive bosses and spouses. The darkness of our modern world has engulfed many who occupy positions of wealth and power. While they appear to enjoy outwardly successful lives, they are secretly miserable. In the presence of joy, they become angry, jealous and vengeful. They take a kind of dark, sadistic pleasure in stifling your dreams. They often seek to bind others by using unfavorable contracts, sometimes written and sometimes unwritten. Hard decisions have to be made at times. It is painful but necessary.
Prospect relentlessly when you don’t need the money.
One pattern I’ve always seen with unsuccessful entrepreneurs: the tendency to only put forth their best selves when the survival need is threatened. This tendency is the most common reason people remain enslaved. Fear of “going back out there” deters many from leaving jobs where they are miserable and dread going to work every day. The habit of consistently prospecting for new opportunity is the key to freedom; yet, many don’t do it.
Expose yourself to the unfamiliar.
Going out of your comfort zone is not always necessary. Sometimes, all that’s needed is a subtle change of scenery. You don’t have to take a vacation or go on a week-long retreat. Look for simple opportunities to venture outside the familiar, such as going to a different grocery store. Bring up a line of conversation on a subject that you don’t normally talk about. If you wait expectantly, there will come a moment when you feel called to push yourself a little further. Pay attention when this moment comes. It might be a nudge to talk to a certain stranger, or to get out of bed a little earlier than normal. Don’t question the reason; just follow the inner guidance you receive.
Volunteer your time for the things that matter most to you.
People like to get to know other people who care about the same things. Seek out people, groups and organizations who are working on solving the problems you see in the world. As you carry your light into the darkness, you will see the lights of other travelers venturing in the same direction. Combine forces with them, and you will soon begin to discover an inner fierceness that you didn’t know you had. The others on our path are mirror images of ourselves. When we come into contact with others who are carrying the same banner, we begin to see our own courage reflected back to us. It gives us the extra edge we need to come across as formidable beings.
Joy never dies. It may conceal itself under a shroud of damp darkness, but the flame never goes out. There is a place in the center of us that cannot be damaged or destroyed, only temporarily forgotten. When we return to this part of our essence, we regain the strength to do what is necessary.