How lonely do you want to be?

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Many people have told me that being an entrepreneur often puts you in a very dark place. In a place, you can feel very lonely.

Life isn’t always easy, and I’ve never met any person who hasn’t struggled with this dark place. I’ve been there myself many times, and I know I’ll keep visiting this place as long as I live. It’s a place where we go if things don’t work out. Most people I know don’t want to go there. I don’t know about you, but I guess you don’t like that place either.

This place is often described as a refuge, an escape from the troubles and worries. The reality is that the worries and troubles live in this place and the only reason people are worried and troubled is that they’re already there. Most go there without realising it, and by the time they’ve figured it out, it’s too late.

Of course, this isn’t a physical place. It all plays in your mind. The only reason I call it a place is because it makes the following easier to understand.

The escape plan that doesn’t work

The way most try to escape this place is by procrastinating. This could be watching TV all day or partying until the sun comes out and anything in between. The idea is not to think about it. It is very personal and emotional and procrastinating seems the easiest way to deal with it.

As we all know, this doesn’t work. Problems rarely go away on their own, and at one stage you’ll have to face the music. This kind of behaviour is driven by fear and the lack of trust in yourself. But in my mind, the real cause is that we somehow believe that we are invincible and that we know everything. So when we come across a situation we can’t deal with, we see ourselves as a failure and who wants to be a failure.

Then some bring up all the energy they can muster to get out of this trap. They react like a bull in a cage. They run against the wall until they break some stones. Some of them make it through, completely exhausted and no clue where they are. The thing is, if you do it like this, you’re most likely to fall straight back into it, and it is hard to withstand that motion with little energy left.

Emotions to the rescue

Let me give you another way to deal with this, and for it to work, you’ll need to go back in time when you were at school. One day your history teacher gets the chance to take your class to an ancient place. More than 100,000 years old, but perfectly preserved.

This place is called the “Study of the Mind”. It’s an environment where thoughts of any kind exist and can be studied. The teacher asks you to identify as many emotions and related thoughts you can find.

It is a crazy place. Some thoughts are like little clouds, slowly moving around. Others are like storms with lightning and thunder. When lightning hits one of the smaller clouds, they start growing and turn into a thunder cloud themselves. Everything is happening at the same time, and it is hard to distinguish the different thoughts from each other.

So you take out your notebook writing down all the emotions and thoughts you can find. It turns into a very long list, and it becomes harder not to double up on some of them. As you’re collecting the data, you start seeing a pattern occurring. You realise that when a flash hits a specific spot, it affects that spot in a very predictable way.

It doesn’t take you too long to become better at your predictions and to see some structure in the chaos. You realise that even so it seems that many things are happening at the same time, it is all based on a few simple actions. It is like a computer game that runs on autopilot. If you had a controller, you could probably win that game with ease because you’ve learned to identify the patterns and discovered some of the rules of the place.

Take a different perspective

The only reason you probably could do this is because you would take the time to study it, to walk around it and look at the different angles. It becomes your games place.

Because you went there to learn and study, you were able to figure it out, to see the different angles and understand its structure. You never expected to know it all. Instead, you were curious to figure it out. You enjoyed the process, and you were glad to share your findings with your classmates, proud of everything you’ve found out. You even start to play the prediction game with your friends, enjoying every minute of it…

You might have guessed it, the place called “The Study of the Mind” is the same as the dark place we were talking about at the beginning.

The only real difference was the approach. In the first scenario, you went there as a professional, losing the games, becoming frustrated, a failure. In the second scenario, you went there as a student, curious about this place, learning the game and having fun with it: same place, different approach.

Whenever you find yourself in that room, approach it as a student. Be curious about your emotions and your thoughts and discover the pattern that makes it what it is. It is a fantastic place where discovery never ends — a place to invite your friends and family to.

As I said at the beginning, I revisit this place as often as I can to study and learn about myself. I realised that I don’t need to be alone. There is no expectation on a student to be perfect, and the only way to become the best in any field is to be a student, to be curious about yourself, life and its interactions. Throughout my studies, I made many friends in this place, and every time I learn more.

I want to invite you to become my friend at this place. To study together with the fascinated facets of life and the power of the mind.

How Lonely Do You Want To Be?

John Di Stefano

An entrepreneur at heart and founder of the Entrepreneur Academy in Brussels, Belgium. He is teaching and supporting entrepreneurs in the skills every entrepreneur needs to create a better life for themselves and the people around them.

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