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

At the end of the day, your business is not about you.

learn more about Scott Oldford

By Scott Oldford

Caiaimage | Paul Bradbury | Getty Images

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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.

You are not your business, and your business cannot be 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.

Related Video: Why Ego Is the Enemy in the Pursuit of Success

Scott Oldford

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Mentor, Advisor & Investor for Online Entrepreneurs

Scott Oldford has helped build and scale countless 6, 7 & 8-figure online businesses in the education, certification, coaching, consulting and courses niche.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Everyone Wants to Get Close to Their Favorite Artist. Here's the Technology Making It a Reality — But Better.
The Highest-Paid, Highest-Profile People in Every Field Know This Communication Strategy
After Early Rejection From Publishers, This Author Self-Published Her Book and Sold More Than 500,000 Copies. Here's How She Did It.
Having Trouble Speaking Up in Meetings? Try This Strategy.
He Names Brands for Amazon, Meta and Forever 21, and Says This Is the Big Blank Space in the Naming Game
Thought Leaders

The Collapse of Credit Suisse: A Cautionary Tale of Resistance to Hybrid Work

This cautionary tale serves as a reminder for business leaders to adapt to the changing world of work and prioritize their workforce's needs and preferences.

Business News

These Are the Most and Least Affordable Places to Retire in The U.S.

The Northeast and West Coast are the least affordable, while areas in the Mountain State region tend to be ideal for retirees on a budget.

Business News

I'm a Former Google Recruiter. Here's How to Land a Job in Tech — and What Can Blow Your Interview

A former Google recruiter says layoffs may be trendy, but tech workers are always needed. Here's how to land a job at a major tech company.

Growing a Business

The No.1 Most Bankable Skill You Must Have to Succeed in 2023

If you don't foster this skill, you'll fall behind the pack financially and professionally in 2023.

Business News

The 'Airbnbust' Proves the Wild West Days of Online Vacation Rentals Are Over

Airbnb recently reported that 2022 was its first profitable year ever. But the deluge of new listings foreshadowed an inevitable correction.

Starting a Business

5 Ways Entrepreneurship Can Help Teenagers Overcome Negative Peer Pressure

Here are some of the positives teenage entrepreneurship can have concerning peer pressure.