It’s lonely at the top

If you ever work for yourself or have employees, one thing you’ll experience is, that it gets lonely. The reason it gets lonely may surprise you. You see, if you work for yourself, there is no one to share the triumphs or commiserate the losses with. If you have employees, well, you can’t commiserate with anyone at all. This is unforeseen and when you find yourself in that moment, it’s isolating. The way we imagined these jobs, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. By working for ourselves, we could work flexible hours, come and go as we pleased and possibly even travel! As CEO, we get all the prestige and the money, oh the money would be magical! Actually, it’s not that way. There are times when it IS that way, but those times are not abundant. If these jobs are lonely and not as exciting as they appear, then why are people doing them? What keeps them going? Why put yourself through all of that grief? It’s passion.

Years ago, I was approached by an Angel Investor that wanted to invest in my business. Intrigued, we met for coffee and talked for about three hours. He wanted to know how the business was doing financially, how I ran the business and then finally how much I was willing to lose. Feeling a little blindsided and thinking that was just some sort of investor jargon, I asked, “What do you mean?” He said, “Are you willing to lose your car, your house, maybe even your family?” I was completely put off. Who the hell does this guy think he is? I don’t want to lose any of that stuff, especially not my family! What I didn’t realize then, was that I was being tested. The Angel Investor wanted to see how passionate I was about my business. He wanted to see my commitment. If I was willing to lose everything I had, then in his eyes, that was money well spent.

Passion is great to get you up in the morning, but you still feel lonely. If I am upset a particular day, sure I can complain to my wife, but after a while, everyone gets tired of a complainer. Also, many times I’m upset because of something technical. One time my wife said, “Why don’t you call someone?” I told her, “Because I’m usually the guy that everyone calls!” Yes, there are millions of people smarter than I, but in that moment, I needed to sort through the problem. When you own your own business and have employees or are the CEO of a business, I think it’s worse. You are viewed as the leader. You are the pulse of the organization. You set the standard. As the CEO you are constantly being scrutinized as to the health of the business. A bad day means you just have to explain it later. Multiple bad days signify a loss of control. As CEO of a large company you aren’t allowed to have bad days. In a large corporation surrounded by employees, the CEO has the loneliest job in the company.

5 Ways to sort through loneliness

  1. Run your own race. Stop trying to keep up with everyone. The goal keeps moving and you will never catch up, which brings anxiety and feelings of failure. Figure out what your business or company is good at and focus on that. Change your metric.
  2. Be happy with what you have. This doesn’t mean lower your standards, it means stop and look around a bit and enjoy how far you’ve come. Did you even imagine being here 5 years ago? There is a good side to everything.
  3. Get rid of dead ends. If you have projects or areas of your business that are repeatedly failing, it may be time to clean house. Getting rid of pieces of your business that aren’t working is a huge motivational boost!
  4. Its time to focus. When you are feeling lonely, its really easy to get distracted and spend time doing other things. This just compounds the existing problems. Come up with a plan to increase your attention on where your business needs it the most. Checking those items off your list will also dissipate loneliness.
  5. Remember the big picture. Tune in. Don’t succumb to the distractions and the minutia of everyday issues. Yes, you do need to handle those, but keep in mind where you want things to be down the road. Put in place conscious actions that you can do every day that gets you closer to those goals.

Being lonely is no joke and can be completely debilitating. If not managed correctly, it can be disastrous. Working in Web Development is a privilege and I wouldn’t want to do anything else, but with every job there are challenges. Dealing with loneliness is just one of them and figuring out ways to keep it at bay is well worth your time.

6 thoughts on “It’s lonely at the top”

  1. Very well said! I’m finding it very inspirational for my current time and place. Working for yourself and/or being the leader of any project can be rewarding and isolating at the same time. These are some great words of advice for keeping the focus and moving forward.

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