How to Create Purpose and Not Fall into the Trap of Entrepreneurial Angst

Everyone asked Harvey, “What’s next?”

He’d always wanted to be an entrepreneur and from the age of 30 he lived the full cycle dream over the next decade: he founded a company; he attracted on board the right people and customers that enabled him to grow the business; he accelerated the company’s market share by raising multiple funding rounds; he sold the company and stayed for a further year before leaving.

At 40 Harvey felt that he had established himself. What’s next is a period of rest: a time to recharge and reflect; an introspective contemplation on the journey, the gruel and the grit and a time to look forward.

When he thought about the journey of building his business certain words came to mind: exciting, frothy, turbulent, dark, viable path, rebuild.

He’d been through a lot: he’d focused exclusively on the business; joy was a distraction and whenever it appeared he quashed it with anxiety; the stress of keeping the business on track was all consuming; he’d deferred his personal well-being until the business was sold.

In his mind he held a construct: growing a business leads to fulfilment, but the journey is an unhappy one; building a business involves a lot of sacrifice; relationships are put to the test and can be destroyed.

He had started his business because of a passion he had and a desire to be an entrepreneur rather than working for someone else. Unfortunately, his entrepreneurial experience had dark moments.

The real question Harvey was grappling with now was how could he do things differently in his next entrepreneurial cycle? He wanted to have the fulfilment of growing another great, world-changing business without the unhappiness along the way.

The challenge for serial entrepreneurs is that their priorities change. When Harvey started his first company he had a girlfriend. He now had a wife and two young children. He wasn’t prepared to sacrifice them and he wanted to make sure this next phase was not about the company at all costs. Having made it once, he hoped to enter his next entrepreneurial journey in a calmer state of mind and not have the anxiety he’d felt when building the first business.

His 30s had been about establishing himself. His hope now was to reach 50 with his family not only intact, but also proud of him. Not achieving a win with his next company would be devastating, but it would be a tragedy to achieve business success without family success.

Harvey’s first business had taught him that the end – a business success – did not always justify the means – a dark and painful journey. He realized that the joy-fulfilment ratio didn’t stack up against the sacrifices and pain of the journey to get there.

What Harvey needs is a superpower to give himself the staying power and emotional strength to both reach for his goals of consequence and work like crazy to achieve those goals. This superpower will give him the resilience he needs: to stay off the rocks of despair and avoid physical or mental breakdown; and to ensure he arrives at his 50s with his family intact, proud of himself and in a state of optimized well-being.

Here’s the secret: Harvey needs the superpower of fusion: he must interfuse happiness and fulfilment; by integrating the two he will find joy in his purpose; he will find that by working on his soul purpose he can be happy during the journey to achieve this goal.

Harvey need only remind himself of the people he knows who appear successful, but who are deeply unhappy to know that fusion is the answer. These confused people have let factors external to their soul purpose determine their path and their egos have trapped them in a loop of unhappiness: they become so focused on holding onto the construct that is fulfilling their measure of success that they are willing to forego any actual, intrinsic fulfilment.

Harvey is grateful that he has had his eyes opened before he did too much harm to himself. Given how much he had focused on his company above all else, he could very well have ended up on the rocks of despair – his company could have failed, his family could have left him. Yet here he was, conscious of the superpower he needs and aware of the dangers of not achieving fusion.

Going forward, Harvey has much work to do to align himself.

Firstly, he will need to go through a process of self-inquiry to determine his goals of consequence.

Secondly, he will also need to set his internal altimeter so he can measure his soul integrity and ensure he stays true to this. Doing so will empower him to achieve personal fulfilment. It will also have the added benefit of creating a powerful magnetic attractor: other people will observe how aligned he is to his soul purpose and be attracted to work with him in achieving his goals of consequence.

You can read more about fusing happiness and fulfilment in my book Fierce Reinvention.

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