What I’ve Learnt from Becoming a Solopreneur with Purpose
To fuel his desire to be more purpose-driven in his work, Benjamin Rolff made the bold decision to switch to something new. Here’s what he’s learnt on his journey to becoming a ‘solopreneur’.
Looking back at the past few months, 2020 hasn’t really felt like the perfect year to start a business and make money from a project driven by passion. However, it has been the perfect year for me to learn what it means to find purpose in what I do and bring that to life. Here is what I learnt along my journey to purposeful work.
1. Start with ‘why?’
Why do you get out of bed in the morning? This is probably the single most important question that has got me to where I am today. Having had a decent corporate career over the past couple of years, I kept on looking for more. While the job was ok, I was looking for other challenges. Outside of work, I got into Ironman triathlons to push myself harder, but one question stuck with me: how many triathlons would I have to do to keep distracting me from my greatest desire?
I believe that work can be more than just sprinting up the corporate ladder and hunting the next promotion. However, having worked as a management consultant after university and then switching to a corporate role as a strategist, the corporate ladder was pretty much what I was aiming for.
Last year I took a few months for self-reflection which ended in a new definition of what work means to me now.
Seeking and following my personal purpose is probably the number one driver for why I made a change to my career and started my own business.
With my current role, I want to make work itself healthier and more purposeful. As a coach and consultant, I am supporting teams and individuals to design their work in line with their human needs. Motivation will come through purpose and performance result from sustainable health and engagement. Having this mission on my mind still gets me out of bed every morning.
2. Focus on your superpower
What are you better at than most people around you? When I started out as a solopreneur at the beginning of the year, one of the first things I did was to look back. I reflected on the feedback I had gotten from my former colleagues: Why did they value having me as a colleague? What and how did I contribute to our projects? What is it that I’m good at and how do I stand out?
When working for a big company, work is mostly about the things that need to be done, rather than getting the most out of someone’s unique strengths and capabilities to do the job. This is also why we often end up doing things that we might be good at, but not really exceptional. But what if we can find and focus on our superpowers instead? What if we would write stories because we are great at it? What if we would design websites because we just love it?
And I don’t want to go back to doing just an ok job.
3. Find your definition of success
In a year from now, how would you know if you were successful? Success as a solopreneur can have many forms and colors. One of the first things you learn in management classes is how to define smart goals – goals that you can actually achieve and measure. I was hesitant to define one big goal for my first year as a solopreneur. I just did not know what to expect and I was sure that things would change along the way anyway. So, I came up with my very own definition of success.
For me, success is not about reaching one specific goal. Success is about the experience. It is about the things I learn and the people I meet along the way. In a year from now, I want to look back and tell myself that I was curious enough to learn what is needed, that I was brave enough to take chances, and confident enough to believe in myself. It is not about the revenue targets or marketing KPIs – success is about my journey.
4. Keep the balance
What’s the worst thing that can happen? That’s a tough question. And it is a good question to put everything in perspective. For me, the worst thing that can happen is not so much about a business failure or financial loss, it would be burning out from what I love doing.
When starting a business, motivation is usually very high and as the weeks and months pass, the pressure starts to build up. A little bit of stress never hurt anybody and usually it even helps us to stay focused and achieve high levels of performance. However, over time, stress can become chronic and lead to severe mental and physical illnesses.
Luckily, our bodies send out warning signals to make us more aware of what’s happening: headaches, rising blood pressure and the like. One of my biggest pieces of advice would be to respect these signals and find your personal balance of work and regeneration.
5. Stay humble
How grateful are you for the things you are able to do? If it’s building up your own business or starting a career as a professional athlete: the path one is embarking on is rarely easy, comes with obstacles and might cause uncertainty from time to time. And it is still a privilege.
When we are able to fulfill our dreams, find and pursue a personal purpose, we are able to grasp opportunities that not many people will ever get in their lives. When we are able to achieve self-actualization, we probably already live a life where all fundamental needs are fully covered. For me, it is a huge privilege to follow my own path, to go out and leave a footprint. And I am more than grateful to have this opportunity!
Why not start your journey now?
Finding purpose and following one’s passion is not necessarily about becoming an entrepreneur or professional athlete. And it does not need to involve the amount of risks others might be willing to take.
Purposeful work can begin with small steps: finding a work project that you are motivated to contribute to, starting a blog to inspire others with your experiences or knowledge or even bringing your biggest strengths to a social project. There is so much we can do, and you can embark on your personal journey anytime. Maybe, as a first step, start with asking yourself “why?”
Let’s get in touch! I’m happy to hear from you via LinkedIn.
All the best for your journey - keep it up!