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Coach Soch: When founders get lonely

Coach-Soch: When founders get lonely

Coach-Soch: When founders get lonely
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By Srinath Sridharan  Jun 25, 2022 11:59:31 AM IST (Published)

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A short business narrative (of a 3 min read) that sets the context, challenge(s) faced, the type of leadership involved and the questions to ponder about, to solve for the issues. This is not to give answers; for business & life in general is not like a school-guide-book. This column is to provoke the reader to think more. And to sensitise that each individual or organisation are unique, and the answers would depend on the situation, difference in organisational culture, context, etc.

To question, is to think. To think, is to introspect. To introspect, is to seek. To seek, is to be aware. To be aware, is when the journey begins.
“Loneliness. Founders’ shadow?”

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“More I am surrounded by people, lonelier I feel”
A statement attributed to the functional character - Toby Temple - in A Stranger in the Mirror, a 1976 popular novel written by Sidney Sheldon.
Founders have literally no one to talk to, without being judged.
This, despite being surrounded by family, friends, colleagues and for many founders, the list includes investors and value chain partners too. And in good times, they are chased by more investors, media and other parties.
The founders literally are the centre of their ventures. They are the focus of all attention and spotlight on whatever the venture does - good, bad and anything. Every stakeholder, be it the investors or co-founders want the founders’ time and attention.
Founders are friendly but not everyone’s friend. They don’t want to befriend colleagues in a really close way because at some point in time they may have to move away from them — be it retrenchment or to build another higher layer above them.
Founders are busy for many hours a day. They are surrounded by people and react to happenings and keep thinking of newer ideas. Yet many feel lonely. And are lonely. The loneliness is depressing and even scary.
Founders and being busy
Being a founder can be overwhelming. It can be scary at times despite its hyped up glamour. It is exhilarating at times. And depressing in parts. It is mystery at times and even daunting at times.
“Are you sure you have what it takes?”
“Can your venture make it to the next size and scale?”
“Your chances of success would be higher if you had someone more mature or experienced leading the venture.”
“Are you sure if this idea is scalable?”
“Maybe you should quit.”
“Isn’t it time to bring next set of leaders?”
“Is it time for next fund raising round?”
The usual questions and/or snide remarks that many founders have faced in their entrepreneurial journey.
We forget that founders are human beings and they also need someone to talk to, without being judged or critiqued or criticised all the time.
The harsher reality is that they are competing everyday with hundreds of people and priorities. The context keeps shifting or evolving and their content has to keep up with it.
For founders, speaking to someone who has a really deep understanding of their role helps balance their perspectives. It helps them to contextualise the overwhelming workload and the daunting task as a founder.
Using loneliness as solitude
“Language has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.” – Paul Tillich, German Theologian
Loneliness is when a person’s needs are not being met by the quality or quantity of social relationships.
Founders can be happily married. They might have amazing, fulfilling, deep friendships with people that they love and care about. Yet they can be lonely in their role as a founder.
Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely.
Solitude is a positive choice, different from loneliness. Solitude can be filled with introspection, unlearning and learning. It can help one observe and learn, without being taught. It brings in self-awareness and can add to their cheer and clarity of thinking.
Just talk
Whether you’re a founder or not, getting healthier can go a long way toward helping you deal with stress. You don’t need many months to start this way of living. Start with smaller things and take one day at a time.
Just like any other problem, talking to someone about it can be super helpful. Even if you have to talk to someone whom you trust, and who does not know what you are going through. Simply talk!
Get a support system of family, mentors, and coaches. Talk to them, even if you think that they don’t understand, or they can’t help you.
– The author, Srinath Sridharan is a Corporate Adviser and Independent Markets Commentator. For other articles in the Coach Soch series, click here.
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