Please, Don’t Give Up On Happiness
Tags: happiness

Being an entrepreneur is hard but not hopeless.

This whole solopreneur journey2 has been quite a ride. I start working with a new client and feel like the Universe loves me. Then I get ghosted by two clients and feel like I’ve suddenly done something to piss off the Gods.

In reality, it’s rarely what is happening that causes the discomfort but rather the meaning I ascribe to these “random” situations that cause my nervous system to freak out.

I come back to the question, “Why are you doing all this?” My answer, repeatedly, is, “Deep down, I love what I do every day I get to do it.”

In 2017, I wrote my first book that lumped self-care content next to marketing, sales, and product development content.

A few people took notice, but most skipped those sections because they didn’t think it applied to them. Sadly, some of those people have officially burnt themselves out and returned to working jobs they hate because the world of entrepreneurship beat the stuffing out of them.

In truth, it wasn’t entrepreneurship or their companies that kicked their ass. Most weren’t willing to prioritize their mental health over their businesses. They weren’t ready to let their outsides look like their insides, so they burnt themselves out.

Companies don’t burn us out; we do it to ourselves.

God’s honest truth is a lot of the content I write is to remind myself what I need to do to maintain my sanity. But it’s also because I genuinely want you to be happy.

It f’ing blows my mind when I ask an entrepreneur what it would take for them to be happy.

The vast majority say, “Happiness isn’t important to me because…”

“I’d rather be rich than happy.”
“I want to do fulfilling work.”
“I’m in business to win.”
“I care about making a difference in the world.”

There’s a famous quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that says, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference to have lived and lived well.”

I call bollocks!

My favorite new pastime is asking hard questions to ChatGPT, and it told me, “Ralph Waldo Emerson, like many people, did experience periods of sadness and grief throughout his life. When his wife died two years after their marriage, he experienced deep grief and sadness for many years after.”

Step one in your happiness journey. Stop taking happiness advice from unhappy people.

I get the desire to be useful, honorable, and compassionate, but if you can’t enjoy yourself in the process, then why the hell are you trying so hard?

If you’re unwilling to do something every day that makes you happy, it may be time to look deeper into your relationship with frustration, grief, and misery.

Why We Think We Became Entrepreneurs

Deciding to be a real entrepreneur is not a decision made lightly. Many people talk about starting something, but only a few put their lives where their mouth is.

Here are a few of the most common reasons my clients decide to become an entrepreneur:

  1. Money – By far the most common reason. Well over half of my clients have visions of $1M in their bank account.
  2. Independence – After you’ve worked for “the man” long enough, it sounds incredible not to have a boss.
  3. Passion – Pursuing your passion and changing the world is a noble reason to become an entrepreneur.
  4. It’s Just Who I Am – I call this group “lemonade stand entrepreneurs.” They’ve been slinging calendars, wrapping paper, pizzas, and Girl Scout cookies since they were 6.

If you believe those things are in your entrepreneurial future, look at some thoughts around Startup Stockholm Syndrome. There’s a lot of hard work (and probably some hurt feelings, broken relationships, and tears) on your way to personal and financial freedom.

Why We’re Really Entrepreneurs

If you still need to learn this, let me be the a$$hole to burst your bubble. Entrepreneurship is not the fastest path to cash or independence. It usually takes twice as long, twice as much money, and requires 10x the amount of effort than going out and getting a straight job.

Building something from scratch (which may be YOU) that no one has ever heard of and then convincing them to buy it is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.

(P.S. I had yet to learn why my former founder clients were always so reluctant to give me equity until I started building my own sh!t from scratch. If you’ve never been part of the “product-solution fit” phase or haven’t spent some time swimming in the swamp of despair, you have no idea how much blood, sweat, and tears went into building something sustainable.)

So why do we do it?

You might hate to admit it, but you want to be happy. Really! You just want to live a generally happy life.

Doing something you love every day makes you happy.

Building something you believe in makes you happy.

Creating something that could change the world makes you happy.

Having the freedom of time and money makes you happy.

You’re welcome to add fulfilled, free, and rich to your list of goals, but please don’t make happiness a dirty word on your entrepreneurial journey.

Why Happiness Gets a Bad Wrap

Happiness gets a bad rap because it’s hard to pin down—our certainty-seeking brains like to have clear and concise definitions. Hell, Brené Brown spent over 400 pages and made a crap-ton of money expertly helping us define our emotions to reduce our uncertainty.

Her definition of happiness is “Pleasure related to your surroundings or your current circumstances. A stable, longer-lasting feeling of being in control that is more internal than external.”

YES, PLEASE! I’d take two of whatever she’s having.

Here are three more reasons why happiness has become a dirty word.

It’s Unstable. One of my favorite coaches taught me the concept of the “Sh!tty 50.” If we accept that half of our days will be oriented toward happiness, the other half will be less than happy. This realization made a huge difference in my life because I was able to reset my expectations around happiness. Is it possible you’ve given up on happiness because you can’t have more than 50%? I’d much rather be happy 50% of the time than throw the baby out with the bath water.

It’s Cyclical. The thing about Pleasure is that it always comes after pain. If you’re having a crappy day (or week or year), know that pain always precedes Pleasure. Just keep doing what you should, and happiness will again fall upon you. The faster you can learn to accept “what it” (aka reality) and make space for the discomfort, the quicker it will disappear.

You’ve Given Up. Your parents, teachers, mentors, or maybe even an entire industry has taught you that being happy isn’t part of the deal, so it’s better to stop wasting your time. Miserable millionaires have made their fortunes on the backs of #killit and #crushit, and none of them include being happy. The problem is, once those folks made their millions, they’re still just as unhappy as they were when they started. I ask again, WHY THE HELL ARE YOU WORKING SO HARD?!?

Try Something New

The biggest pain in the a$$ about entrepreneurship (and maybe life) is that people keep moving the goalposts.

With each touchdown we score, the goal line gets pushed another five yards back. Everyone expects us to score more points with the same amount of effort.

One very harsh reality of happiness is you can have it in two ways: acquire more or need less. Which you choose directly relates to the amount of your day-to-day suffering.

A different way to think about happiness is, rather than focusing on scoring the goal, focus on making every single play more enjoyable.

If you’re not enjoying running 80% of the plays on the field, you need to find a different game. Scoring the touchdown will only make you happy for a few minutes. Then you have to score another one and another one and another one.

When you can find some level of happiness each day (or minute or hour), crossing the goal line becomes the forgone conclusion of a well-lived life.

The sooner you realize that it’s not about the end goal but about living a life you enjoy – filled with happiness, peace, joy, and freedom – the sooner you can start designing a life that aligns with your authentic self and your highest intention.

Let go of the outcome and start learning how to be happy in the present moment. Because, in the end, that’s all we’ve got.

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