The following is adapted from Chasing the High by Michael Dash.
When you’re in the thick of entrepreneurship, running a company or starting one from scratch, it can feel like nobody relates. The responsibility of building your company to be the biggest and best usually comes with a fair amount of isolation. You feel like you’re on an island all by yourself — but sometimes that feeling is self-inflicted.
Speaking from experience, the heat of establishing and growing a company can place demands on us we’re not equipped to handle. We dig in, thinking we can do it all ourselves, and place far too much pressure on ourselves. When that happens, it can be easy to withdraw from everything and everyone else in our lives. When things go bad or stress hits a high note, we’re left with no one to talk to and no plan to fall back on.
The truth is every business leader needs a support system. Having people we can trust, lean on, and talk to doesn’t hold us back from success; it enables success. In this article, I want to share how I found my support system, the way it changed my career and my life, and how a support system can make a difference in your journey, too.
Finding My Support System
Earlier in my career, when I lived in New York City, I had an insatiable desire to make my business bigger and to make more money. I wanted everyone to know just how successful I was. I had zero balance in my life because nothing else mattered.
As a result, I had no source of fulfillment in my life. I stopped working out, had a habit with pills, and spent weekends getting stoned. Aside from sporadic volunteer work, I didn’t do anything positive for myself. It all fed into negative behaviors.
In 2013, my world began to turn for the better, and it all started with surrounding myself with positive people. My company made the Inc. 5000 list, celebrating the 5,000 fastest growing companies in the country — a list we made for three consecutive years.
I was proud of that and attended a gala event in Maryland. After the event, I joined a buddy at a bar and met a few people from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only group of like-minded entrepreneurs. I didn’t know anything about these types of organizations at the time because I didn’t allow myself to. I was too wrapped up in my own world of work and drama to look for positivity and fellowship around me.
The founders of YEC told me about their organization and invited me to an event the next night. There were scores of dynamic entrepreneurs with riveting stories of what they were trying to build, and I found them inspiring. That night, I engaged in several great conversations, and the experience drew me in so much that I joined YEC.
How Support Brought Me Out of Isolation
For the first year, I didn’t participate in any of their events or programs that they offered. Then, I truly started embracing it, and the timing couldn’t have been better.
The next year, I attended an annual YEC event in Eden, Utah, called YEC Escape — a four-day entrepreneur gathering with skiing, fireside chats, and high-level engagement. Along with about fifty other entrepreneurs, I spent the time in the mountains participating in all manner of outdoor activities and making connections.
The outdoor events coupled with the fireside chats, private cabins, amazing meals, and other perks put me in an amazing atmosphere with positive, like-minded individuals who I could build strong bonds and relationships with.
The second and third years in the program, I started to open up, reach out to people, and build strong and rewarding friendships. I attended similar events and got more involved. I didn’t notice it at the time, but I started to evolve out of my isolation.
Why? I had five to ten trusted entrepreneurs I could call on to talk about both business challenges I was facing as well as personal challenges I was experiencing. We could offer one another guidance. It was a professional and personal support system that I hadn’t had before, and it was a big step in getting me on the right track.
Takeaways from My Story
Whether it was random luck or fate that I ran into the people from YEC, the lesson is that I acted on the opportunity without second-guessing or overthinking it.
YEC isn’t the only option out there for entrepreneurs either. There are dozens of supportive organizations within easy reach that offer a solid infrastructure and access to connect with uplifting and positive people. There are other organizations that are not specifically entrepreneurially driven that focus on collaboration and support on specific areas of interest. A little research will go a long way, but it all starts with taking action.
If you happen to be a product manager, for example, there are groups dedicated specifically to the product management world. Same with a software engineer, a financial advisor, or a CTO. You can investigate various groups that support your passion and join. It only takes that first step. Until you take it, nothing will change.
I’ve discovered part of the challenge of overcoming isolation, anger, and fear is all about training your brain (or, in my case, retraining it) to take care of yourself and put yourself in a position of positivity, both seeking and offering guidance when the time is right.
When you recognize you’re in a time of isolation or weakness, it can be a sign of your strength. If you see areas where you would like to increase your knowledge, that’s the strength that guides you to becoming a better person. If you let that mindset lead the way, you’ll put yourself on the path to fulfillment, joy, and success.
For more advice on finding your support system, you can find Chasing the High on Amazon.
MICHAEL G. DASH is an entrepreneur, author, recovering addict, speaker, philanthropist, and thrill seeker. He founded the F.A.T.E. series (From Addict to Entrepreneur) published on Thrive Global & Medium, and rolled out a F.A.T.E. program to help entrepreneurs dealing with addiction, which he looks forward to growing. Information can be found at http://michaelgdash.com/fatemasterclass. He is the co-founder of imactivated.com, a social movement focused on inspiring a culture of positivity, authenticity, passion, empathy, and resilience. Michael is an avid volunteer, fundraiser, and mentor, and is dedicated to bringing positive change to leaders of all kind. You can reach Michael via email at email@example.com regarding partnering or other opportunities or check out his site at michaelgdash.com.