#29 Stoicism for Solopreneurs

  • How to get out of the loop your stuck in
  • A philosophy for introverts and solopreneurs
  • How to elevate all aspects of your life together.
😍 Something I'm grateful for this week

So you think philosophy is something for weed smoking, poncho wearing bohemians? Wrong. Without a philosophy for life, you'll be stuck forever on the hedonic treadmill: working to earn money to buy things you don't need.

I’ll warn you now:
This week’s article is going to be very different.

I’m away on holiday to Italy, so I don’t have time to write an article with a system breakdown.
Instead of I’ll be dropping some brainfarts for stoic solopreneuring.
I always use holidays as a chance to reflect on my life.
But in case you hadn’t noticed I mostly write for myself.
The audience and you (the reader) is just a side effect.

With that being said, let’s dive in…

Why Stoicism is the answer to all your problems

If I could recommend only ONE thing that they should be teaching in schools for coping with modern life?

It’s not maths,
It’s not business,
It’s not how to make fucking soda bread.
It’s philosophy.

Philosophy is how you act, how you think about your life, and how to cope with problems,
In case you hadn’t noticed,
Most people just now have a lot of problems
and most people aren’t coping with their problems.

Our world is changing so fast that education is failing to keep up,
and we aren’t teaching people how to deal with this new barrage of information and problems.

Stoicism is thousands of years old and yet is more relevant to the modern world than any other religion, philosophy, or mindset.
Stoicism is a philosophy for life that improves your enjoyment of almost every aspect of life.

Stoicism is the answer for Introverts

Stoicism is an adjective, not a verb.
You practice it every day.
As an introvert, it has an answer for every aspect of life.
For me, it’s the only philosophy of life that makes sense.
Religion is the closest many will get to a philosophy for life. But religions have an agenda.
Most don’t have any philosophy for their life at all.
Stoicism helps me find my purpose,
how to deal with challenges,
how to treat others,
how to set boundaries
how to manage my emotions, and impulses
how to find happiness between the cracks

Here’s just a few nonsensical lessons from Stoicism that actually build happiness

  • Endless positivity is for fools. Instead, practice imagining how it would feel to lose the things you love.
  • Recognize that people are mostly shits and it’s fine because we’re all shits.
  • Pre-rehearse all the things that could go wrong, and be pleasantly surprised when they don’t.
  • Realize you’re not a special snowflake and the world doesn’t owe you anything. We don’t all automatically deserve an exceptional life, otherwise, no-one would be exceptional. Instead, we are all just insignificant specs hurtling through space and time on a sphere of clay. All your problems don’t seem that big a deal now, do they?

Stoicism teaches you a kind of funny pessimism that allows you to laugh at life’s misfortunes and challenges.
A lot of these are antidotes to conventional self-help books which often spout comforting platitudes catering to what people want to hear, instead of what they actually need to hear.

If you don’t have a philosophy for life, prepare to suffer.

If you don’t have a philosophy for life,
If you haven’t thought about philosophy,
then you are probably an “enlightened hedonist”.
You are endlessly seeking pleasure with no higher purpose in life.
I don’t mean you’re on a mad rampage, guzzling wine and chocolate.
I mean you’re stuck in a loop of consumerism.

“hedonism is the default philosophy of most people and certainly has become the dominant view of consumer culture.”
– Dalai Lama, book of Joy

In most of the world, we live in a capitalist society, also known as “consumerism”.
Capitalism is the current dominant culture in the West that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts.
Anyone with half a brain could figure out this is not a long-term solution.

You can’t endlessly increase consumption.

Yet this is what most of us do:

Welcome to the “Hedonic Treadmill”

We work to earn money to buy things that we don’t need, for status, to give ourselves the illusion of progress, and in the short term, we are satisfied.

This is called Hedonic Adaptation.

But as soon as we have obtained the thing we desire, we become bored of it, and seek a new, higher-value item to covet.
Have you ever bought a phone, then 1 year later found yourself bored of your perfectly good phone,
now craving the upgraded model with the exact same features, and a few extra numbers?

So not only will you need to waste your entire life working a 9-5 to buy things you don’t actually need,
you will need to buy ever-increasing items to satisfy the new high.
But each time you will return to the same base level of happiness as when you started the cycle.

