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Starting your own business 101: happiness not included

What’s the difference between being happy and feeling alive? Let me tell you.

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Being happy involves feelings of joy, contentment and euphoria while often excluding, ignoring or suppressing negative feelings.

Feeling alive is knowing that every day brings challenges that you either will or will not overcome. Feeling alive isn’t restricted to joy. It involves pain, fear, anger, confusion, frustration, happiness, euphoria, triumph, accomplishment, failure, success, remorse, resentment and everything in between. That’s how most entrepreneurs I know would probably define what it’s like to start and run your own business.

Starting your own business will not make you happy but it sure as hell will make you feel alive.

I don’t know a single entrepreneur who would define starting a business as a happy, joyful or euphoric experience. I know a lot of entrepreneurs who are scared shitless on a weekly basis, who are terrified that they can’t pay the bills, who want to quit, who are extremely excited, then petrified, overjoyed and then depressed and who have felt all of those things in a single day.

Starting a business can very often look like your Facebook newsfeed; everyone is happy all the time, everyone is doing the things they love, having their umpteenth child and have gone on that once-in-a-lifetime holiday. But no one uploads the bad things to Facebook. No one talks about the tough times and I think that is doing our society harm.

The same rules seem to apply to founders and business owners.

Thou shalt not speak of tough times

In my experience the reasons are different but the outcome is the same. Those who run businesses only speak of the good times. Those who want to run their own businesses only see the good times and think that starting a company is fun and easy.

When I was going through a particularly tough time in a previous business of mine I had reached breaking point. We had lost a massive client, we had about 10 staff and we were out of money. Within two months we were not going to be able to pay anyone. I went for lunch with a friend of mine and he asked me how I was. For a split second I almost sprouted out the cookie-cutter bullshit answer that I was fine, and being an entrepreneur was amazing. Instead I went the route of truth. I told him how extremely depressed I was, how we had lost our largest client worth millions and how I was soon going to have to let go of my staff.

The most surprising thing happened next.

He began to offload his struggles too. He told me that he was having at tough time with one of his key staff members and that he was considering drastic measures to fix his company. How he was traveling too much and that his personal relationships were suffering. We shared a genuine moment of truth behind the walls of business bravado. All it took was one moment of honesty from me and the rest snowballed.

Since then I’ve challenged myself to tell people the truth about running my businesses. Everyone wants to do it, everyone envies those who can do it and rightfully so. But it’s a difficult, lonely and thankless task that leaves people believing that you love your life all the time because you don’t have the man keeping you down.

I have been self-employed for long enough now that I don’t know how to work for a big company or a boss but I can tell you that it’s not for everyone. I can tell you that for much of the time it’s like trying to snowboard up a mountain. I can tell you that if you can get up to your peak then you’ll never look back.

Running your business is not fun for the most part but it will make you feel alive. I’d rather feel alive than numb to my life any day of the week.

Nic Haralambous, founder of NicSocks, originally published this piece published on Medium and is republished with permission.

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