The other day I spent about an hour with a startup entrepreneur. I’ve been mentoring him for a while now, and when I saw him this time he was feeling quite depressed. Nothing seemed to be going his way. I have to say I could really sympathise. I’ve been there myself many times in my career.
The great thing about entrepreneurs is that they are usually very hard working, optimistic, and feel like they can conquer the world, despite all the hardships they face. But once in a while, our armour cracks and doubt, anger and hopelessness can seep in.
This young man was really feeling it, and to make matters worse there was family pressure to “get a real job” (I’ve been there). We spoke for quite a bit and what he needed most was someone who would listen to him. I tried to provide a empathetic ear, but also lectured him on how hardships are part of the entrepreneurial journey and that he can’t let that pull him down. By the end of the meeting he felt much better and was ready to take on the world again.
But not everyone is lucky enough to have a mentor to lift us up. So what should you do if you have no one to turn to? Here are six things you can do to lessen the pain:
1) Realise that this is normal:
Look, the superman entrepreneur is a myth. Even the best can get depressed and feel down. It’s okay, you have to realise that this is normal and just accept it. Don’t even try to fight it, and don’t feel bad for feeling bad. You’re human dammit!
2) Remember that “this too shall pass”:
It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” There are various versions of this story. Another version says that the wise men presented the monarch with a ring with the words “this too shall pass” inscribed in it. This is a reminder that nothing is permanent. If things are going great you should not let that go to your head. You should stay grounded as nothing is permanent. The same is true when things are not going so well. You should not let it pull you down, as it’s only temporary.
3) Break your routine:
I think routine and discipline are an undisputed pre-requisite for success in any field. Having said that, it’s okay to just break your routine and do something different. Go see a movie during the day, or have a massage or even hop on a plane and just take a short break. It’s true the startup entrepreneur has a million responsibilities and a never-ending to-do list, but even the best of us need a break from the routine. The work will never finish, so you might as well take a bloody break!
4) Read, view and listen to uplifting material:
When I started out about 12 years ago or so the concept of mentorship hardly existed here in Bahrain. My mentors and inspirations were the entrepreneurs I read about. I read dozens and dozens of biographies and autobiographies that really inspired and educated me. But I did not stop there, I also read tons of self-improvement and motivational books. In addition I listened to a lot of motivational audio programmes and watched all kinds of uplifting DVD’s. I still make sure to read uplifting and motivational books on a regular basis. (On ideas of which books to read, see the video series I created some years ago about the 7 books that changed my life here).
Before my young mentee left I gave him several audio CD’s to listen to. He promised he would listen to them and give them back next month.
5) Seek out others like you:
Being an entrepreneur is one of the loneliest jobs in the world. The problem is that even though your friends and family might be morally supportive, they’ll never know what it’s really like to be an entrepreneur. Even your spouse might not fully understand. The only person who really knows what it’s like is another entrepreneur; he or she understands the risk, the highs, the nagging self-doubts and the entire emotional roller coaster involved. I suggest joining an entrepreneurial club, or creating a mastermind group. Being able to share with others will make a huge difference, and you’ll quickly realise you’re not alone in what you’re going through.
6) Find a mentor:
A mentor can save you years of trial and error, and provide you with invaluable advice. Make sure your respect your mentor’s time and don’t expect him or her to be your psychiatrist, more of a trusted advisor. If there is some one out there you admire, just look them up and ask. You never know, they might say yes. And if the answer is no don’t dwell on it too much and just move on.
Hope this was useful. Thanks for taking the time to read this and talk to you soon.