Did You Start a Business to Do Something Significant, or to Feel Significant?

Did You Start a Business to Do Something Significant, or to Feel Significant?

Do you remember why you left your comfortable job to start your own business?

You must have had a good reason, because nobody hops on the entrepreneurial roller coaster for kicks. It’s tough, it’s a grind and it isn’t for the fainthearted.

Related: Why You Can’t Be a Perfectionist and Be an Entrepreneur

In my own experience (after setting up multiple seven-figure businesses), and after working with dozens of other successful entrepreneurs, I’ve found one of the biggest factors why people create a new business is because of their need for significance.

  • You have a desire to feel significant to yourself.
  • You want to feel significant to those you love.
  • You care about what strangers think of you, and you want to be significant to them.

Significance is a double-edged sword.

On the one hand it’s powerful, driving you to innovate and do what nobody else will. It’s a fundamental part of building something great, because if you feel significant (and you’re doing something significant), you push the boundaries and go “all in.”

Yet, significance also has the power to create great turmoil in your life, because if things don’t go according to plan, you “feel” it. It gets under your skin and you can soon slip into depression, because you want to be significant, but don’t feel you are.

Related: Successful Entrepreneurs Beat Imposter Syndrome by Doing the Work Anyway

The truth is, a lot of what we create as entrepreneurs is to make ourselves feel significant. We create content, build products and commit to new projects not because it provides genuine significance to others, but rather it helps us feel more significant within.

This is your ego, and it’s the dark side of significance that prevents you from moving to the next level. The problem is, we cannot escape the importance of significance, because it’s something each person needs.

Significance is one of the six human needs.

As a human being, you need significance. Tony Robbins talks about how we each need to meet six core needs in order to build a meaningful life of happiness and abundance:

  1. Certainty: assurances to help you avoid pain and other dangers
  2. Uncertainty/variety: your need for new, fresh challenges
  3. Significance: your need to feel unique, special and important
  4. Connection/love: your need to feel loved, and be part of a community
  5. Growth: your drive to progress and continue to get bigger and better
  6. Contribution: your need to feel like you’re helping other people, and contributing to society

In business and life, you need to cater to these six aspects before you can feel happy and content. Whether you agree with all six of these doesn’t matter, as the point is that significance is an important human trait.

Related: Why a Big Ego Isn’t Always Bad

It has the power to drive you toward creating something special. Yet, when you lack it, you spiral into a state of depression and lose control over what you’re building. This is why it’s a double-edged sword, and why it’s capable of both making and breaking your business.

The thing is …

It isn’t about control — it’s about letting go.

Many entrepreneurs (you may be one of them) left their job to create a business because they hated the idea of not feeling significant. Your drive toward significance literally drove you into entrepreneurship, because with your own business you feel important and in control.

You end up doing things that 99 percent of the population are unwilling to do, all because you’re desperate to feel significant. Again, this isn’t bad, as this is where the magic begins. But, the point isn’t to be or feel in control. In fact, true success and growth happens when you let go.

At a certain point, you need to accept that your business isn’t about feeding your own significance. It’s about having an impact on the world, and providing greater significance to those you serve.

  • You need to delegate and let go of a lot of tasks.
  • You need to fire yourself from certain parts of your business, and hire others to take over.
  • You need to let go of being an entrepreneur, and embrace the idea of becoming a CEO.

You need to let go of your business and accept that it’s no longer about you.

Related: To Survive, Sometimes You Have to Let Go of Your Vision — and Ego

Your business is no longer about you.

Significance often drives your initial success, because in the beginning it’s this that drives you to hustle, take risks, push out of your comfort zone and believe in what you’re doing when everyone else thinks you’re insane.

But, there comes a time when your significance gets in the way of you achieving what you can. You cling to control and refuse to let go, not because other people are unwilling or incapable, but because you’re afraid you’ll no longer feel important, worthy or significant.

The thing is, your business isn’t about you, and it never was.

Your business is about other people, and the impact you have on them. Significance still plays a role, but it’s not about how significant you are, rather how significant your business is. You need to move away from it being about you, and make it about your audience, your team and your business as a whole.

