Not Better off Alone

by Dana Sitar

teamwork

Photo by Gavin Llewellyn (Creative Commons)

A few weeks ago I had the idea (or, more accurately, I finalized the idea that had been brewing for a while) to formalize the kind of accountability and brainstorming/idea-forming conversations I’ve been having with colleagues through WritersBucketList, Hungry Entrepreneurs, and other work with writers and bloggers around the webosphere.

Before I say how incredibly this idea has been realized, I’ll stress how much involving other people in my business — I mean my biz-nass, you know what I mean? What I’m up to, how I’m doing, not only biz planning and marketing ideas — has boosted my confidence and my ability to realize the dreams that have been storming around in my mind for years.

One-hundred percent timely, Caleb, Corbett, and Chase on The Fizzle Show podcast discussed this exact issue this week. Their conversation, and many I’ve started having with other digital solopreneurs, illuminates our “lone wolf” vision of this work — and the reality that successful people almost always come around to understand they simply can’t go it alone.

I, ever the stereotype I loathe to admit I am, have gone through this same experience. I’m a solopreneur, a self-publisher, an individual,sole proprietor. I don’t want to be beholden to someone else’s rules or expectations. I don’t want to bend my vision to meet theirs. I want to do my work.

But it gets lonely. And worse — it gets ineffective.

Talk to any group of writers or solopreneurs about time management, and you’ll get one very clear message: No one is good at managing their time alone.

That’s the message I get. Maybe there are a few outliers who are amazing at this; they’re probably not spending their time in Facebook comment chains at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday to tell us about it.

The reality is that my brain is not the best driver for my own productivity. That’s why I can cook, clean, and serve up a storm for eight hours at a deli, but after a twelve-hour day at home with no company but a computer I can hardly recall an accomplishment. That’s why I wonder aimlessly through a web of ideas trying to develop DIY Writing, rather than making a straight bee-line for the border (what do you call the end of a web?) and towards astounding success.

I need someone looking over my shoulder — and that’s not a failure to admit.

I think that’s why we flounder for so long alone. Independent, creative people think, I’m smart, strong, capable. If I can’t be productive alone, it’s just a flaw I need to fix.

But actually, solo business is as susceptible to the old adage as anything else: The whole is more than the sum of its parts. God, I hate clichés. But, yeah. Pull together a group or team of people around your ideas, and those ideas will grow in strength and effectiveness exponentially over what you could create alone.

Plus, answering to a team is a surefire way to get your butt in gear, prioritize, and start getting shit done.

I started to recognize these two major benefits — accountability and enlightenment — in the conversations and meetings I’ve been having, and I decided I needed to make that a solid part of my business strategy. If I’m going to move forward steadily with DIY Writing, I’m going to need other voices.

But I’m not quite ready to hire. I’m close (I surprise myself by saying I have a solid plan for hiring paid contractors in the near future for long-term assistance with Artisanal Content services.) But for now, I just need a team of peers who care about the work I’m doing and who can benefit from and help me through a mutual exchange of ideas.

That’s how the Fierce Fivesome was born.

When I decided to put out a call for members of a mastermind/accountability group, I was surprised by how quickly my mind formed the list. I thought I’d been alone, but over the past two years, this network of not just followers, but peers has grown around me. I’m surrounded by people following big dreams and doing work that inspires me — and, I venture to say, I’ve even made some friends out there :)

Five being a perfect number in my mind, I invited four women to be part of this group, and they all said yes — they all said, Yes! This is EXACTLY what I need right now! Thank you; I’m so excited! I was overwhelmed to discover how these women — who, by their online presence and the work they’re doing seem to have their shit together so much better than I — harbor this same need for a support team.

So, onto the incredible part.

We had our first meeting (via Google Hangout, my favorite thing in the world as of late), and I am already blown away by the advice and support not only I received from the group but that I saw everyone else receive. I’m honored to be on the ground floor as these women build their businesses and launch cool things, and I’m so grateful already for the advice they’ve offered me that has made some loose pieces of the Artisanal Content plan click into place.

I love being inside my own head — it’s fun in there, warm, comfortable, cozy, and the coolest things are created in there. But I’ve realized that’s just one tiny piece of the puzzle if I want to build something real of all the cool things I conceive in there.

Bringing in outside perspective helps me see my products and services through the eyes of the types of people who will consider buying them. Swapping business struggles and successes with people at the same level in their careers is both grounding and motivating, as I see I’m not alone in either. And simply stating goals out loud to real people every week really holds me accountable to not only accomplishing those goals, but also stating my goals with care.

Less time wasted on pet projects that will go nowhere. Less time sketching and scheming plans that deserve action. And exponential potential for the good ideas to take off and propel me forward.