There is No One Man Show

We’re nearing the end of January.  Are the empty machines at the gym before or after the new year?

Do these idle machines represent the waiting and lethargy in days before the ball drops?

Do they represent the lost will power of thousands of resolutions already given up?

I’m not telling.  And truth is, it doesn’t matter.

Before you ask…No, I didn’t visit the gym at an off hour and no, I didn’t visit during bad weather.

No matter when it was…

We lost our motivation.  We lost our fight throughs.  We did not persevere.



Today I want to share with you one of my biggest challenges both personally and professionally.

When going at it alone, you have to self motivate.  And self motivation is moving is harder than moving mountains.

The One Man Show

Do you know where the term One Man Show came from?  Unlike some weird American turns of phrase, this is barely an idiom.  It’s inherited from single actors on stage who sometimes for budgetary or artistic reasons, played all the roles in a multi-faceted play.  This has been going on for thousands of years.  Wikipedia suggests this might remind you of French Troubadors or traveling minstrels.

But those are productions, literally “shows”.  In the business world, the phrase has come to mean a person who manages everything in an enterprise from sales to production.

How many startups do you know that started with one person?  I’ll let you think for a bit.

I can think of few, but only a few and they barely count.

In fact, most of the “one man shows” I can think of, actually had a behind the scene counterpart or group of people that helped them succeed.

Consider Thomas Edison for example.  Most people envision him hovered over his workbench, failing 1000’s of times to work at the incandescent light bulb.

At first glance, your mind pictures him alone, right?  He actually had many assistants to help him.  Famously, some of you might remember that some of his greatest works were done via motivation with his past pupil, Nicola Tesla.

Oh, but what about Nicola Tesla?!  Nope.  Although fiction often portrays him as a loner, he become motivated by many of his close friends and even soundboarded ideas off Mark Twain.

Surely Mark Twain is an example?!  Wrong again.  Twain, (a.k.a Samuel Clemens)  moved across the US making friends, gaining influence and using those connections to gain speaking events and and literary ideas.  He then used his travels and positive critiques to motivate his later improvements.  Twain was especially motivated by his wife, who inspired him to write multiple publications.

Motivating Each Other

So you see, people tend to motivate each other.  Even when it’s not apparent, those who are motivated by others will have more of a reason to keep on when the going gets tough.  And the going will get tough, it always does.

For me, this article could also be titled, “Why you shouldn’t be a solo entrepreneur”.

Without fail, the most successful ventures I’ve entered Sassafras Consulting in thus far have been partnerships and cooperatives.  Those ventures I’ve attempted largely on my own have fizzled or had moderate success at best.

I believe that one person can work for a while, but burn out ensues and the project is dropped.   Putting motivation aside, doing everything yourself can just be tiring. calls this The Myth of The Successful One Person Business.

Dylan Tweney gives a good (and warning: comically vulgar) viewpoint on some of the financial struggles you’ll face can being a One Man Show.

Building to More than One

Conversely, two heads are most certainly better than one.  Those two ore more people form a melding of the minds not only in thought but in energy.  That energy can help them with their fight throughs when the going gets tough.

Most of my mentors advocate building a business to the point of duplication as fast as possible.

The idea of being an entrepreneur is not to build your favorite product, but to make a company to make ANY viable product as efficiently as you can. The quicker you can manage a cash flowing company, the quicker you can jump to improving the world somewhere else  – George Lenhart [paraphrased]

My mentors collectively suggest that you limit your contributions to society at large as a sole business owner.  Taking the world on alone means you’re in the weeds and you get tired out and when you should be dreaming up a new patent, you’re sitting on the couch, recovering.

Outside of Business

Let’s go back to the Gym.  Perhaps you agree that self motivation is hard in our personal lives too.

The more I’m encouraged by Sally who always brings a stupid salad to lunch, the more I’m likely to skip on that second soda later that day.

The more I’m encouraged by forums where people try to play less video games, the more I say Mario can wait and continue my World War One book.

And the more I’m encouraged by my peers hitting the gym, the more likely I am to make time for sweating.  Misery loves company?

What can we do about it?

Here is an oversimplified version of what you can do in either business or personal lives.

  1. Have a plan.
    1. Write down your goals
    2. Write your steps to get there
    3. Make it involve multiple people at some step
    4. Have them on board to keep each other accountable

2 – Execute the plan.

Two steps.  It’s that stupid simple.  Remember, follow through is an important part of the swing.

Want easier tips than that? Ok, ok.

Try these:

  • Find an accountability partner
    • Quitting smoking?  Tell someone you are doing it and have them check in with you.
    • Trying to expand your photography portfolio?  Upload your pics to your “account-abili-buddy” once a week and have them hound you if you miss your deadlines.
    • Want to try out Yoga?  Have you and a peer commit to each other that you’ll go together on certain dates, swap carpools and call each other beforehand.
  • Keep Motivation High
    • Keep referencing people and motivating things that help you.
    • Listen to motivational speakers, read motivational quotes, watch motivational movie clips.  Be inspired.
  • Divide and Conquer Goals
    • Roadblocks are motivation tanks.  They kill your focus and strike down even the best motivation.
    • Break down goals into little, bitesized goals
    • Celebrate successes when achieved
  • Work Quickly
    • Finish projects as humanly fast as possible since the idea is on the mind and you’re ready to go.
    • Strike while the iron is hot.  Motivation cools over time, inevitably.  Take good ideas and run as fast as possible.


Now, if only I could listen to my own advice.


If you agree, let me know in the comments or email me!  What did you think of this article?

If you don’t, tell me why! What notes did I get wrong? Have a solo entrepreneur you’d like noted, let me know here or email me.


If you’ll excuse me.  I just got an alert on my phone that my friend completed a run, so I’ve got to go for a jog.






1 thought on “There is No One Man Show”

Comments are closed.