Yesterday I was with a client who is a budding entrepreneur and the subject of networking came up. She was about to leave a job where she was in the company of many people, and where opportunities to travel and expand her network were plentiful. She was going to leave all of this to begin her start-up in her apartment and was becoming aware of, and concerned about, the isolation she might face. I also held concern of the effects isolation may have on her. It is my experience that those things that derail entrepreneurial dreams, grow stronger in isolation.
There’s a long sustained myth in western culture of the solo entrepreneur toiling away in his garage alone, marketing product, navigating the perils of competition, and then reaching the heights of success, all as an individual. But if you were to ask any entrepreneur, this is not how it happens. If they were honest with you, they would tell you stories of generous help and support, all along the way. So where does this idea that you have to do it alone, or that asking for help is a sign of weakness come from?
I blame John Wayne. Sorry to bash an iconic Orange County figure but the myth of rugged individualism, born out of western culture and sustained by modern media, has isolated many and has not told the real story how organizations, communities, or entrepreneur’s develop. It is through cooperation, social support, and standing together that people and organizations really thrive. Ask anybody that was on a real wagon train back in the day.
Or check the research. Evidence from more than 30 years of research suggests a profound relationship between social participation and human well-being. It has been shown that people who hold meaningful roles in supportive social contexts live longer, get sick less often, suffer less disability, and recover faster from life-threatening events (Letcher & Perlow, 2009) Yes, stepping out of isolation, or ideas of rugged individualism, have life sustaining effects. Ready to ask for help now? I hope so.
So my client and I began to survey the many social/networking groups, and social media opportunities, that exist in Orange County where she may find fellow entrepreneurs to share her doubts, fears, victories, and walk shoulder to shoulder with, as she begins this wonderful, creative adventure.
- Letcher, A, Perlow, K., Community-Based Participatory Research Shows How a Community Initiative Creates Networks to Improve Well-Being. American Journal of Preventive Medicine • Published by Elsevier Inc., 2009.