One of the great challenges entrepreneurs are faced with overcoming during their preliminary efforts to create and develop their businesses is the sense of isolation.
For some entrepreneurs the formation of their business is, from its’ conception, a group event and exercise. Dedicated peers invested in an idea and willing to help grow the business opportunity can truly make all the difference. A committed team is the first support structure it's members can tap into for professional and emotional support.
But, for many entrepreneurs the path towards the formation of their business and it's milestones is a significant challenge because they began the process alone.
Without a close support structure, solo entrepreneurs struggle to overcome a sense of isolation that often produces emotions that include; loneliness, withdrawal, insecurity, doubt and cynicism, all of which can dramatically harm the entrepreneurial venture.
Entrepreneurs who begin alone must adopt a clear vision of the venture they are seeking to create, and the methods they will adopt to develop and grow the business. This means clearly defining the purpose of the business and the strategy that will drive the venture from inception to growth.
To achieve this, entrepreneurs must be disciplined throughout all of their endeavors to maintain a productive, driven and positive mindset.
A valuable methodology that can help entrepreneurs overcome the early stage challenges of starting a business venture alone is the Japanese philosophy of Dokkōdō.
Dokkōdō, translated as “The Path of Aloneness” or “The Way to Go Forth Alone”, offers a short guide of twenty precepts to help individuals better cope with a stringent, disciplined and ascetic way of life, appropriate for firs time & early stage entrepreneurs.
To this day he is revered in Japan and regarded among the greatest swordsman in history, and his life story represents the underlying inspiration for a variety of novels, action films, manga and anime series.
He was also an author to many philosophical works involving military tactics, including the Book of Five Rings. Central to his philosophy was Dokkōdō, a practical methodology of being & action that is reflective of Shinto Buddhism.
Because many first time and young entrepreneurs must live modestly and apply strict conventions to their endeavors, the philosophy of Dokkōdō offers practical insights on how early stage business leaders can better approach the challenges life presents during the early stages their business.
The Precepts of Dokkōdō:
1. Accept the world for how and what it is.
Do not fight reality. Be conscious of your strengths, weaknesses and constraints. Sometimes the desire to create a unique solution overpowers the particle viability of developing and marketing the solution. Be conscious of what is truly within your power.
2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.
Work for the benefit of others before yourself. Make your goals greater than your self-improvement or pleasure. Doing so will help you stay focused on your endeavor and endear the support of others around you for your cause.
3. Do not show or give preference to any single thing among all things. Keep an open mind.
Keep an open mind when developing your business. Listen to the advice of others, adapt your thinking and be open to new ways of solving old problems. Similarly, do not show preference for a specific person or procedure. Practicing flexibility is essential to successfully navigate your business.
4. Think lightly of yourself and your challenges, but deeply of the world and its communities.
Do not take your life and life experiences too seriously. Develop the strength to think of yourself and your achievements with humor. Always be encouraging, positive and deeply compassionate of the life experience of the people around you and your community.
5. Strive to be detached from physical and emotional desires.
Do not become distracted by emotional and physical and pleasures. The road of entrepreneurship is a long and difficult path. Stay focused on the destination.
Avoid the sirens!
6. Do not regret what you have, or have not, already done.
Do not become discouraged by your failures from the past or present. Forgive yourself quickly, learn from your experiences, and look to the future with courage & resolve.
7. Strive not to be jealous of others.
Do not become envious or resentful of the success of others. Doing so will create fractures between your relationship with others. Embrace the success of the people around you, and they will return the sentiment in kind.
8. Strive to not become saddened by separations, & recognize that all good things must come to an end.
Recognize when an endeavor, a relationship, or a challenge must come to an end. Be comfortable moving on, and be open to new opportunities. As the Oracle says to Neo "everything that has a beginning has an end".
9. Do not show resentment of others and work hard not to complain.
Do not share your personal frustrations with the people around you, and work hard not to resent the achievements of others. Support and praise their achievements, and they will do the same for you. Don't great walls where bridges can be built to help you along your entrepreneurial path.
