The Business Case for Solitude

One of the things business owners don’t get enough of is solitude. We are constantly surrounded by coworkers, prospects, suppliers and customers in a never-ending battle to grow the business.

anoldent via Flickr

Don’t get me wrong, plenty of business owners are cut off and alone too, but solitude and loneliness are not the same thing.

Solitude is an intentional step away from every possible distraction. Even folks that work alone suffer from the constant pull of email, phone calls and dozens of online social interactions and distractions.

In order to stay true to your business and purpose you must explore ways to create intentional solitude or what I like to call the solo planning practice.

The idea behind any practice is the act of doing something habitually or repetitively in the hope of getting better at it. There are countless patterns and actions that business owners do almost daily that certainly meet the definition of practice – selling, writing, speaking, training, educating, and documenting just to name a few.

When you add the systematic practice of solitude to this list you may gain greater access to the following business and life benefits and find that you can more easily keep your business purpose in line with your life’s purpose.

Hear yourself – A business can create so much noise that it becomes hard to listen to your own guiding voice. When we react, without witnessing our thoughts and actions through our true voice, we set ourselves up to be influenced in ways that our not genuine. Have you ever found yourself doing or saying something and soon after thinking, that’s not me, that’s not how I want my business to run?

The voice in your head, the one that tells you why you’re doing what you’re doing, who you are and how you want others to experience you, is your true voice and solitude is the way you let that voice come back and remind you why you do what you do. This voice refuses to shout over the noise and deserves your full attention.

Get clarity – Once you return to hearing yourself you can begin to organize what that means. Have you ever had one of those times when things don’t make sense and you don’t feel like you can find an answer? Or worse, things just don’t seem like fun anymore. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a simple, elegant, perfect answer presents itself. That’s one of the things that being alone with your thoughts has to offer. You get the chance to relax and not try to find or force answers – which of course is what makes them appear.

Clarity is what you need to in order to make the big decisions about your business, about your people, and about markets. Without it you’ll be driven by the rush of the day and idea of the week.

Learn to speak – Sometimes I talk too much. Most of us do. We get very nervous when there is silence and we stretch to fill up the silence whether it needs us to or not. This is as true for the stammering we might do in front of a prospect as it is for the conversations we have with ourselves. One of the odd benefits contained in the practice of solitude is that it better prepares us to not say things. To have the confidence that just enough has been said about something or someone. To know when to ask for help, when to say no and when to stand firm.

This of course transfers over into the voice in our writing as well.

Create higher – Innovation and creativity in most small businesses must develop in layers. It’s very difficult to come up with an idea for a product, service or product that won’t impact the overall brand, strategy, culture and customer.

Quite often we get what seems like a great idea and we lurch into full implementation mode first.

By stepping into solitude and summoning your thoughts about your business there you are more likely to start at the very overarching level necessary to consider the strategic impact first and then you can more accurately develop the projects, actions, patterns and processes needed to bring your innovation to life properly.

Renew purpose – I believe that one of the greatest reasons to create a business is to create purpose – purpose in your life, in the lives of those that work in the business and at some level the lives of those that experience the business as customers, suppliers and mentors.

When you connect your business to the higher purpose it serves for you, you are more apt to create patterns and actions that support that purpose and attract others that share or connect with that purpose.

Practicing solitude forces you to consider, evaluate and connect with that purpose even as the constant natural forces of business try to erode it. Solitude is a great way for you to unearth that one driving purpose your business meets and help you evolve what that purpose can and does mean to all that come into contact with your business.

This is the real stuff; this is what turns simple passion into focused commitment. Don’t wait until you go on vacation to consider this idea – make it part of the game, build it into the culture of your business and teach your customers about silence and solitude as an aspect of regenerating value for them.

What does your intentional solo planning practice look like? Is it an hour a week, an entire day once a quarter? Can you pair it with another passion such as painting or nature? Can you build on small steps and extend solitude to the point where it captures a significant amount of your attention?

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  • Antonio Coleman

    You must have the confidence to follow through with what makes you successful. You will have road blocks but keep pushing on.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • Hans Schiefelbein

    John I couldn’t agree more. Family makes this very tough, but I’m ok with that. Still this is essential for business. Unfortunately right now my time is late night and early morning. Early morning is best for clearing my mind and thinking of strategy. Late night is best for executing and “doing the work.”

    Classic business essential right here. I can only imagine how much this is lacking in high-capacity leaders. How much betters would they be if they practiced this!