This is called the Hedonic Treadmill

The same is true of goals.
The moment you hit your goals, you will set a new goal and work harder.
This is why measuring success by goals or things you own is a path to misery.

We endlessly chase what we don’t have,
instead of learning to love what we already have.

So how does this apply to your solopreneuring or running a lifestyle business?
Stoicism introduces a way to stop chasing the wrong goals, to change what you value, and to adjust your behaviour to a lifestyle which is more sustainable.
(I’m talking about sustainable in terms of mental stability and happiness, not in terms of eco-friendly here.)

Ready to step off the hedonic treadmill?

If you haven’t already, follow this link right now and read “happy” by Derren Brown
Many of you will know Derren Brown only as a celebrity magician, famous for his acts of hypnosis and mental magic.
This is just the surface.
He’s a truly inspiring person, an artist, an author, a scholar, and a philosopher. Above all, he’s an expert on the human mind.

Happy was my first introduction to Stoicism, and it has had a huge influence over the way I see the world,
on my mental resilience, optimism, and happiness.
It’s not “philosophy” as you might imagine it. There are no Schrodinger’s cats to be seen.
This is practical, accessible, and impactful advice on how to deal with life’s challenges.

I hadn’t realized until reading this book, just how much everything I did was to impress people I don’t know or even like.
Happiness teaches you to learn your validation from within, instead of judging yourself through others’ perception of success.
It taught me to love the process instead of chasing the goal.

At least it taught me to try. I frequently need reminding.

The length of the trial is painstakingly lifelong.
It might be the ultimate challenge to set your sights on
The illusion will be it’s close enough to seize.
And one day you might buy the notion it’s something you’ve achieved.
but I would argue you’re no closer than ever
The path cost life total mastery is extra
You understand that there is always someone that can teach you
Forever novice even though they call you sifu
– 🎵 Greydon Square, the Master Paradox

The perfect philosophy for solopreneurs

It’s the perfect philosophy for introverts and for running a one-person business.
It sounds too good to be true,
but anecdotally If you keep it up long enough,
I promise you with time you’ll experience less stress, big problems become smaller, your relationships improve.
You’ll also experience sudden bouts of “stoic joy” and appreciation which are hard to describe until you experience it.
I recommend stoicism as the answer to

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • ambition
  • listlessness
  • boredom
  • procrastination
  • weakness
  • selfishness
  • more.

Here’s x4 basic steps for Stoic journalling:

Take 5 mins every day. Write down…

  • One thing you’re grateful for
  • Predict x3 things which could go wrong today
  • Imagine your life if you lost something you highly value
  • One thing you did today which wasn’t your best version of yourself

Examples of Stoic journalling

Here’s a collection of some of my daily reflections on stoic solopreneuring.
These are unedited brainfarts, recorded as I typed them so excuse the roughness.
If you find these interesting you can subscribe for instant access to my entire library of Solo business stoicism,
which is a running record into my most intimate and personal world,
and a reflection of where my head’s at each week behind the curtains.

👇🏻

📝 Where my head’s at – public accountability statement

Here’s a snapshot of where my head’s at right now…

I’m making a public commitment to hold myself accountable.
I want to look back at this in 5 years and know that I was true to myself and my vision.
For now, I’m still running DH about 24 hrs a week.

Design Hero funds my lifestyle just fine.
Eventually, LBD may be my primary income and primary work
For now, it doesn’t make much money, except for some coaching which I enjoy.

But the goal isn’t money just now.

I know LBD is more scalable in terms of my time via digital products and courses.
It’s more rewarding than my client’s work.
I get to see the direct benefit on people I get to know as friends.

Everyone is selling something at the end of the day.
I’m giving away stuff for free that helps someone.
If I can sell something too I’m ok with that.
But if I ever use the high-pressure sales tactics that some preach,
and that I’ve experienced myself,
then I have lost my way.

Life By Design, I haven’t 100% figured it out yet as it’s still a passion project that gives me purpose.
I made a commitment to write every day for a year, sharing what I know about growing a solo business.
So that’s what I’m doing. Writing like a mofo. It helps me figure stuff out.
Whatever results from that will happen.

