Co-Founder at Stakeholder Business and Certified Conscious Capitalism Consultant.
Meet Maria. She’s an entrepreneur who many years ago began with a dream and a shoestring budget. Today, she is the proud founder of a thriving business, having achieved milestones many only dare to dream about.
Yet, as she sits in her corner office, sipping her morning coffee and looking over the city skyline, a nagging feeling persists. She finds herself struggling with feelings of emptiness and a persistent question: “Is this really it?”
Although Maria is a fictional figure, her journey mirrors the emotional rollercoaster faced by countless founders. If her story strikes a chord with you, know that you’re not alone.
Finding Fulfilment After Success
Many entrepreneurs having reached the height of their entrepreneurial goals find themselves grappling with this juxtaposition of monetary success versus true fulfillment. The business that was once their pride and joy now feels more like golden shackles. The passion, which once was a raging fire, seems to have dwindled. Selling the business might seem like the perfect solution, a way to recapture that lost sense of happiness. After all, isn’t selling your venture supposed to be the ultimate goal?
Yet, for all its allure, the reality post-sale can be starkly different than what one might expect. Beyond the excitement often lies unexpected emotional and financial challenges. Many entrepreneurs, post their grand exit, report feelings of disappointment and even regret.
In fact, only 33% of entrepreneurs are more satisfied with their life post-exit, 45% felt the same level of satisfaction and 22% felt less satisfied. It seems that the root of the issue isn’t so much about the business itself but our perceptions and expectations of success. As such, rather than thinking of selling as the only option, I think it’s essential for founders to consider whether there is greater value in transforming the business from within to align more closely with their long-term vision.
The Second Mountain
In his book The Second Mountain, David Brooke dives deep into this very phenomenon. He introduces the concept of the two mountains we scale in our lives. The first, which focuses on material success and external validation, is the one society nudges us towards. But once this peak is conquered, many find it incredibly lacking. The view from the top isn’t as breathtaking as it was made out to be.
Brooke’s assertion posits that the pursuit of these individualistic goals can often leave us feeling adrift. In our chase for the top, we sometimes forget the joy of the journey, the relationships we forge, and the communities we impact.
Whereas the first mountain is achievement-driven, the second mountain is purpose-driven. As entrepreneurs, this second mountain pushes us to look beyond the balance sheet and consider our role in making the world a better place. It’s within this deep-rooted sense of purpose and belonging to a community that we can find lasting fulfillment. And much like Maria, who found herself caught between the two mountains, it is in the valley where impactful transformation can happen.
Discovering Your Passion
For those seeking to rediscover their passion and purpose, based on my experience and insights, here are some steps to consider:
1. Begin by diving deep into your core “why.” It’s easy to lose sight of it in the hustle and bustle of your business operations. But success doesn’t mean much without a higher purpose. One step to help you define your “why” is to think about what you want to be remembered for. What legacy do you want to leave behind? When you feel unmotivated, reminding yourself of your purpose is what will put you back on your feet.
2. Next, consider stepping away from the day-to-day running of the business. Deputizing doesn’t signify a loss of control, but rather trusting in your team to help carry out your ‘why.’ In turn, this offers you the space to focus on the larger vision and the areas of your business that truly excite you.
3. It’s also time to examine your definition of success. As entrepreneurs, we are prone to set our sights on a new stage of growth as soon as we realize the current goal is within our grasp. But this creates a vicious cycle, where we exceed every expectation we set for ourselves but are still left feeling unfulfilled.
The issue is not about setting goals per se, but about the type of goals we’re setting. Instead of focusing on financial success alone, I encourage you to embrace significance—in other words, the lasting impact you want to have on something larger than yourself. The two don’t need to be mutually exclusive, but I’ve found the key lies in balancing work that fulfills you and leaves a positive mark on the world with work that brings in the resources to make a difference.
4. Lastly, join a community of other business leaders who are working on the second mountain. For example, American Sustainable Business Network is an organization that looks to foster connections and mobilize business leaders toward a fair and sustainable economy. In the U.S. and Canada, B Locals also exists to gather communities of people looking to use business as a force for good. Lastly, my own organization has created a society for like-minded leaders who are working to enhance performance on societal and environmental issues.
As we stand at the crossroads of our entrepreneurial journeys, we are in a unique position to redefine our narrative of success. Monetary gains are but one measure; true fulfillment is multi-dimensional. Let this be a call to challenge traditional paradigms—to blend profit with purpose and to embark on your second mountain.
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