The journey itself is an emotional rollercoaster with very high highs and very low lows. And what makes it even more challenging is that this is a journey, many a times undertaken alone, in the psychological sense.
And you are not alone.
Khalil Gibran famously said, “If we were all to sit in a circle and confess our sins, we would laugh at each other for lack of originality”
Entrepreneurial journey is somewhat similar. If we put together a bunch of entrepreneurs and ask them about their internal struggles, it will be surprising to many that all of us struggle with the same issues.
But it always feels like you are the only one.
However, what happens in this journey is not unique to you or me. Pick up any book which is written by an entrepreneur, and you will see this theme recurring.
The most accurate picture of entrepreneurship I came across is this wanted ad by explorer Ernest Shackleton, about a century ago.
“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.”
And founder after founder undertakes this hard and long journey and is most likely to encounter these emotions
Self-Doubt – Will this work?
When the world around you is telling you, this is not going to work, or when a hugely funded competitor enters your space, or you are just not able to get the traction you want, there is always this nagging question at the back of your mind – Will this work? Self-doubt can cripple us from action. Luckily for entrepreneurs the opposite is most often true – too much confidence. But self-doubt is real and can creep up at any time
There is too much at stake. Your life is this startup.
This startup is your life
Putting up a brave face (even when things are falling apart)
You come back from a shitty investor presentation and team is eager to know what happened – It was great, you say. You just missed payroll, and have no idea when or where the money will come from, but you still assure your team – hey give me some time, we will do something. A college friend sees you after a couple of years and goes, hey how is life – You say “great” feeling jealous about his steady employment as junior engineer.
And so it goes. Every founder faking their way to glory. Why?
Because if you share what you really feel, you will be seen as weak.
Stress in relationships
The worst thing, someone once told me, is to start a company and a relationship at the same time.
One of them is not going to end well.
Running a startup consumes all your time and energy. You skip social appointments, miss birthdays, forget anniversaries, all adding up to strained relationship with your loved ones. The only thing in your mind is, let me just take care of this, we will then find time to relax.
You are telling yourself constantly
It’s ok if I can’t make time for my family now, in the long run this will be worth-while for all of us.
This is the elephant in the room.
No one admits it, but this is for real. It’s quite natural however. No two people will have the same opinion about something all the time. Particularly as more and more people get involved and the business grows. When it’s just you and your buddy from college, everything is fine.
But throw in advisors, investors, term sheets, ESOP’s, KRA’s, traction, scale and any of those buzzwords and see the buddy feeling disappear.
Not to mention four-six cofounders starting on this journey together. I am not saying it’s the rule, there are exceptional co-founders who get along very well and have built successful companies, but there is always conflict. But there is a maturity to manage this conflict.
The challenge however is when one co-founder or more are
consumed by the other co-founder/s inability or weaknesses to pull their act
Why is he/she not seeing how hard I am working on this? How can you be a cofounder with such attitude?
Team – why isn’t everyone seeing the larger vision
Not everyone in your startup has the same vision as you. And they don’t have to.
You are the custodian of the vision. But it’s frustrating to feel, you are here to change the world, and the team is focused on petty things.
How can they ignore what I am seeing so clearly?
This is particularly frustrating when you can see how much progress you can make if everyone just pulled their weight.
Why can’t they just think about the future. The present will take care of itself.
Financial Insecurity – how do i continue like this
No emotion can match this feeling of just going down a financial pit. You have taken a risk on your education, your parents’ wishes, your spouse’s aspirations, your own financial cushion and here you are.
No sign of when this will turn around you can finally draw some decent compensation.
The constant struggle of making ends meet in the initial stages and being the last one to be paid can be daunting. Unless you have a strong financial cushion to support you through years of uncertainty.
Even then, this will break many a resolve. There is no bigger addiction than a regular paycheck.
The end of the month is the best time for an employee. And the worst for an entrepreneur.
And there is no one to share this one. This will be definitely reinforcing their notion that this was a failed venture to start with.
You can’t share it with close friends or family because of shame and feeling of being judged.
The list of emotions goes on and on. At ManahWellness, we recently did a survey of entrepreneurs and found that these are the top six emotional issues.
The important thing for all of us is to know that we are not alone. No matter how easy it might look, everyone faces these emotions during their entrepreneurial journey.
The key is to build a support system; peer networks, coaches and mentors whom you can reach out to, without hesitation. Also, making sure that these relationships are in place, right at the beginning of your journey, and not having to search for them when you need.
To continue this discussion on founders and wellbeing, you can join a peer supported network here on “Transitions and Stress”