  • Will Duke

    I think we all know this instinctively.  Some pray, some golf, some fish, some play video games.  But with the daily rigor of running a business, especially in a down economy, it’s easy to forget to reset purposefully.  The longer you go without finding your center again, the crazier the world becomes.  

  • Peter Crowell

    Really great post.

    I spent six and half years as a monk and solitude was the focus of the life: more than half my time was spent in silence/solitude.

    True solitude is incredibly challenging, and vital to extending ourselves more fully into the world. You find out who you really are in solitude. You discover your obstacles and you discover what you have to offer.

    Thanks so much for covering this topic, and for grounding it’s value in a real-world context.

    (That photo looks like one of the locations where I spent my monastic life!)

    • Nate Guggia

      So cool Peter.  How have you been able to connect this spiritual aspect of your life in to your business?

  • Nathalie Lussier

    This is such a great recommendation John! I find that my daily walks with the dog in the park are actually really important to my business. The space and solitude helps me step away from the day to day demands of the business so I can see from a different angle and come up with plans, ideas, and deep heart-searching moments.

    • Nate Guggia

      My daily walk with my dog has always been a huge part of my business and personal development.  I feel like I glean more ideas from that time than any other parts of my day combined.

  • Home Remedies MD

    It is all about businesses creating value for their audiences

  • Azov

    These are the people (which is written in the article) was given the chance Twitter,Facebook and other social networks – live contact takes a back seat … Sorry …soon and children will make on the internet …

  • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

    I find my space and solitude in the shower! Which is funny because I work from home (alone all day!). But it’s not until I step away from the laptop that my mind can expand and create more interesting nuances to the bright ideas I’ve come up with at my desk. When I used to smoke, those 5 minute breaks did the same thing. Your post is a great reminder to me that I need to incorporate more 5/10 minute breaks into my day.

  • Nate Guggia

    john, it all comes back to this.  i have been so overwhelmed with content consumption, creation and business building that i totally hit a wall.  i’ve been feeling stuck just as you write about.  i decided that today i am taking for myself to “allow”.  i need some allowing time so my mind can effectively process and create.  otherwise, i might as well get a 9-5 :)

    • ducttape

      Awesome Nate – enjoy!

  • atlantaskindr

    John…You are SO right!  I continually have to “ground” myself in making time to meditate, garden, take a ride, just separate from the busy-ness of everyday life.  We are bombarded with information and “doing” and the key for me is in learning just to “be.”  

  • Teddy

    Many self development people recommend practicing solitude.  I have started to doing solitude & it can be difficult at first.  One things I have used is from old book Power of Concentration about sitting for 5 minutes and staring at a doorknob.  Surprisingly it works.  Thanks for ideas in this article on solitude

    • ducttape

      I know people that can’t even last 5 minutes at first, it’s just so counter to what we do all day.

  • Kim

    Excellent advice!  It is too easy to get pulled into “action” mode, and confuse “activity” with “progress.”  Particularly like call to maintain clarity of purpose, to listen to your own insights and wisdom, and continually renew your purpose and aspirations.

    • ducttape

      The real voice your head knows best!

  • Myrtle Dwyer

    This is a great confirmation of what I practise on a daoly basis. I find solitude in the quietness of my bedroom or just walking quietly along the beach or my garden.
    I become most creative during these times.

    • ducttape

      I tell my wife all the time that my best blog post ideas come to me when I’m running.

  • Dedricks

    @John, sounds like you having been practicing YOGA! Love how you can bring your practice into your business life. Namaste!!

    • ducttape

      I do practice yoga but the concept of practice is one that I think can apply to many activities – I practice running and I have a writing practice too.

  • Oscar

    This is great.  I was in need of solitude today and I intentionally broke away from my office and went swimming for an hour.  That really worked for me.  

    • ducttape

      Awesome Oscar – now get back to work :)

  • Oscar Carter

    This worked for me today.  I broke away from my office about 3:30PM and went swimming.  I felt great when I got back.

  • Carol Dodsley

    Great article – thank you for sharing this —- too often all day is taken up with business and the mind has no time to reflect or regenerate…… many also go to bed with ideas popping up stopping them from getting that all important sleep too…

    Better known as the How2 Girl

  • Anndaly

    In my book, “Clarity: How to Accomplish What Matters Most,” step # 1 is: Do nothing for 15 minutes a day. It’s the first challenge I offer my coaching clients. The results are telling…