10. Do not let yourself become misguided by feelings of lust or love.
This one is a bit hard to apply to specifically to entrepreneurship. But, try not to get swept away with emotional feelings of love and lust as they can sometimes distract you from your primary objectives as an entrepreneur; building your business.
11. Do not seek elegance and beauty in all things.
Sometimes the world is ugly. Do not fight what you cannot control, and try not to strive for perfection in all things. It is better to finish a project than to endlessly work towards it's perceived perfect realization. But, strive to be elegant with your actions, and embrace beauty wherever you find it. Doing so will help you more easily actualize it.
12. Strive to be indifferent about where you live, and where you came from.
Be modest about your belongings and personal abode. The path of entrepreneurship demands that you make sacrifices. Accept this reality. Live modestly, practice becoming resilient and never forget where you came from.
13. Do not pursue luxuries.
Material possessions and luxuries can often distract from your real entrepreneurial objective; to create value for others. At the extreme pursuing luxuries can damage your economic standing and entrepreneurial endeavors.
14. Do not hold onto possessions longer than they are needed.
As an entrepreneur, it is important to be able to let go of things, endeavors and projects that do no actualize and produce positive change. Do not let your possessions define you.
15. Do not act because it is custom or the expectations of others.
Do not be a follower. As an entrepreneurs it is important to condition yourself to become and act as a leader. Do not succumb to the normalities of your community, industry or culture. Always strive to be different and offer a form of differentiation within your market. Doing so will make you and your solution stand out and more likely succeed.
16. Do not exert violence onto others.
There will be time when others disappoint and wrong you. Learn to let go of the pain others cause. Live with a "glass is half full" mentality. Always focus on the sources of positive change. And, do not become a source of violence or pain for others. Doing so can damage your ability to succeed as an entrepreneur in the present and the future.
17. Respect those that come before you and the insights they offer.
Always take the advice of mentors and industry leaders/influencers. That doesn't mean you must think or act as they do. But, be open to their wisdom and reflect on its practical application for your purposes. It is always better to be informed, than blind.
18. Work to be at one with your environment and community.
Strive to be attuned with your environment and community. Doing so will improve your awareness of past market changes, and the direction change will likely adopt in the future. And, become a steward of your environment. Respect mother nature, only take what you need, and protect what remains for the future.
19. Believe in your humanity, and never stray far from the way.
Strive to become a force of positive change. Believe in the people around you by encouraging them to be the best forms of themselves, and offer them confidence when they need it. Be receptive and sensitive to others and the environment you live and work in.
20. Do not fear failure or death.
Do not fear failure. Fear not trying. As Bruce Lee put it; "Don't fear failure. — Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail." Learn from your failures and never let them prevent you from attempting new challenges.
By following the precepts of Dokkōdō, entrepreneurs can help themselves stay focused on their short-term tasks, and confident about their long-term entrepreneurial endeavors.
Starting a business alone is a commendable challenge.
The experience is full of emotional ups and downs. To help manage and balance the emotional extremes, entrepreneurs should try to develop a close and trustworthy support structure that can offer the guidance and encouragement to continue working when the going gets tough.
Always take note of who you can count on and call at anytime for advice and empathy. And, at the same time, recognize and isolate the people who are negative or destructive to your efforts.
A million people will doubt you. Unfortunately, they will far outweigh the believers, especially during the formative periods of growing your business.
Accept this reality as a reflection of an unfortunate yet common human characteristic. Namely, that it is easier for people to express doubt of others than to believe and accept what might be unknown.
So, keep this in mind. Practice compassion, and work hard to develop a think skin that can help you find ways to internally manage the detractors. For some exercise is the best way to help manage the doubt.
Never loose sight of the destination, and believe in yourself to be able to get there.
And, never doubt you human ability to overcome challenges that are perceived unsurmountable. In many cases, self-belief is the most important character trait for solo and first time entrepreneurs.
All of the precepts within Myamoto Musashi's Dokkōdō philosophy center upon developing a profound inner peace and confidence necessary of entrepreneurs to successfully adopt the challenging path of actualizing their business venture.
Work hard to have faith in yourself, and stay close to the people who show faith in you.
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