Entrepreneurs need independence to succeed. But if we’re not careful we veer into toxic independence that holds us back. Rather than being a powerful force that drives us forward, that independent streak becomes a tether holding is back. Or worse, actively preventing us from achieving greater success. There was a time, many moons ago, that I had a wart on my little finger. It was there for what seemed like an eternity, and I vividly remember how mortified I was every time someone noticed it. One particularly awful moment was as I was getting a manicure and my nail technician just skipped that finger because she didn’t want to touch it.
In fairness, it was gross. It ran all the way down one side of my little finger nail and about halfway to the first knuckle. Repeated trips to the doctors always yielded the same results. Apply this cream, cover it with a plaster, leave it for a day or two, then file off the dead skin.
If it’s still there, leave it a day, then repeat.
When The Help Doesn’t Help
I dutifully followed these instructions each and every time. One round was never enough, but nor was round two. It would take four or five goes before it seemed anywhere close to being gone. And then the results would just plateau. Didn’t matter how many more times I applied it after that, no further improvement was made. Eventually I’d give up. But because it hadn’t completely gone it would always grow back. I’d become embarrassed once more, and the whole palaver would start over with another trip to the doctors, another tube of cream, another frustrating series of efforts to remove the damn thing only to find it wouldn’t completely go away.
After this had happened three or four times, I realised there was little point in doing the same thing again; it clearly wasn’t going to work. So I went back to the doctor to ask for something different. I showed them my progress, explained this was as good as it got, and asked for something to shift that last bit so it didn’t come back.
What did they give me?
Another tube of the same bloody cream and instructions to continue doing exactly what I’d already discovered did not work.
Pissed off, I dutifully reapplied the cream, waited, then removed the dead skin. It was at this point, as I sat in my dimly lit bedroom late at night – I may actually have had the sense to turn a light on, but in my mind it was a dark and moody night lit only by the faint interest of the moon beyond my window – but it was at this point that I realised all I had to do was keep filing.
You see, wart removal – much like callus removal if you’ve seen the TikTok videos of people having their feet scraped – is done by treating the excess flesh with something that essentially kills it. Once it’s dead, it can be safely removed without pain or injury.
The top part of this wart had succumbed to my mighty nail file, but the base was a stubborn little bitch who just refused to die peacefully and be on her way. I was heartily sick of being attached to the evil little wench at this point, so when I’d finished filing the dead skin, I just kept on going.
I distinctly remember two things about this process. An astonishing amount of pain, and the large quantity of blood it left on the carpet.
Did I care about either of these things? No. I did not. My efforts were successful. My foe had been vanquished. Once the wound healed my finger returned to normal and I’ve never had a wart since. It didn’t even scar.
Getting The Right Support As An Entrepreneur
I was about 16, 17 when this happened. And it taught me a very valuable lesson.
Life does not always grant you the luxury of tools that are up to the task. Sometimes, you know what needs to be done, and you know it’s going to hurt like hell to do it, but your only option is to forge ahead and fight through the pain to achieve your objective.
The alternative is to accept the status quo until someone else fixes the issue for you.
That’s a tough pill to swallow when you’ve repeatedly asked the people who should provide that help and support, and your pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
There are times we sabotage our own success through our inability to admit we need help, our reticence to ask for aid (I’ll get to that in a minute).
Then there are times we are screaming for help and instead of realising we’re on fire and hosing us down until it’s out, those who hear us hand over a box of matches.
In the right subject area, but ultimately destined to exacerbate the issue.
Age and hindsight have granted me further insight into this incident and the ‘fight through the pain until you get it done’ mindset it instilled in me.
Life shouldn’t be that tough.
We SHOULD have the tools to tackle each challenge the world throws at us. When we ask for help, from people in a position to provide those tools, we should receive what is actually needed.
You shouldn’t have to sit alone in your room silently screaming in agony as you file off your own finger.
Graphic? Sure. But apt.
Starting and growing a successful business requires sacrificing so much of ourselves. Time, effort, money, hopes, dreams. We give up family time, socialising, hobbies, sleep, our health, our mental stability, all in the name of getting this business baby off the ground and flying.
We need help.
But help is expensive. The professionals who have the tools – either literal tools or knowledge and experience, to do this shit for us – want paying. And rightly so; they’re skilled, they deserve recompense for that. Understandable.
Friends and family do not (generally) have the right tools to help. So while they (hopefully) provide patience and understanding, their well meaning advice often does more harm than good, and their lack of understanding around why we are sacrificing so much of ourselves only makes the process harder.
How Do We Succeed As Entrepreneurs?
We ask for help.
Surely, that must be the answer? After a lifetime of asking (often screaming) for help, only to find people ignoring me, or fobbing me off with ‘solutions’ that don’t work, benefit them not me, or make it worse, I’ve found this answer unsatisfactory.
So what then? We might add that we need to ask for help from people capable of understanding what we actually need.
Closer, but still not quite the cigar.
To succeed as entrepreneurs we must ask for help from those who genuinely understand our needs and can provide aid in a format that is truly useful to us, in our current situation.
