It’s easy to glamorize the life of an entrepreneur. As the progenitor of a business, you have creative control, which means you get credit for the idea and you get to usher in a tangible enterprise that, in most cases, is entirely yours. You get to call the shots, direct your own efforts and eventually (if things go well) reap the profits of your hard work.
But entrepreneurship is also very challenging, in solitary, personal ways. Unless you’re in a mutual partnership, you’ll be going the course alone, and you’ll have to face some major psychological and emotional obstacles throughout your tenure. These obstacles aren’t fun to admit, and some entrepreneurs flat-out deny their existence, but they’re very real and could have a serious impact on your performance as an entrepreneur (not to mention your mental health):
1. Making decisions
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In some ways, getting to make all the decisions for a company is exciting.There’s no one to tell you no, no one to force you into an action you don’t want to take; and, as a result, unlimited possibilities lie before you. You’ll be planning strategies, hiring new people and guiding the company’s development; and, for the most part, you’ll be alone in doing so. You may seek advice from others, but at the end of the day, you’re the one making the call.
This can lead to a real psychological phenomenon known as decision fatigue, where making too many decisions in short order can decrease your ability to make decisions at all, much less focus on your work.
2. Taking accountability
You’ll also be the center point of accountability for your business. If your startup takes off and you make a major deal or end up selling the company, you’ll get the credit for getting the business to that lofty position. But in the meantime, you’ll be taking the blame for every misstep and decision that didn’t pan out the way you thought it would -- and there will be a lot of those.
Knowing you’re solely responsible for something failing or deviating from the plan can be devastating to your psyche, especially during periods of low motivation.
3. Dealing with the fear of failure
Exact statistics regarding failure seem to change, depending on what institution or publication reports them, but the constant, haunting reality is that the vast majority of new businesses fail within the first few years of operation. Fear of failure is going to enter your mind, repeatedly, as you guide your business through multiple stages of development and encounter brutal obstacles in your path along the way.
And the hardest part is you can’t express that fear. As the leader of your operation, you need to remain resolute and unfazed by the little things. Showing signs of fear or worry could disrupt your team’s morale, or worse, and compromise their faith in you as a leader.
4. Having no higher-up
It’s a fun idea, being the boss; but, realistically, for many people there’s comfort just in knowing someone out there is above them. That way, they have someone to talk to about existing challenges, ask advice from when they're unsure what to do, someone to check their work with, to make sure it’s up to snuff.
When you’re the leader of your own enterprise, there is no higher up -- the exception being if you’re dealing with investors or mentors with a vested interest in your enterprise.
5. Feeling isolated
Isolation occurs in a number of different contexts for entrepreneurs, and both loneliness and depression are common among business owners as a result. For starters, you're working on your business constantly, putting in long hours that take you away from your friends and family members. You're likely physically isolated, working in an office or somewhere away from other people. And, being the boss, you're feeling somewhat disconnected from your team members -- even if you hand-picked every one of them.
These challenges aren't laid out here to scare you from becoming an entrepreneur; nor does every entrepreneur experience these challenges in the same way or to the same degree. However, if you know what to expect from them, you can better prepare for them, and improve your disposition and response when you encounter them for the first time.
Also, because these are so many solitary challenges, one of the biggest keys to getting past them is to understand that you don’t have to go through them alone. Work with mentors, and talk to your peers. Even articles like this one should give you some sense of sympathy and support to help you through.
You’re alone in some respects, but also part of a full, welcoming community in others. Recognize these challenges, and keep moving forward.