How to Survive the Stress of Leading a Startup
Like drinking or gambling, it’s a good idea to recognize when you’ve had too much startup
Let me ask you a question, and think about it for a second before you answer: Have you ever been totally bored and completely stressed out at the same time?
Right? Me too. It’s actually pretty common in startup leadership circles, but no one ever realizes it until someone asks them the direct question. I recognize that kind of stress all too well, but it took me most of my 20 years working with startups to recognize why it was happening.
Good stress comes from loads of work aimed toward a desired and achievable goal. This bad stress isn’t the same. Bad stress happens when you’re doing a hundred things at once, but none of them feel like parts of a greater sum. Bad stress makes you do stupid things and hit walls and lash out at people. And when you’re in a leadership position, you can’t do any of that.
Bad stress is the curse of the startup leadership. Here are some techniques I’ve worked out over the past 20 years to help turn bad stress back into good stress.
Remember: You don’t have a job. You have a mission.
You didn’t become an entrepreneur because you wanted a better job. You became an entrepreneur because you’re on a mission. You might want to make the world a better place. You might want to make lives better. You might just want to find out who you are.
Whatever your mission, just don’t turn that mission into a job.
Chasing a mission is difficult way more often than it is easy — that’s the nature of doing anything worth doing. Being an entrepreneur can be directionless, fruitless, even hopeless at times. We tend to compensate for that by making the mission feel more like a job. We take on responsibilities and create processes and even invent rules for ourselves in an effort to make our dream seem more legitimate. This is especially true when bad stress makes that dream start to feel a little more like a nightmare.
Your mission has to include an element of fun.