But I’m not setting any fixed targets around money, or followers or no of students.
What will be will be.

My goal would be to help freelancers get past that hump where they are working like mad and earning less than a 9-5.
I want to help them design for lifestyle first and build a business around that, without all the burnout and pressure.

Over the past few years, I paid over £10k for courses and coaching about courses and coaching 🤣
I learned a lot.
But they all focus on selling courses and coaching, or social growth.

No-one is telling you how to actually get better at teaching people.
And I just don’t agree with a lot of the high-pressure sales tactics promoted in a lot of these courses.
So I’ll need to learn how to be a better coach and deliver better courses on my own.

The high-ticket coaches promoting high-pressure sales?

Sure, they are all making huge £.

But now I see a rash of “high ticket” coaches burning out, quitting, miserable.

I’m glad I didn’t listen 😂

It reaffirms that my content about lifestyle is more important than content about growth and sales.
Even if it’s less attractive or harder to sell.
You can’t just keep handing out candy like crack.
Sometimes the people need to be forced to eat their veg.
I’d rather grow slower, and learn as I go than sell out for a quick buck.

Balance in all things 🙏🏻

Purpose in my vision.
Consistency in my actions
Time on my side

📝 You get better or you get worse

“I shouldn’t have to do this, this is Xs fault”

“If X hadn’t happened I’d have more money”

“If I had only done Y then I’d have more time right now”

We all have thoughts like these.
But every obstacle is an opportunity to take responsibility, to learn, to harden yourself, to expand your mind, to create a good story for later.

Your behaviors are a series of habits.

carving a familiar groove into your brain,
like water running downhill.
You either become better at tackling your problems…
or better at procrastinating.

Each time you make a choice you are reinforcing a habit.

📝 Being busy vs feeling busy

My hours are the same.
my workload is much the same.
So why am I feeling burnt out?

I keep saying
“I’m too busy I have too much on” I moan.
but then I imagine how the stoic sage on my shoulder might respond:

“But Nick aren’t you forgetting that you’ve been for a nice walk today,
You also had enough time to spend an hour in the garden”

I’m focusing on the negative.
I forget that I do have time.

The issue is not that I’m physically busy,
the issue is that I’m mentally busy.

The problem is not volume,
it’s intensity.

Even in my downtime, my brain is still processing problems in the background.
So my brain is too cluttered to enjoy even my leisure time.

This is the problem with burnout, it starts to seep into your leisure time too,
and makes it harder to dewind and enjoy life.

I have too many plates spinning and too many complex projects running at a time.
I need to balance mental vs physical work.

I need to set aside more thinking time
I need to reduce the no of complex projects I take on at a time by saying NO to others and to myself.

The more projects I have on, the more I need to make spare time as breakout space to process, for my mental health.

feeling busy vs being busy

📝 Nothing happens. Then all at once.

This morning I watched the geese flying over
Spring is here.
Once you’ve noticed it you see it everywhere.
I could swear yesterday in my morning lap of the field the trees were bare
Today there’s a wash of green as new leaves have suddenly unfurled at the first sight of sun.

Nothing happens at first, then all at once. Keep at it.

📝 Slow ain’t sexy

Solve one problem,
the reward is a new set of problems.

Move too fast,
and you have x2 sets of problems you don’t know how to solve lol

It’s a recipe for burnout.

Slow growth isn’t as sexy.
You can’t post about it on social.

But slow growth is much more sustainable long-term

📝 Stop wasting your attention

In the course of an average day, your brain processes 11 million bits per second.
That’s 14 billion bits of information over your life.

Your brain is always active. Always processing.
Whether you are solving problems in your business, brushing your teeth, watching TV, having sex or spending time with children.
Your brain is always processing information.
Right up until the moment it’s not and then everything stops for you.

Every time you take any action, you’re spending your bits of information.
The quality of your life is determined by the information you process over the duration of your life.

Learning to walk takes 5 years.
But then you spend the rest of your life doing it with almost zero effort.
We call this “muscle memory” but the label is false.
Rather, we reinforce pathways in our brain to make it more efficient to process information.
We carve grooves in our minds that allow information to flow like water in a channel.

