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Where do leaders find inspiration and motivation?

I look around the room. 

There must be over a thousand people here today. Well-heeled women carrying trendy vegan leather laptop bags. Men idly texting in their perfectly tailored Indochino suits. A flurry of people meeting, shaking hands and introducing each other, as they shift their half-fat, sugar-free caramel latté Starbucks cups to their left hand. It’s what you would expect from this crowd of urban business professionals, and I’m caught up in the buzz of activity. 

I’m at a leadership conference, and I’ve come to be inspired. I want to hear what other people have written and researched on the topic. Their personal entrepreneurial journeys and what they’ve learned along the way. There’s no wine. The seats are cramped. It was a long drive. But that’s okay with me—I simply want some inspiration. 

I find a seat and put down my Starbucks cup to open my vegan leather laptop bag (I’m a walking cliché) and eagerly await the first speaker.

There’s a reason I attend events like this. 

And no, it’s not for the free pen. It’s because the life of an entrepreneur is a lonely one. Even if you have surrounded yourself with an outstanding team or have business partners, there is an ugly reality to running a business that no one ever talks about. Isolation. 

Most CEO’s and owners live with the reality of isolation. Even Apple’s Tim Cook, who runs a company with thousands of employees, has confided it’s lonely at the top. Company leaders must conceal anxieties and fears, make split-second decisions, encourage and motivate their team, accept responsibilities no one else can, accept defeats alone, and celebrate accomplishments alone. A leader can not fully share their problems, nor do they receive encouragement or thanks for what they do.

So, where do leaders find inspiration and motivation?

Now before you start buying me kittens or feeling sorry for me, there are many upsides to being an entrepreneur that keep us doing what we do. Like the long martini lunches, expensive champagne, and of course the chauffeur we have (pfft. I wish). Seriously, the main upside is that entrepreneurs are innately strong, courageous people who know how to stay motivated through thick and thin. 

On those days (or weeks) when you do feel your mojo is slipping away, there are plenty of things you can do to recharge. For me, one of those things is attending leadership talks and conventions. But there’s much more you can do to get your groove back.

Get connected.

Some people in your company can be sounding boards for certain issues. Seek out people within your organization who have leadership skills or aspirations. Developing relationships with your team can be an incredibly powerful motivator, especially when faced with obstacles.

You might not be able to share everything with them, but they can become supportive connections who have your back. Take the time to pinpoint people who work for you, who have a passion for the company and who want to drive success with you. They’ve been right there all along.

Seek mentors.

I’ve always had difficulty with this one, because a great mentor is really hard to find. But if you know a business leader you admire and respect, reach out to them. Have lunch, share some of your journey and see if they are willing to do the same. Sometimes, just a good bitch session with another successful business owner about obstacles you are facing is all you need to keep the fire going.

Journal.

Remember when you used to keep a diary of all your deepest, darkest secrets? It’s time to unleash your inner teenage girl and start writing. Journalling is not only a great stress reliever, but it can help you shape ideas and come up with solutions. It’s also a great way to keep track of where you’ve been, and where you’re going.

Plus, maybe one day if you become super successful, someone will publish your memoirs. So, go get a gorgeous vegan leather book (who am I kidding, I’m not even vegan, get the nice smelling leather one) and start writing your business musings. You’ll be surprised at the results. 

Have experiences outside of the office.

Get your head out of the office and experience other interests and passions. I’m a huge proponent of travel. I feel that being outside of my comfort zone when I travel expands my mind. It gives me new ideas, fresh perspectives and revitalizes my passion for what I do.

You can’t come up with new ideas sitting alone at your desk all day. Cultivating your hobbies and seeing new places keeps you excited, open-minded and rejuvenated.

Create goals and challenges for yourself.

Have you fallen a bit out of love with your business? It happens to all of us. When this happens, you need to sit down to explore new challenges and create new goals for yourself.

For example, as we grew larger, I needed to step out of the role of designer, and into the role of Creative Director. I felt a little empty. I was left asking myself where I could go next, and if I wanted to go there at all. 

I had to evaluate what would challenge me to grow, and what would keep me passionate about the business. The result was a rather long list of things that were still creative, but weren’t what I traditionally had done.

My new list of challenges has made the company stronger and more successful, which in turn inspires me. In my opinion, creating a goals wish list each year, no matter how crazy or unattainable they may seem, is mandatory.

Grab a great book or listen to podcasts.

I’m a strong believer that you can’t learn to be an entrepreneur from a book. What a book can do though, is provide some inspiration and ideas. If you feel stuck in a particular area of your business, a good author can be a great way of exploring solutions and educating yourself on that topic. Even reading biographies can be the push you need to do something new in your business. 

If you struggle to find the time to read, or don’t enjoy reading (gasp!), another great resource is to find a podcast you love. Play it in the morning before work, in the car, or before bed. Podcasts are cool because they are often interview style, so you get a lot of inspiration in short bits from other amazing business minds.

Remember why you embarked on this journey.

Oh really, you haven’t heard me talk endlessly about Simon Sinek yet? (Everyone is rolling their eyes at me, I can tell). WELL, let me reiterate. His books will help you understand the importance of knowing why you are doing this, beyond money. 

Most of us had a pain point that triggered us to action. What was that? What were you so passionate about, that you wanted to start a business or become the leader of an organization? What is your big ‘why’ that gets you out of bed day after day? If you don’t know, then you probably struggle with motivation. Somewhere deep down there is a why, you just need to discover (or rediscover) what that is.

It takes guts to run a business. It’s not for everyone. But for those of us crazy enough to be doing it, sometimes you need a little motivation and inspiration to get you over a hump. As for me, I’ll be the one eagerly awaiting the next leadership conference and my free pen.