This is hard. I see it all the time — successful businesses stalling because the people behind them are afraid to let go. They cling to their old mindset, instead of embracing the entrepreneurial mindset they need to take their initial success to the next level.

Related: The One Thing Holding You Back From Your Dreams

They cling to what was, instead of embracing what comes next.

So, if you’re in the middle of starting a new business, this may not apply to you. Whereas if you’re looking to take your business to the next level, you need to let go and upgrade your mindset. Your future success depends on you finding inner significance elsewhere, outside of your business. You need to look in the mirror and feel happy about the person looking back; to know you’re enough as it is.


How to Use LinkedIn to Find Your Next Job

8 Keys to Coming Off as the Expert in Whatever You Sell

How 10 Billionaires Faced Failure (Infographic)

Effective Communication Is Something You Learn, Not Something You’re Born With

This Startup Investor Wants to Prove That ‘Nice Girls’ Don’t Have to Finish Last

You are not your business, and your business cannotbe you. This is the only way to go from six to seven figures, and it’s the only way you will ever lead a truly successful life.

How We Sold Our Company Without Selling Out

How We Sold Our Company Without Selling Out

It was 1985. My wife, Andrea Barthello, and I were newly married and newly unemployed (by choice). We were disenchanted with the corporate world and had a vision of making a difference for children, so we created ThinkFun from a small basement in Alexandria, Virginia.

We launched ThinkFun with the ambition to become the world’s leading maker of logic puzzles. Our “competitive advantage” was our creative genius family friend, Bill Keister, a retired Bell Labs scientist who invented puzzles as a hobby. Mr. Keister, as well as my father and my brother, who also were Bell Labs scientists, introduced us to a world of highly creative engineers and scientists who called themselves “recreational mathematicians.” This special group of people dedicated themselves to playing and sharing mathematical ideas that often took form as puzzles or games.

Related: Know When and How to Sell Your Business

Our mission statement became: “We find the most brilliant ideas from the wackiest engineers and mathematicians and translate them into toys and games.” Never mind that at the time there was no market demand for this kind of product — STEM(science, technology, engineering and math) was nary an idea. Still, we believed that this was an opportunity for us to become the voice for an entire creative community of playful geniuses and to build market demand from the ground up.

That belief wasn’t always strong in the beginning. We spent the first five years of our business in a constant state of anxiety, culminating in a near-disaster; in 1989 our bank kicked us out and we lost our line of credit. But, in a perfect illustration of how quickly things can change in business and in life, by 1991 we were flying. We doubled in growth from 1991 to 1992.

Related: IPO vs. Getting Acquired: What You Can Learn From Snap

But as we learned, even success can be difficult when you’re an entrepreneur. In the early years, we would have parts of our puzzles manufactured and then shipped to us, and we’d bring family and friends over and set up an assembly line in the basement. The problem, of course, was that the more we sold the later we had to stay up assembling and packaging!

More than 30 years after we launched, ThinkFun was acquired by 134-year old Ravensburger – known for making high-quality toys and games for the “hand, head and heart.”  As entrepreneurs, Andrea and I struggled with the decision to share our “first child.” But as mission-driven entrepreneurs, we know that ThinkFun has great potential to grow beyond us.

And like us, Ravensburger is a family-owned company that has thrived for more than a century by staying true to its mission — a belief in the benefits of challenging the mind and the importance of creative play. Those were all checkbox items for us that lessened the risk of sharing the reins for the next chapter of ThinkFun.

Related: Richard Branson: I Cried When I Sold Virgin Records

As we look back over the past 33 years, Andrea and I are proud of each step we’ve taken and believe in the importance of always staying true to your brand, but we also believe it is important to adapt, and in some places let go when others can take you to new heights. Moving forward, I have the dream job of any company founder — retaining the parts of my job that give me the most joy, and letting go of the rest. Ravensburger has retained me as ThinkFun’s “chief creative officer,” with a mandate to drive creative development on new products and programs. With the added resources and expertise of Ravensburger and the existing team and its experience here, I can’t wait to see what the future looks like.