“If you want it done right, do it yourself.” *
The words of an introvert, me thinks!
I lived by these words for many years, embracing them wholeheartedly because they gave me permission to fly solo. A co-pilot tended to muck up the works. There was always the possibility of communication challenges, conflicting agendas, and unexpected demands on my precious time and energy.
Introverts and independence go hand-in-hand. It doesn’t mean that other people aren’t important to us; we simply are more deliberate and even cautious about who we invite into our inner world. We see it very simply: people in, energy out. We can absolutely love and adore those people, and they can still exhaust us. That’s why we tend to have intimate circles of friends and place a premium on our alone time.
I’ve noticed that just as I’m protective of my energy when it comes to personal relationships, I’m almost more protective when it comes to who I bring into my entrepreneurial life. My independent streak and natural curiosity allowed me to be a one-woman show for a while. What I didn’t know, I could figure out…
Until I couldn’t figure it out anymore.
Until I hit the wall of “OK, I’ve tried everything I know to do… now what!?”
And until I realized that some things were too big to tackle on my own, that for the BHAGs** I had, two heads were better than one.
A recent conversation with a professional singer and self-professed introvert reminded me of why we will sometimes do anything to find a solution to a challenge, other than ask another person for help.
She and I agreed that whenever we bring someone else into our psyche and make the internal external, we are acutely aware of our vulnerability.
“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen
I’ve always read that beautiful statement with perfectionism in mind. That’s certainly one interpretation, but I’ve also begun seeing it as an invitation to vulnerability. I see it as a call to crack open what I’ve held so tightly and let the light – other people – in.
How do we introverts invite others into our work in a way that doesn’t zap our energy (or cause us to cross the line from cracking open to cracking up)?
Start small. Right now, you may be flying solo with only informal support from friends, family or colleagues. Consider small ways you can start to integrate more formal relationships into your work:
- Join or start a regular Mastermind Group. (Learn more about the Mastermind concept in this post and this podcast)
- Enlist an accountability partner for mutual support. My twice-weekly phone calls with my partner are critical to my focus and feeling of connection. And good news, we’re going to do a podcast about the accountability partner relationship this spring!
- One of my coaching clients meets regularly with a friend for a two-hour writing block, during which she writes her weekly blog post. Through this, she experiences a dependable connection and mutual support.
Be strategic. Consider your big picture goals when deciding where it’s going to be worth it to stretch your energy by including other people. I have two examples that might spark some ideas for you:
- I formed a “Speaker’s Circle,” an intimate group of colleagues who share the goal of making public speaking a substantial part of our businesses. We meet bi-monthly to share lessons learned and experiences. In between those conversations, we support each other through referrals, answering “what would you do?” inquiries and cheering each others’ wins.
- 2012 is “The Year of The Book.” When I think about “BHAGs I have known”, this is one that’s been on my list for years. My writing skills are solid enough that I could muddle my way through a first draft solo, which seems like an attractive option when I consider the agony of having someone critique my writing. But then I realized it was going to be heavily scrutinized sooner or later, so I might as well enlist a partner early in the process. Enter my book editor, stage left. It’s proven to be one of the best strategic partnerships I’ve ever made. Yes, I still use passive voice too often and ramble on ;-), but she has given me priceless feedback – positive and critical – that not only strengthens my manuscript, but toughens up my sometimes-too-thin skin.
Be proactive. As I mentioned in a recent video, don’t wait until the plane is going down to put on your oxygen mask. There are times when that oxygen mask takes the form of another person providing perspective, encouragement and feedback. Sometimes, because we don’t want to bring anyone else down with us, we don’t reach out. The situation escalates. We hit bottom. Alone.
Confession time: on occasion, when I’m stressed, I don’t even tell my husband what’s going on inside my head, even though I trust him more than anyone in the world. He’s been 1,000% supportive of my entrepreneurial ventures, but I am loathe to reveal my fears and perceived failures. So I suffer in silence. And hit bottom. Alone. Now that I’ve noticed this pattern, I’m going to try to open up more. I’m not going to wait until I feel so disconnected from him and everyone else that I can’t find my way back.
Who do you have in your life who can help you decompress the stress in progress? If not a spouse, partner or friend, consider working with a coach. Being able to share both my mistakes and my wins with my coach has made it easier to let others into my business. Our conversations support, affirm and create accountability.
Some people call themselves “soloprenueurs,” and by their definition, I would fall into that category. The reality is that no one, even if you’re legally a company of one, is a solopreneur. We may be independent, we may be introverts, but we’re interconnected. We need each other to succeed. As they say, it takes a village. The key for introverts is to choose that village wisely.
For Your Consideration: Have you ever hit that wall? And did you resist reaching out for help? Or did you start looking for solutions not in technology or books, but in other people? What worked? What didn’t? Please share your experiences in the comments.
* The proverb has a long history beginning with Miles Coverdale in Matrymonye (1541): “That whych thou cannest do conueniently thyselfe commytte it not to another.” “If you want a thing well done, do it yourself.”~Charles Spurgeon, John Ploughman’s Pictures, p. 33 (1880) First cited in the U.S. in Poems (1858) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. http://forum.quoteland.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/99191541/m/7861058451
** BHAG=Big Hairy Audacious Goal, Jim Collins, “Built to Last”