An Open Letter to Empathetic Entrepreneurs
The modern entrepreneur is a special breed.
We care about each other. We care about the direction of the world. We care about our impact on the environment.
We care about creating meaningful, human centered relationships.
We really care- not just theoretically either- we care with our action. It’s a part of how we engage with the world.
So as entrepreneurs, we’re inspired to use our entrepreneurial gusto to create a meaningful impact on our surroundings- to serve our communities in a way that is innovative, regenerative, and creative.
The “old” ways of transactional relationships, top-down work environments, and profit-over-everything are just not a part of how we function.
You see, we’re living during the exciting surge of the empathetic entrepreneur. These are leaders that wield the emotional intelligence of an empath.
But, what is an empath?
Empaths have this ability to tune into the emotions of their environment- to feel the emotions and stories of the people who surround them.
It’s nuanced. It’s subtle. And, at times, it can be confusing and challenging because it’s incredibly easy to lose a sense of self.
But as empaths, it’s our innate ability to view the world as a part of us that fuels our determination to improve the current environment of humanity.
Our decision-making process is deeply grounded in trying to understand what is best for the people around us, because we are hard wired to believe what is truly best for you, is best for me, too.
(And.. just a quick side note here – you’re the only one who knows what’s truly best for you.)
So, because of this, we create win-win situations and have an earnest desire to listen for the sake of really understanding.
For the average empath, like myself, this alone can be challenging and complicated, because we have to learn how to set emotional boundaries.
And so, if you’re an empath plus you’re an entrepreneur, things get interesting…
Because as entrepreneurs,we juggle a lot.
We do our best to manage our businesses. Our attention is split between administration, branding, culture, digital infrastructure, sales, marketing, content, automation systems, community building, accounting… The list goes on and on.
All while trying to give value, make an impact, and hopefully an income.
And these skill sets aren't really something we learn in school. We have to essentially figure it out and learn from the people around us.
So, we ask questions, we experiment, we make mistakes, we get up, we try again, and we keep going because our big hearts know there is something better possible.
There is no question here.
So, as you can see, being an empathetic entrepreneur has many layers of complexity.
And these complexities can feel overwhelming.
It can even feel downright scary.
On my journey as an empathetic entrepreneur, I've learned I have to get out of my own way.
I found myself walking a fine line of unhealthy sacrifice in the name of service. I got lost.
I was putting in 20-hour work days and my to-do lists still felt over-bearing. Grind. Grind. Grind. This became my identity and my work went above all else.
I was sacrificing important relationships, my personal health, and my own creative expression.
I was stumbling through the day-to-day telling myself this story: that because I can feel the emotions of the world, it is my responsibility to save it.
I developed a super-hero complex and this alter-ego had grandiose expectations for me.
And these expectations wore me out. They weren’t realistic. So I found myself with an empty cup and I lost touch with why I was doing this all of this work in the first place.
Does any of this sound relatable?
If so, here are three things I've learned about being an empathetic entrepreneur
1) I believed I needed to sacrifice myself in order to serve a mission successfully.
This is a really common phenomenon in the mission-driven space. I’ve seen it in both non-profit and for-profit cultures. Mission. Above. Everything. This is a myth. Simply put, how can you best serve your mission if you’re exhausted because you’re neglecting your own needs? I mean think about that. It doesn’t make any sense. But when I started viewing self-care as a part of serving my mission, it changed the game.
2) I believed being a successful entrepreneur meant hustling, grinding, and overextending myself.
Hustle culture. It’s everywhere. And there are literally millions of people pushing it’s narrative on the social platforms. You will be successful if you work hard enough. But, I can tell you from personal experience that sometimes working hard doesn't cut it. Even the most powerful of trucks can still get stuck in the mud. Not everything can be forced. “Hustle culture” is a fairy tale. Now, don’t get me wrong here, work ethic is an important variable in the equation of success, because nobody is going to create it for you, but it is only one variable in a much more complicated, holistic expression.
3) As an empath, I couldn’t discern my emotions from the emotions of those around me and therefore was having a hard time setting healthy boundaries.
I believe empaths have a particular inclination to be helpful. When someone asks me for help, I take great pride in saying yes. But I’ve learned to ask, is yes always in my best interest? I’ve walked a fine line here because, similar to my first point about sacrifice, I've learned to put other’s needs before our own- because they feel like my own.
So, for me, it’s been mission critical to embark on the journey of learning to decipher what’s mine and what’s not- and to listen and follow through on my own needs.
Is this selfish?
I suppose self-indulgence is possible, but taking care of my needs isn’t self-indulgence, it’s nourishment. It literally gives me the very energy I need to serve my community in the ways that I’m inspired.
So, just to recap, here are my three basic lessons:
1) To view my needs as a part of serving my mission.
2) That hustle culture does not equal success.
3) To experiment with setting boundaries and always ask myself “what do I need right now?”
Of course, these are only my own only personal reflections.
So, my encouragement would be to take them for a grain of salt.
It’s been a complicated but beautiful journey for me and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to navigate all the failures and achievements because it’s been such fertile ground for self-discovery, evolution and healing.
And, frankly, I’m grateful to know that there are literally millions of other empathetic entrepreneurs around the world right now.
Other visionaries, healers, creatives, innovators… all doing what they can to better themselves and their communities.
We are on this journey together. Now more than ever.
And I mean look at us. We're here moving forward despite the challenges of the world, because we’re determined; we have a let's-figure-it-out attitude; and we’re willing to learn from our mistakes.
And I really believe that we are capable of greatness.
And I’m just going to leave it at that.