No one ever said entrepreneurship was easy, that's for sure. I’ve been working on all sorts of interesting projects with a range of clients, from big brands and emerging startups, helping them define their business model and strategy. Each project has its unique set of challenges, successes, nuances, etc. Yet, one pattern I’ve noticed throughout my time spent on projects is the psychological effect of entrepreneurship on the founders.
As I’ve reflected on my own personal journey as a co-founder of SWARM, and spoken to CEO’s and upcoming CEO’s doing the same, I realize that we all deal with the emotional stresses and insecurities of entrepreneurship. We’ve all been on the rollercoaster ride where one day we feel absolutely great, the trajectory of our business is forward-moving, and the next step seems clear and manageable, only to find that we’ve hit a brick wall, whereby each subsequent decision seems daunting and the path we continue to pave becomes muddled.
There’s a name for this cyclical pattern and it’s called Depression. I’m no doctor, but I can tell you that we all suffer from some form of it and it’s normal. At any startup there are the good times — hanging out with your co-founders over a beer, talking about how a product can disrupt an industry, how it can truly augment experiences and initiate new behavior in people, and so on and so forth. And there are also the bad times, when you're feeling down in the dumps, finding problems that are virtually impossible to fix with your limited resources, continually being rejected, permanently on the cusp of bankruptcy,racking up ridiculous credit card debt - you get the point.
You float between the two because on some level you realize the mania keeps you going. The depression keeps you in check, and the cycle repeats itself until that beautiful moment when you launch your product and lo' and behold start getting users or clients, or both, and start getting in those first trickles of cash that soon turn into clumps, and lumps, and then heaps of the green stuff — of course, we’re assuming your idea actually had mettle.
And the next thing you know, it's rinse and repeat, because unfortunately entrepreneurship is a drug.
So where am I going with this? I realize that depression is a natural side-effect of the entrepreneurial journey. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be taken serious if it gets out-of-hand. Of course, you need to address it head-on if you feel like your wellbeing is compromised and your business can barely keep afloat.
Keeping your emotional and psychological wellbeing in tact is 80% of the job. If after a quasi-breakdown, you can re-evaluate your situation from a more rational perspective, if you take whatever obstacle you face and turn it into an opportunity for learning and improvement, and if you take a few steps back and realize you’re not alone - then you’re OK.
We all suffer from bouts of insecurity and feelings of isolation. But whatever you do, don’t let your personal struggles interfere with your business goals. I understand this is incredibly difficult when personal successes and business successes are deeply entwined. Yet, turning trials into triumphs is the art of the job.