As an old Buddhist saying goes: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else — you are the one who gets burned.”

Anger is the most common biproduct of anxiety.

And, the anxiety disorder is more common among startup founders than all other disorders combined. It’s a ruthless super destroyer.

Anxiety avalanche starts with a single drop of worry:

What if we aren’t able to reach our goals?
What if we don’t attract VC?
What if I don’t find a reliable co-founder?
What if we don’t figure out the right marketing strategy?

So many ‘what ifs’. Hard to imagine the life of a startup founder without them.

‘What ifs’ help you determine the right problems to think about, the right people to recruit, the right features to add, the right time to pitch.

Instead of placing your ‘what ifs’ in a ‘worry zone’ try to reframe them:

What questions shall we answer to reach our goals?
What shall we research more/add to our pitch deck and from whom shall we seek the relevant advisory to attract VC?
What are my strengths and what strengths shall my reliable co-founder possess?
What shall we research more and whom shall we consult to figure out the right marketing strategy?

The only ‘what if’ worth asking and, well, answering is this one: What if you knew you’d fail?

The point of productive reframing is to ask yourself smart open-ended questions that will serve as your guide.

These questions will activate the logical part of your brain, and when you are thinking logically it’s impossible to be anxious.

The more some experience hurts you, the more irrational fear & anxiety you carry around that experience throughout your life. Don’t let experiences hurt you – apply logic.

Anxiety feeds on inaction, so after asking yourself open-ended questions, a smart startup founder shall act.

Working on a problem reduces the fear of it. It’s hard to fear a problem when you are making progress on it – even if the progress is imperfect & slow. Action relieves anxiety.

Dear startup founders, here’s your cure for anxiety:

  1. Reframe ‘what ifs’ with smart open-ended questions.
  2. Apply logic.
  3. Act upon your answers.

And remember, fucks are inevitable. But you shall be extra picky about what you give a fuck about. If you don’t find something truly fuckworthy, then you’ll waste your fucks on unimportant causes.


  • Alla Adam

    Smart Human | Lean Startup Coach | Investor | Author


    Alla Adam is an investor, and a master certified coach with an MBA, MS & BS in international economic relations and marketing. Alla also holds two executive education certifications from Yale School of Management and Harvard Law School, both in negotiation strategies. She is an affiliate member at The Institute of Coaching, McLean/Harvard Medical School, and HeartMath Institute. Alla is proudly future-proofing humans across the globe since 2003. Alla's Client list includes smart humans from such companies & institutions as Amazon, Google, Kraft Heinz, Red Bull, Coca-Cola, Danone, PepsiCo, Nestle, JTI, Ernst & Young, BlaBlaCar, Forbes, London Business School, University of Chicago Booth School of Business, etc. She is an advocate for womxn & LGBTQ rights, and an author of two Playbooks: Million Dollar Coach Playbook and Million Dollar Investor Playbook.