The Paranormal Life of an Entrepreneur

The Refiners, S1E2

This week I received one of those questions that push your limits and force you to review your pitch. I’d introduced myself to a VC by saying, “I’m a motivational coach for entrepreneurs.” He responded with one question only:

“But do entrepreneurs need to be motivated?”

I confess motivation has never been a problem for me. It’s my way of life, probably because I grew up in a world of sports and competition. Or perhaps it’s because I grew up with a mother who was less-than-motivated.

So when the VC challenged me with that question, I was happy to debate. I answered: “Do you know the difference between motivation and perseverance?”
 He looked puzzled, even a little impatient.

Then I continued: “Entrepreneurs don’t need to develop motivation — but they absolutely need to stay motivated. Along the startup path, an entrepreneur can stumble over 100 reasons to lose their motivation, so they must find 100 ways to stay motivated.”

Over the last three weeks, I’ve been very impressed by the 22 entrepreneurs who have participated in The Refiners, a startup immersion program that empowers foreign founders. They work hard and deal with disappointments, mistakes, and setbacks. And they never complain (weird for French people, isn’t it?). In the next few weeks, their challenge will be to manage fatigue and its consequences while staying motivated. Why is that a challenge?

Because fatigue is public enemy #1 for entrepreneurs.

When I first met with Carlos Diaz, cofounder at The Refiners, to suggest a team-building and coaching program that would boost entrepreneurs’ performances by addressing stress and fatigue, he’d just announced Kwarter’s shutdown. It was his first shutdown after several successes (Emakina, Bluekiwi Softaware), and he was tired.

We went to a famous bakery, called The Boulangerie, in San Francisco, to find a French croissant (yes, it’s common for French people to hunt for French food, even after seven years of expatriation). Carlos was preparing to launch The Refiners with Geraldine LeMeur and Pierre Gaubil, and he was in a perfect mood to consolidate their accelerator’s program with human skills based on athletes’ mental preparation techniques and goodwill. As we chatted, it seemed the planets had aligned: I convinced him to onboard me as a coach to help entrepreneurs.

On the first day of the accelerator, Carlos introduced me as a “paranormal coach” to the entrepreneurs. For sure, my pitch on “goodwill performance” had made a significant mark on his spirit.

Now that was a first for me! The funniest thing is that I’m not the only paranormal encounter they’ll find during their entrepreneurial adventure. Here are five more:

#1: The Idea
 Ideas are born anytime, anyplace, anywhere. Who would have imagined that dorm room side project Facebook would skyrocket into a global service with 8,000 employees and 1.35 billion users? If the idea doesn’t exist, and everyone tells you that you’re crazy, you still have a chance to succeed as an entrepreneur. Now that’s paranormal.

#2: The Fundraising
 Did you ever try to explain the concept of fundraising to your grandpa? The concept that an idea holds value and that someone will give you money because of that actual or future value — admit it, that’s paranormal.

#3: The Coworkers
 Look at the standard profile of any startup’s founders. Take a minute to imagine the somewhat-solitary developer, pounding away at a keyboard 10–12 hours each day, six days a week, partnering with a sales pro working the pitch so quickly you might think he’s talking for the sake of talking. It’s highly unlikely that harmony co-exists between them. Yet every day these teams collaborate to launch startups — yes, that’s paranormal too.

#4: The Chance
 All of the successful entrepreneurs and mentors I meet in Silicon Valley recognize that “chance” is a strong and very real factor in their successes. It almost makes the Valley seem like an otherworldly, paranormal environment.

#5: The Fatigue
 Fatigue is a real-world problem for many founders, because of its physical and mental consequences and because it’s also “public enemy #1” for your motivation and self-confidence.

Have you ever noticed how you can be upset, unfair, and even clumsy when you are tired? Fatigue saps consistency, good mood, creativity, and enthusiasm — all of the qualities you need to make your startup a success and maintain your own well-being.

Fatigue also causes us to make mistakes we might not make otherwise. You might miss a meeting, lose your keys, or stumble over a key point during a pitch.

Remember this: you are so much more than an entrepreneur. You’re a human worthy of well-being. Treat yourself like you treat your planet. For our generation, sustainable development is not an option. It’s a necessity.

So why are you waiting to apply the sustainable development concept to your own life? Your body is not garbage, so don’t treat it as such. Instead:

· Eat healthy foods;

· Get adequate sleep, which for most people is more than six hours per night;

· Exercise regularly;

· Take occasional breaks from the intensity of the entrepreneurial life;

· Think positively;

· Celebrate successes, even small ones;

· Be faithful to your values.

So, dear entrepreneur, as paranormal as your day might be, stay focused on your journey.

I’ll be back next week with entrepreneurs’ stories — both paranormal and normal — plus some tricks to strengthen your motivation.

Barbara Meyer