You need help marketing your business. I can do that for you. But it will cost you anything from a couple of hundred to £6K+ per month. If you’re just starting out, and you’re anything like I was at the start, even £160 a month isn’t affordable to you.
I’m over a decade into my business and at this stage find myself investing roughly £500-£1K/m in my marketing. That’s stuff I don’t DIY, and I DIY my entire content marketing strategy.
It would never have been possible for me to invest that much (let alone more) early on.
The first few years I was lucky to scrape together a few hundred a year. I took that money and asked for help from people who should have been able to deliver it in a useful format – training.
The problem was, they didn’t.
I received bits and pieces of helpful information here and there which – eventually – I was able to reforge into the tools I actually needed.
In the interim I was just sitting, silently screaming in my bedroom, filing off my own finger and getting blood all over the carpet.
I’m on the other end of it now. I’m the one in a position to hand entrepreneurs a solution to their issues.
And you can be damn sure I’m not going to hand over a box of matches. I’m getting ready to release a new book, Divine Blogging, which is a very inexpensive way to learn exactly how to market a business. It’s the same system I used to build a six figure copywriting business using nothing but content marketing. And I don’t just use it for myself, I use it for my clients, to make their businesses successful.
I’m planning on releasing an ecourse later in the year that has more practical help packed into it. But for those of you who haven’t the time or money for an ecourse, the book is more than sufficient to take you, step-by-step, through the process needed to create a killer content strategy.
An affordable solution, when you haven’t got hundreds to spend on training or thousands to spare getting me to do it for you.
I was reminded of this incident a couple of weeks ago when I fell down the stairs in the middle of the night as I went to let Dexter out. Little wolf is almost thirteen now, he’s in heart failure and has a brain condition, as well as arthritis. He’s on a huge amount of medication for all of this, including a diuretic to help reduce the buildup of fluid on his lungs and belly. It helps him, but he needs to pee a lot, so I’m often up at least once in the night to let him out.
This is something my other half never does. He will just lie in bed pretending he can’t hear him while I get up however many times is needed throughout the night. I assume this is what it’s like to have a baby who won’t sleep through and a fella who won’t pitch in. Of course, he argues my fur baby isn’t really a baby (although obviously, he is) and that he shouldn’t even be in the bedroom (non negotiable to me). So despite the fact I had a stinking cold and felt like absolute death I hauled my substantial ass out of bed that night, just like any other, because my pup needed me.
On this occasion I’m unsure what happened but I lost my balance and flew down the last few steps to land with a crash at the bottom. My lower back took much of the blow as I slammed into the lips of several steps.
I lay there, shaken, and was appalled to find myself crying. Now, I cry all the time. At a film, or a TV show, or even a song. I’m of the firm belief that a story (in any format) is not well told if it doesn’t drive you to tears at least once, either from sadness or joy. And I love good stories. I surround myself with them. So I cry at the drop of a hat over other people’s crap, but mine?
Not so much.
Like anyone I have those overwhelmed moments when everything gets too much and I just ball my eyes out, but everyday issues like stubbing a toe, or falling over, I’ve never been a cryer for such things.
It shook me further that I was so shaken I was crying. I tried to get up and found I couldn’t move. Not just that I was in too much pain to move but that I physically couldn’t get my back to move. My legs and arms flailed around a bit when I tried, but nothing else happened.
I was a tortoise on its back.
Now, at this point any rational person would have called out for help.
Not me though. Nope.
I don’t do that.
I pick myself up, I dust myself off. On the rare occasions I need a cry, I sob it out and crack on. Plus, it was the middle of the night, he was sleeping and had to be at work early.
Eventually, I hauled myself off the stairs, let the poor confused pup out before he peed himself and returned – very stiffly – to bed, where I lay in the dark, stared at the ceiling, and wondered… at what point does independence become toxic?
Why We Avoid Help
I know a lot of great entrepreneurs, some of them working with the support and aid of spouses, family, and a network of people, others stubbornly insisting on doing everything themselves. I’ve always quite firmly fallen into that latter category. There have been too many times in life when other people hurt me so I struggle to trust them, and too many times when I desperately needed aid and was badly let down. The wart incident was minor compared to most of the shit I dealt with in my youth.
You learn to manage on your own. You may not manage perfectly, but you’re not relying on anyone else so you don’t really give a shit.
It’s about a year since I moved in with my fella and we still clash on occasion because of this very issue.
I’m an independent person. This doesn’t mean I’m practically brilliant at every single thing a person might need to do. But it does mean that I will buckle down and figure out a solution to whatever I’m facing whether I know how to handle it or not.
He was astonished to find I didn’t know that you’re supposed to leave those plug guards in the sink to catch food while you’re washing up, and then empty it into the bin when you’re done so the food doesn’t go down the sink.
Honestly I always just found mine annoying.
He’s still left in stitches every time I ‘misuse’ it. “How,” he asks, “can you have lived on your own for so long and not know how that works.”
