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What to Do When You Start to Hate Your Own Business


Nov 10, 2017 | Jessica Ogilvie

Hey buddy, how’s your business going? Is it amazing to be able to do what you love all day?? Every day?!?

Do you, like so many of your peers, dread hearing these questions? It’s OK – you’re safe here. If you’ve discovered that owning your own business (“Living your dream!” “Following your heart!”) has turned into just another grind, or if it is light years away from what you thought it was going to be, or if you’re just tired (tired of doing it, tired of thinking about it, tired of talking about it) you are not alone.

Last week, in an article in The Denver Post, “Owners sometimes hate the small businesses they used to love”,” small-business owners revealed the moments that they wanted to throw in the towel, or when things got so uncertain they asked themselves what in the world they had gotten into. Those moments came in the form of failed or delayed prototypes, not getting a highly coveted client, or finding your role shift dramatically even as your business grows — which should be good news.

Chris Post, owner of Post Modern Marketing in Sacramento, found himself in the latter situation in 2016, telling the Post that “it sent me into a slight depression.”

So, before you head for the hills or start dismantling everything you’ve built, take a moment, take a deep breath, and try to get your head out of that negative space. Here are some suggestions on how to go about doing that.

Talk to Someone Older and Wiser

This might make you feel better: Losing hope for (or interest in) your business strikes even the most accomplished of us. According to the Post, former NFL fullback Chris Gronkowski became convinced that he was on the wrong track with a water bottle company he’d started following his football career when the prototypes weren’t able to accomplish what he set out to do: keep drinks cold and avoid absorbing odors from drinks that had gone before. When they finally got it right, it was too late to ship the product to stores for the holiday season.

Gronkowski tells the Post that a conversation with his father, a small-business owner himself who’s been at it for 26 years, was what got him through the self-doubt: “’This is how business is. You can’t expect everything to be on time. Nothing’s going to be perfect,’ Gronkowski recalls his father saying.”

Look For Things You Love to do That Aren’t Work

We know, we know: You got into this whole mess so that you could make a living doing what you love to do. And you were right to do that! And you should keep doing it. But if you’re going to be in it for the long haul, you know and we know that it is going to wind up feeling like work at least some of the time. In those moments, suggests The Harvard Business Review, it pays many times over to find another hobby or “a personal project that isn’t related to your job or career.”

And don’t overthink it. You could take up collaging (remember those boards you used to make in high school?). Or you could organize your photos that date back from the 1990’s (ahem). You could just bake some damn chocolate chip cookies. Whatever it is that you land on, HBR notes, “These inspirational endeavors can even have unintended positive spillover effects at work, giving you energy and inspiration to craft your job or re-engage with parts of work you actually like.”

Read This Study

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, researchers Richard Boyatzis, Annie McKee, and Daniel Goleman published a seminal study in The Harvard Business Review. Called “Reawakening Your Passion For Work”, it’s about taking stock of where you are in life and where you want to go next, something many people found themselves thinking about after the tragedy. The authors wrote that “The fragile nature of human life, exposed with such unbearable clarity, compelled people to ask a haunting question: ‘Am I really living the way I want to live?’”

In response, they outline a point-by-point strategy for identifying when it’s time to take stock of your life, such as if you’re feeling trapped or bored, and some tips and strategies for doing so, including creating a set time to reflect weekly or monthly, or upping your game by learning something new (even when you think you already know it all). In fact, whether you hate your business or were just reading this article for the schadenfreude of it all (totally fair), a lot of Boyatzis, McKee, and Goleman’s suggestions are great ideas to incorporate, lest people be schadenfreude-ing about you next time.

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