Entrepreneurship is crushing, mentally taxing and altogether exhausting. But, for the right person, with the right idea and the right plan, it can be extremely rewarding. Everybody wants to reap the benefits of starting a business, but few actually have the tenacity and mental fortitude to trudge through the deepest, darkest trenches to find their way to success.
You read a lot of lists like “10 Things You Need To Do Right Now” or “What Successful Entrepreneurs Do Before Breakfast.” That’s all well and good, but there is much less candid talk about the trials and tribulations of running a business.
People who have seen a level of success tend to graze over the hard times – the times they felt like quitting, the times their closest friends and family told them to give it up, the times they were so financially strapped they couldn’t do anything but curl up in a corner and cry.
Staying mentally strong is one of the most basic and most terrifyingly difficult things you can do when starting a business. There is no upstart founder who hasn’t been burdened by the crushing weight of wearing so many hats they can’t remember what their name is. And many startups fail.
Some because of a lack of marketing, some because of money. Some because they designed something nobody wanted.
But many promising businesses peter out because of how insanely rough it is to fight through the hard times in order to get to the good times. There’s a lot of media romanticizing about entrepreneurship, and as wantrepreneurs, it’s easy to see a story of rapid, insanely unanticipated success, and draw the conclusion that if a 19-year-old college dropout can do it, then surely, anybody can.
You can do a simple Google search and find advice like this article, and this one, and this one, on how to stay mentally strong. And that’s great. We all need inspiration and insights into people more successful than ourselves. And while I surely don’t hold all the answers, I’ll give you a few things that have worked for me.
Do not commit to your partner.
Do not commit to your friends.
Do not commit to your family.
Commit to yourself.
When you hit a wall, or things go wildly out of control despite your best efforts, take solace in regaining your thoughts by reading other peoples’. If you’re behind on your rent, and your project keeps getting stalled, read, read, and read more. Read business books like “Good to Great,” or negotiation books like “How to Get to Yes,” or business philosophy books by Kiyosaki, Jim Rohn or Brian Tracy.
I hate when people tell me to relax. I understand the intention behind the “advice,” but it also seems to pacify the necessity of what I’m trying to accomplish. And it’s much easier to tell somebody to focus their attention than it is to actually focus. For me, taking a brief walk, going to the gym, or even jumping on Facebook to look at the inane nonsense my “friends” are posting take my mind off the problem long enough to let me get back to a place where I can focus. When in doubt, step away. Five minutes is enough. 20 minutes is better.
Not in the flowery if-you-dream-it-it-will-come type of way. But realize that today is a small piece of your goal. Remember that when things can go wrong they will. You will miss deadlines. You will miss payments. You will have fights. And if you ca look past the little that is today, you can focus on the tomorrow.
Have a partner.
“Partner” here can mean many different things. For me, I was fortunate enough to have a girlfriend who was also my business partner. This type of dynamic does not suit everybody. But when times were rough, and one of us was on the verge of meltdown, the other would step up and assuage the concerns.
As an #entrepreneur, you need to stay focused. And when you’re the CEO and the salesperson and the A/R person and the product development person, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Have somebody (a spouse, business partner, mentor, supportive friend, whoever) that you can vent to when you are on the verge of insanity.
Review your strategy.
Sometimes, when the ideas above don’t seem to work, you may be frustrated with a problem you created yourself. Revising your plan isn’t a negative, like some people assume. To stay mentally strong, you should review how you’re trying to accomplish your goals. Situations may have changes. Your assumptions may have been wrong. Whatever the case, don’t throw in the towel until you’ve first looked in the mirror.
Again, these are not new pieces of advice. They are not meant to take you from idea to success. They are not meant to be considered gospel truth in business. But, when I couldn’t find the mind space to deal with issues, these are the things I turned to to help me maintain my mental capacity.