Have you ever started a business? Do you know anyone who has? When I graduated the Business Administration program at Gonzaga University in 2013 I had taken entrepreneurship courses that lit up my heart to the idea of starting my own business - not only starting a business, but I was really interested in solving problems for our community. Coming from a long line of family entrepreneurs, there was always this sort of pressure I felt to, as my grandpa always promoted, "be your own boss". This seemed glamorous and sexy! Boy, was I wrong.
Ok, so I do like managing my own schedule and creating my own opportunities, but let's rewind back to 2015 when Pantry Fuel was just getting off the ground. There is nothing more depressing than isolation - and this is exactly what happens to most business owners and entrepreneurs the first 2-3 years (or longer) of running a business. At age 24, my friends were interviewing for jobs, finding first jobs, and living for their weekend rendezvous. I, on the other hand, was working 75+ hour weeks doing everything I could to get Pantry Fuel off the ground. Don't get me wrong, initial passion and excited about a new gig makes it a lot easier to put the time and sweat equity into a start-up, but that doesn't mean isolation isn't part of the process.
Isolation, by definition, is to be or remain alone or apart from others. This is exactly what happens when your time and energy are spent entirely on starting and building a business. By nature, though, we are social animals, and so isolation just feels wrong. At first, being an introvert, I thought it was normal to spend hours and days away from a community, working day-in-and-day-out on these projects. Being introvert, I definitely thrive with lots of alone and reflection time, but when it comes to my work, if there is no one to bounce ideas off of and reflect work with, it becomes isolating...and really depressing.
After a few years of deep isolation, digging deeper and deeper into my work, I lost a lot of connections with former friends and began showing up later and later to family events. If not for my dear and patient husband, I would not be as healthy as I am today. I had to make some changes - being sad, low energy, and quiet in groups was just not who I knew myself to be. Isolation had created this idea in my head that I was better alone - and the more I kept to myself, the louder that voice grew.
It wasn't until about 10 months before my wedding that I realized, shit! I really don't have a good community. This needs to change (and fast!)...Or I wouldn't have any friends to dance silly with on our wedding night! That was a complete eye opener and I started evaluating and reflecting on how I had changed since starting Pantry Fuel. It was scary, sad, and really just disappointing to see how much joy my business and our customers brought me, but how little joy I had outside of Pantry Fuel.
I stopped answering phone calls and email after 8PM. Every morning I now move my body, versus jumping on the email or calendar. I make sure that when it's mealtime, I am completely devoted to tasting and enjoying the food and company with whom I'm with. Being present has played a huge part to me coming out of isolation. Being aware of the triggers that arise when sitting alone for hours behind a computer managing finances, marketing, website, etc. has been key to my success. When I start feeling, even maybe happy, alone, I get outside of my comfort zone and walk down to a coffee shop or put a networking event on the calendar. It's all about intentional engagement and building trust and community. These ideas have been my savior.
Tribe is, "a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect". Finding my tribe, in the modern sense, has created so much stability, joy, and love in my life. It's the reason I'm able to get through hard days - to be able to relate with a girlfriend having a hard day allows us both to empathize and lift each other up! Have you heard of Marco Polo? It's a video chat app (free!) that allows us to leave messages throughout the day. You feel closer than if texting, because you get to see their face AND you can check the video messages on your time, so it's way more convenient than a phone call. We really, really love it!
Finding your tribe or community will bring so much joy to your life!
Communities are typically built on commonalities and similar goals. There are a few things I've learned when finding, building, and creating a successful community and tribe in which I hope you find helpful when finding your own:
- Find common desires, activities, and/or likes
- Seek to listen and gain trust through being vulnerable
- Give time and energy without expecting anything in return
- Allow yourself to be honest - as an introvert I am not always up for more than one social event per week. My tribe loves me anyways, but when we are together we are extremely intentional with our time
- Be intentional with your time - being on your phone when with your community/tribe/friend sends a message that whatever you're doing on it is more important than listening or engaging with them
- Don't be afraid to engage - my husband and I are constantly working on this together. It's easy to sweep your partner, friend, or tribes emotions under the rug if they are, say, really excited, but you've had a shit day. You don't need to match their emotions, BUT you engage with them. Ask them about their day, be interested, and truly listen. You will have your chance to share your feelings and the goal is that they will engage with you as well.
- Be the first - be the first to say, 'Hello!', 'Good Morning!', or ask 'How can I help?'.
- Integrate your family into your tribe - families are usually the most important 'tribes' to us, therefore they should be a part of your entire tribe. Get to know other's people's kids, husbands, wives, parents, etc.
- Help where you can - life is hard. Really hard - but that's OK. We all know it is, so it's about perception and having the right people and support systems around to help us where needed. On the flip side, we're here to serve and help others. Only do so within your means - you cannot be everything for everyone, which is why we should 'Collect People'. Have people in your tribe that fulfill different needs, because one person cannot fulfilled all your needs and visa versa. This is why tribe is SO important!!