Entrepreneurs and Burnout (the stuff we don’t like to talk about)

overwhelmedBurnout is one of those things you don’t see discussed often in blog posts or social media. It is not glamorous, it isn’t profitable and it doesn’t sell things. There are euphemisms for burnout that slide through occasionally; we call it overwhelm or stress or we say we are pivoting.   I wonder how often it boils down to the same problem—we all get bored and/or tired of what we do from time to time. We all get funky.  It may be every few years, it may be more often.  We are complex creatures and we can get depressed or just plain burned out with the lives we have built.

I haven’t written in a while. Usually I write when I am inspired, and frankly, my inspiration has been MIA. I’ve looked for it—I have tried to recreate the environments and situations that inspired me before. I’ve discussed my lack of inspiration with my friends and my ever-patient husband (thanks all for your love and listening!) I have tried to cleanse my body and my spirit. I quit drinking wine for a while. I drank extra wine for a while. I joined an entrepreneur group and I attend quite frequently. I even traveled to Las Vegas (one of my favorite towns) for an amazing trade show (trade shows are amazing in and of themselves!) Still…no (or very limited) inspiration.

I cannot seem to get the buzz back into my life. When I began this entrepreneurial journey, about eight years ago, I felt almost high a lot of the time. I was making a lot less money in those early days, but I was a lot more excited. I was thrilled with each and every sale online and loved making even a $2 profit. Shipping internationally was a blast—I was blown away that a person in France could purchase something from a housewife in Indiana and we could complete the entire transaction on this marvelous world wide web. I would go to Walmart and shop to fill orders from my online store and I felt like a superstar; no one else at Walmart was MAKING money while they shopped!

While I was in this inspired state, I went on to create a larger business, hire employees, and purchase real estate with my profits. I executed 5 figure deals from the beach! I worked out most days and was stronger physically than at any time in my life. I enjoyed cooking and traveling and hanging out with my kids. I worked a lot of hours, but entirely on my own terms, and it was so fun to me that it rarely felt like “work.”

My husband quit his corporate job and started managing our real estate.   We paid off our house and sent our first two children to college. We took our extended family on two amazing vacations. Not only was I changing my life, I was improving the lives of the people I loved.

Late in 2016 the business environment for my particular niche changed. That was the possible catalyst for my burnout. I was deep into one particular niche and the price point on the products in that niche decreased dramatically. I spent most of 2017 reacting as the price continued to fall. I had to pivot several times and adjust expenses, advertising and compensation for my employees. I failed to train a manager and I had to motivate and manage our five employees. Somewhere during 2017 I quit having fun. I started this journey as an excited, wide-eyed entrepreneur and I began turning into a cynical, burned-out business owner. I was deep into survival mode–it was, or seemed, impossible to bounce back.

I knew I needed to develop other niches and find other products to sell. The pressure, however, of doing this while keeping the current business going, proved to be difficult. The stress of being the main source of income for my family also took a toll. What started out as a lark—a little grocery store online, had employees and family members counting on the results. It wasn’t a cute little business anymore, it was a large entity with a lot of demands.

2017 ended (did anyone hear me screaming hallelujah?) and the business survived. Our profits were down, but there were profits. We had been forced to adapt continuously all year. But, we made it! I am very proud of this.

The burnout, however still lingers.  Often, it is under the surface; sometimes I even get inspired for a few days. I have introduced a dozen new products online and had some success. I have met and mentored a couple of sellers. I have joined two mastermind groups and partnered with a few sellers on ideas. I have outlined an Online Selling Course and am presenting it in my local community this Spring. I have not, however, really re-kindled the entrepreneur flame.

I have all the tools necessary to multiply my current business. I know, in theory, how to expand online selling in every possible fashion. I have experience in RA, OA, wholesale and private label. I have great connections with data people, liquidation people and even people who navigate China sources. Knowledge is not my shortcoming.

Inspiration is what I need.

I reached out to a good friend, a fellow entrepreneur, last weekend. He did what all good friends should do–he empathized and then told me to get off my butt. He sent me two books that afternoon and the first one I read actually changed my state for the first time in months; Create or Hate by Dan Norris.

Now, I read a ton of books and a lot of those books are empowerment and business books. Basically, I have read most ideas at least ten times. So, I’m actually burned out even on reading. But this book spoke to me. Dan’s insight was exactly what I needed at that moment. It is a quick read, maybe 90 minutes, but he talks about creating and he talks about being an entrepreneur and he talks about failing. His idea of creating more than you consume really hit home (and is the instigator for this blog post.)

Putting my recent experiences into words and exploring my burnout through writing is, I believe, helping me re-focus.

Plus, it is still early in the year and there is still room for New Year’s plans and goals! Have I mentioned how much I love New Year’s Goals?  I have hesitated on writing down my goals so far this year because of my burnout and because 2017 didn’t go according to any plans. It is the first year in a long time that every single business goal I made came up short. But, it is time to embrace this new year, rejoice in what has gone well in 2017, and get excited about my business again.

I am hiring a coach. Not for online selling information, but for inspiration and accountability. I am going to join A.C.E., Sam Cohen’s group. I have admired Sam from a distance over the past couple of years and what I really appreciate is he is “walking the walk” in Amazon; he is currently running a multi-million dollar Amazon business and training others to do the same. I also appreciate that he isn’t directly associated to the folks I have been following for a long time. I have followed great folks—and worthy mentors, but I need some fresh inspiration. I am certain that the experience of being around folks who are excited and performing, coupled with making an investment in the process, will inspire me again.

So, thanks Dan Norris, for inspiring me to CREATE and not hate and for getting me writing again.   I can actually feel the burnout lifting!

I am blessed and grateful and fortunate to live here and now.  I know a beautiful and excited spirit still lives in me. I will keep creating here and am looking forward to 2018.

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