Simple. Nobody ever taught me how to use it. Just like nobody ever taught me how to put on makeup as a kid. But unlike makeup, which I learned to do myself by reading a lot of magazines and – later – watching a lot of YouTube – I wasn’t aware that I was using this stupid plug thing wrong until he told me.
So there are many areas in life – some far more important than the plug – where I have serious knowledge gaps. Not only do I not know how to do something, I’m not even aware that I’m supposed to be able to do that thing, or need to do that thing. Often, when I learn what that thing is, I fail to see the point in it. I’ve done without it for so long. Why start relying on it now?
Depending on other people, for anything, is one of those things. I hadn’t realised until I moved in with my man that I don’t depend on people for anything. Ever. I just sort it out myself. I’m actually really bad at allowing other people to take control and sort things for me. This hasn’t always been the case. There was a time I was in a very toxic relationship and had no control. There have been many times I was extremely ill and other had to take control away from me for my own safety. These times led me to develop a strong sense of independence; i never wished to be in such compromising positions again so I learned to manage my shit. I also do not like the idea of relinquishing any part of the independence I’ve gained.
Evidently this isn’t conducive to a relationship in which both parties are supposed to look after each other, but I digress.
The point is, I’m fiercely independent and have recently been musing on whether or not this is a good thing. There was a time I lacked independence. Gaining it was the greatest and hardest thing I ever did, and so to even consider relinquishing it seems ridiculous.
And yet. There is a point at which maintaining your independence stops being a fierce, empowered act of bravery and emancipation and becomes toxic.
A point where you’re well capable of thriving alone, of supporting yourself financially and emotionally, and you start to deprive yourself of things in order to maintain that independent distance.
Things like help.
While this has huge implications personally, if you’re building a business, running a business, owning a business, it’s a bloody hard knife edge to balance.
We women do not get to be successful entrepreneurs without finding that independent spirit. Even if we are not literally going it alone and have the support of a spouse, friends, family, etc. the business of building the actual business still has to come from you.
From your vision. Your dream. You may hire people to help, but they’re following your lead.
Without independence as an entrepreneur you’re an alpha, standing in a field and watching your pack run past. One of the cubs shouts out to you, “Where are we going?” And you stand there, watching them pass by, and reply, “I’ll let you know when you get there!”
I know many entrepreneurs and business owners with very supporting spouses. Too supporting. They’re held back (usually subconsciously and accidentally) because hubby/wifey is waiting in the wings to cover the cost of everything. Failure doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t mean there’s no food for the family, no roof over your head. Whenever they want something for the business, like a high ticket course or a she shed, the other half foots the bill. They don’t have to hustle to uplevel because there’s that cushion of financial and motivational support behind them.
That’s not to diminish the work or achievements of those who don’t depend on their own business financially, but I have noticed a trend when there is that kind of support in a business (whether the owner is female or male).
Risks carry little to no real-world risk, while failure carries no consequence. The result is the owner of the business never fully harnesses their power. They never fully step into their potential.
They sit in their she shed and take their courses, but never action anything they learn. They never refine their vision into something tangible, something real. They never find the motivation or drive to make this shit happen. Partly because they don’t have to, and partly because (for some) doing so will make that spouse uncomfortable.
This doesn’t apply to everyone, not by a long shot. I know many incredibly supporting couples who maintain independence and still work great together romantically.
But from my observations over the years the difference between success and failure where female entrepreneurs are concerned is often that independent spark.
If they have it, they go great guns.
If they don’t, they never quite get things going. And if they do, they never push them to be as great as they could have been.
Independence is vital. But it’s also a double edged sword.
Too much, it grows toxic, and instead of being the fire that lights your way as you trailblaze past everyone else and become the thing they follow, you burn out.
What’s The Lesson?
So, what do we draw from all this that actually helps us in our entrepreneurial journey? Firstly, accept the fact you need support, but be discerning about where you look for it. Be aware of the quality of the support you receive. Ask for help from people who actually understand your situation. Who have listened and understood the specifics of your needs. Who offer you a solution for your current problem, that will actually solve it, not the solution they happen to have on offer. Not something that may help in the future but leaves you struggling in the interim, or something you’re well past needing which will only hold you back.
Be your own independent, brilliant, shining self. But remember that independence taken too far can leave you with blind spots, gaps in your knowledge and understanding you aren’t even aware exist. Ways that you might fail or be undermined by others because you refuse to allow anyone else to step in and handle it for you. Or simply step in and offer another perspective that closes those gaps and gives you a big picture view.
How do you know when you’re over the edge? When you’ve teetered from strong independence into toxic independence?
When you’re sitting filing off your own finger, or stuck imobile on the stairs and crying, yet still don’t ask for help.
Part of becoming a successful entrepreneur is having the confidence (and independence) to say, “This is me, take me or leave me.” You know you’re not for everyone, but you’re not afraid to lose the people who will say, “No, you’re not for me.” You know enough to know you don’t need or want those people in your clan, in your pack.
The greater part of this is having the balls to accept people who say, “Yes! You’re just who I need!” are telling the truth. To allow them to accept you, and even help you, warts and all.