This makes it easy to perform complex tasks on autopilot conserving our energy for other more important tasks

Stack your information into skills that help you flow or grow.

The unintended side effect is that we also reinforce biases that we hold.
This is the origin of the phrase
“you can’t reach an old dog’s new tricks”

We become more fixed into our habits and behaviors

Forging new habits, experiencing new things, keeping an open minds, learning new skills…
This is how you stay young forever.

I think of these X2 reinforcements every time I spend my attention watching a subpar Netflix show that doesn’t relax me,
Or waste my energy worrying about problems I can’t solve.
Or allow information that doesn’t help me and I can’t control into my life.
Or worry about things that have yet to pass.

Only spend energy doing things in front of you, or on planning so the right things come to be in front of you.

📝When you hit the hump, seek clarity.

This week I hit a major crisis of clarity.
I’ve made some quick wins, but my momentum has halted as I hit the hump.
I was feeling like I’d lost my way.

All week I sat at my computer, distracting myself with busywork,
but not knowing what to work on.
Listening to a chapter of Dan Koe’s Art of Focus brought me clarity.

I opened it at random and just so happened to land on a chapter specifically about hitting the hump in any endeavor.
I realized the problem I was struggling with was not having too many tasks, the problem was I had no clarity.

I didn’t have anything to guide my focus and so my efforts all felt random.
Without clarity, I was trying to work on everything that came my way.

I was struggling mentally because my skills hadn’t yet developed to the point where I’m ready.
Which means I’m not getting the results I want.
Which is normal.

My anxiety was coming from the fact I was resorting to seeking new activities,
cramming my day with admin and busywork,
Instead of just recommitting to the things that work.

I just need to stay the course and keep doing the right things every day.
As soon as I realized this I felt a wave of relief and joy washing over me.
I was already in the right place doing the right things.
I just need to keep doing it for a few more years haha.

Most stress is not caused by a lack of time or lack of skills, stress is caused by lack of clarity.
Now the path was clear.
I had moved away from my schedule so I was opening myself to choices.
Which was allowing lots of random non-needle moving tasks into my day.

So I set aside an hour,
I sat down and redesigned my schedule a bit as I have to get back to doing the same things every day.
My schedule gives me clarity on what I *should* be doing instead of what I *could* be doing. Follow the process.

📝 Weapons for knowledge workers

You are a knowledge worker.
Knowledge is the new currency.
Your knowledge = your work.
So gain more knowledge.
Read.
Read like a mofo
Then go read some more.

Reading is the path to a better life

📝 Exhaustion is Endemic.

I ventured out from my mancave today to do a skip run.
Everywhere you see potholes in the road, houses are unkempt, projects started and abandoned.
It’s not just my neighborhood.

I see the same thing every day online.
People are too numb from life admin.
Too worn down for persistence, resistance or insight.

Glued to Netflix and doom-scrolling,
Too tired to resist the lure of addictive dopamine hits.
Blasted by endless onslaught of unhealthy options.

Who can fight that?

No one has the will or ability to fight for life anymore.
The life is being sucked out of us by weapons of the addictive & seductive attention economy.
Resistance to this is futile.
The best minds in behavioral science are paid obscene amounts to manipulate our attention.
Our only weapon is to control our environment.

Throw away your phone. At least for a few hours a day.

blog 29 stoic solopreneuring lead magnet 1

Everyday I practice stoicism through the lens of running a solo business. It's a catch-all philosophy for a better life, ideal for introverts and solopreneurs..

 

Everyday I practice stoicism through the lens of running a solo business. It's a catch-all philosophy for a better life, ideal for introverts and solopreneurs..
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💡 Key Insights for solopreneurs

Stoicism is a philosophy for life that improves your enjoyment of almost every aspect of life.
Especially the problems.
It’s the perfect philosophy for introverts and for running a one person business.

🛎️ Daily reminder for solopreneurs

You don’t have to react to every emotion you have.

💥 How to take action in the next 5 mins

Take 5 minutes every day to reflect,
look at your behaviour, your thoughts, your reactions.
and improve yourself across each aspect of your life a little bit every day.

Picture of Nicholas Robb

Nicholas Robb

Founder, Design Hero
Author of Life by Design

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