Some time back I came across an anonymous post on Quora that was actually a revelation by an entrepreneur. This was an answer to the question….
“How often does an entrepreneur have to deal with depression?”
In answer, the entrepreneur spilled out the beans, which went something like this…
“I started having difficulty concentrating and making decisions. I could not remember details. I was always tired as if a vacuum cleaner was sucking out my energy. Instead, I was filled with guilt and worthlessness. I would keep awake or sleep late into the afternoon. I was losing interest in what I loved doing. I lost my appetite for food and sex, and was constantly anxious with an empty feeling.”
However, the entrepreneur did get back his self-worth sometime later and has now launched his third start-up.
It’s not easy to build your company. The journey is of course rewarding but it takes its toll. Many find it psychologically vexing. We often accord Hero status to successful entrepreneurs. We idolize the Elon Musks and the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world. However, there are secret demons that they also harbor and fight against, in private. Not many are aware of the huge moments of despair and near-debilitating anxiety, before they strike it big. Some even combat suicidal tendencies.
This is quite evident in the deeply personal post of Ben Huh, the CEO of the Cheezburger Network Humor Websites titled “When Death Feels like a Good Option.” Its, the CEO reveals his misgivings, when he couldn’t make it.
Others who have gone down that road include:
– Ilya Zhitomirskiy: Co-founder of user-owned, non-profit social network, Diaspora, he was just 22 when he called it quits.
– Dan Haubert, the co-founder of TicketStumbler, also YC Alum was only 25 when he committed suicide.
– Aaron Swartz, the developer of RSS and Reddit, become a digital activist that drove him to take his own life.
In an imperfect world, there are also people like Sean Percival who are ready to extend help to such misguided souls. The former vice president of MySpace and also the co-founder of Wittlebee, a children’s clothing startup, on his website you’ll stumble on pieces like “When It’s Not All Good, Ask for Help.” He has spoken about how he himself has been a victim of depression and was offered help by a kind stranger, who said, “If you’re about to lose it, please contact me.”
Suicide may be the last resort of entrepreneurs who accept failure. But it does not resolve anything. Establishing a start-up is definitely stressful and might cause a whole lot of emotional turbulence. The risk of failure is also high in almost three out of every four venture-backed startups. Nevertheless, you have to move on.
You are the captain of the ship. You cannot afford to appear weak in front of your crew. Your business is something that starts with you and ends with you. Your personal side has to be necessarily detached from your company. When there is a crisis instead of getting stressed, it is important to draw out a map, mark up your destination and figure out how to get there. The journey of entrepreneurship is definitely a rollercoaster ride; but you have to learn to clear the obstacles to reach your destination.
How not to let go of things not in your control?
This is what you need to do:
– Make it a point to spend some quality time with your loved ones
– Take help when needed.
– Set a limit for the amount of money that you are going to invest. Even when you are borrowing from your family members or your friends, make sure they give you only the kind of amount they can afford to lose.
– Make sure your lifestyle includes a healthy diet, some cardiovascular exercises and adequate sleep.
– Focus on the dimensions of your life that are not related to your work. It could be raising a family, going for dancing on weekends, being a part of the board of a local charity or building model rockets in your back yard. You need to try and achieve success in these areas too.
– Do not hesitate to express your feelings, whether you are at home or at office. Being vulnerable does not make you weak. People can see through you when you try to mask your emotions.
Psychological challenges are a part of your journey as an entrepreneur. The more challenges you face, the less intimidating they become. So shake off the fear, recognize yourself, work hard and very soon you will reach your goal!