The One Thing That Will Halt Your Startup In Its Tracks & How To Overcome It

If you spend a few moments online reading and researching the world of entrepreneurship and startup culture — you’d be forgiven for being lured into believing it’s the Holy Grail of life choices.

Millions and even billions of dollars worth of investment are seemingly a few smart choices away, whilst an army of fickle millennials and early adopters’ await to barrack and cheer you on.

It can seem intoxicating to those on the outside, the ability to create your own income, define your own career, build your own community and forge your own future.

It’s true that selling online, creating an app, designing a product or launching a service has never been so easy or as affordable as it is today. 20 years ago the emphasis was on having a profession or trade. Something to perfect over the years, to find your place in the local community and have a reliable and seemingly secure job for life.

That traditional mode of thinking has gone out the window, we’ve eagerly exchanged knowledge for instantaneous information. If you want to build a coffee table you don’t call the local carpenter of 30 years — you’ll watch a DIY video on YouTube and build it for 1/10 of the price.

The world of entrepreneurship is merely an extreme evolution of that mindset. Instead of creating your own coffee table, people are choosing to disrupt established industries with more fervour than ever before.

First it was Napster causing the music industry to self implode, next was print media losing out to online blogs, now it’s hotels battling AirBnB and taxi companies struggling to contain Uber.

Established industries (some would say cabals even) put to the sword via the bright and innovative minds of the present.

But as they often say, when a deal seems too good to be true ‘buyer beware’. The path to riches and unbridled success is littered with the corpses of thousands of startups still clenching tightly to their broken dreams.

Even success itself can be fleeting. Some of the hottest and heavily funded players have undergone a remarkable fall from grace. Look at the former new kids on the block who have been kicked to the curb, seen their stars fade or have been consigned to the annuals of history.

In among the wreckage you’ll find Color ($41M down the drain), Path, Tumblr, FourSquare, Meerkat, MySpace, and Bebo just to name a few.

That’s not say your idea can’t be successful or that your business is destined to fail — but it’s important to remain realistic.

90% of startups fail.

So why isn’t such an alarming statistic openly discussed or even highlighted? The truth is, everyone loves a winner especially in startup land. We all aspire for more in this life, we celebrate success and shy away from failure.

But why isn’t that free-flowing aspirational thinking tempered with some gritty realism?

If it was, investors wouldn’t take so many foolish risks or get carried away in PR spin. Companies wouldn’t make so many glaring mistakes or back the wrong horse and individuals wouldn’t feel such extreme levels of pressure which can be detrimental to their health and wellbeing.

It’s all very well having $80M in capital but still no business model, but sooner or later the bills are going to be need to be paid.

The old mantra of ‘fake it until you make it’ was designed for an industry rife with speculative numbers, unreliable user growth and charismatic founders that can talk the talk, if not walk the walk.

I wanted to talk about one of the most devastating things that can happen to your startup. To be clear, it isn’t that you’ve been unable to secure a Series A round of funding or that your user growth has stalled (granted these are certainly real challenges) — it goes to the core of who you are. The core of who we are individuals.

It’s an emotion few entrepreneurs will ever admit to publicly for fear of unnerving their staff and scaring off investors. It’s effects are far-reaching and can have a profoundly negative effect your chances of success — who wants to hear about that?

So what is this treacherous monster luring in our midst? One seemingly hell-bent on extinguishing any semblance of enthusiasm, motivation or momentum?

Some call it ‘the blues’, others refer to it as a ‘little black cloud’ but we all know it as depression.

The idea of having the occasional bad day is something even the most effervescent and optimistic individual has experience with.

Sometimes for whatever unexplainable reason it really is just one of those days where you got out of the wrong side of bed.

But as a founder or entrepreneur every ‘off day’ is a backwards step from your ultimate goal. Any sense of lethargy or disinterest quickly permeates your work. Emails aren’t responded to, ideas stop flowing, your mood shifts from inspired to apathetic, your drive drops and your focus becomes blurred. That’s when your startup teeters on the brink of success or failure.

I know, I’ve experienced it.

People often complain about the pressure they feel having to curate their lives through social media. That tiresome daily routine of creating the illusion everything is right in your world, that you couldn’t possibly be any happier and that you’re constantly feeling #blessed.

The truth is sometimes you’re not, sometimes you feel so overwhelmed you become paralysed by not knowing where to start.

Magnify that level of stress and pressure by 1000x when it comes to running your own business.

Is anyone surprised that the majority founders wind up burned out, bankrupt and broken? It’s no wonder that once the dust has settled, the safe haven of a 9–5 job provides some welcome respite to the cut-throat world of the startup ecosystem.

Aside from the usual processes of ensuring cash flow is heading in the right direction through to the tricky landscape of staff morale, as a founder you have to constantly be flexible, energetic and highly motivated.

If you aren’t — how can you expect those around you to be? As the owner it’s imperative you lead by example, setting the tone for how your company operates and is perceived internally and externally.

Would the Virgin Group be the success it is if its founder Sir Richard Branson turned up half-asleep in his sweatpants? He embodies the brand because it’s a genuine reflection of him.

What does your business / startup say about you as a founder?

How can you maintain that relentless positivity if behind the scenes you’re left feeling deeply despondent at the end of the day? How can you sell the dream when it feels like it’s turning into a nightmare?

Whilst everyone’s circumstances are different, there are a few simple techniques that I’d encourage you try. These will help you regain that sense of self-belief and also ward off those feelings’ lethargy and dejection.

They’ve worked for me and I hope they’ll be just as effective for you too.

10 Small (But Effective) Ways To Beat Depression Every Time

1. Get enough sleep, that means turning off that smartphone and leaving it out of the bedroom.

2. Listen to upbeat music that distracts and lifts your mood.

3. Disconnect for an hour each day and go outside for a walk or exercise. The world isn’t going to end if you don’t send that email in the next 30 seconds.

4. Stop the negative self talk and self-doubt. The only person who can make you feel insecure is you.

5. Write down five things that other people love about you. This makes it impossible to self-sabotage.

6. Realize that depression is transient and talk to a professional if you experience it consistently.

7. Accept that people are going to talk whether you’re doing good or bad.

8. Be around people that make you laugh and lift you higher.

9. Learn the value of human contact, knowing people love you makes a real difference. Choose experiences vs watching other peoples.

10. Eating a natural diet full of fresh and tasty foods will dramatically impact your energy levels and mood.

Once you’ve gained control of the techniques to minimise your susceptibility to depression — you’ll have the ability to be somebody who makes everybody feel like somebody.

When you’re able to achieve that, you’ll be amazed at how quickly success will follow.



Founder of Former founder of & Proponent of fountain pens.

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