A new life in startup land

Joakim Achrén
4 min readMar 1, 2019


Next Games in September 2018

As many of you know know, I’m stepping down from the operational side at Next Games, to look after my health and pursue something new.

The decision comes to me after long thoughts on what I want to do with my life. I have been struggling with burnout for the last half a year, with symptoms dating back for several years. The time has come for changes to happen.

In previous years, I’ve been more and more consumed by my career as an entrepreneur. I’ve been living in the belief that this is the ideal job for me, and the fear of failure has been a big strain on my health. It feels that something as great as Next Games is unlikely to happen again to me if there is a major failure or setback. This has immersed me into my current lifestyle of worrying about everything, and has made me obsessed with my work. Since this is the mindset I’ve had for several years now, it is no wonder that it ultimately lead me to burnout.

I’ve been taking steps to getting out of the obsession. Besides taking care of my physical health and seeing therapists, here I’ll describe some simple steps I feel are working.

I want to be bored

I am taking a break from work, to rearrange the way I work and the way that I want be an entrepreneur going forward. During my break, I will focus on doing nothing.

Before I had this full-blown burnout, I’ve had lapses into numbness, which lasted for a day or two. During those lapses, I couldn’t do anything, and basic things were just physically very hard to accomplish. The only way to recover was to put my phone away. Checking email and Slack messages was making things worse. It was a quick fix to recover, a day without my phone and I could get back to work.

Putting my phone away hasn’t worked for a while now. That is why the next stage needs to be more drastic. I will delete all of the distracting apps from my phone. I’m halfway there now, after deleting Facebook and Twitter, and only allowing myself to visit these sites every second day, for 15 minutes, on a computer.

Since I’ve started this practise, I’ve started to observe how people everywhere are filling their time with distractions on their phone. I was recently at an activity park with my kids. I noticed that I was the only adult there who wasn’t possessed by their phone as their kids were running around.

What does my phone have to do with being an entrepreneur? I had the constant need to pull out my phone and see what was going on. I was suffering from the fear of missing out on things. Removing Slack, email, Facebook and Twitter from my phone have freed me. I now feel that I might be able to let my stress levels go down.

How to define work

I’m glad that I have partners in Next Games who will continue making the company great. The future looks sweet and successful for the company and there is much to look forward to. It just isn’t a day-to-day thing for me anymore.

As an entrepreneur, I need a new blueprint for running a business of my own. I’ve been doing the Silicon Valley model for fifteen years: raise funding to quickly grow a business. There is nothing wrong with this model. On the contrary. it’s a great way to build a company that creates lots of jobs and is possibly changing the world with new innovative products.

It’s also a rollercoaster ride that never ends. As the founder of the company, you notice all the ups and downs.

Another analogy: You are falling 100mph and trying to assemble an airplane from hundreds of parts, hoping that it will fly before you hit the ground. The speed and the feeling of danger is thrilling, but is it something you’d want to do from your 20’s until you’re 70-years old? I discovered I can’t do it anymore now at 40.

My new blueprint with be to stay deliberately small. For me, it will be better to successful by being smaller, not bigger. I’m very much inspired by Paul Jarvis’ book “Company of One”. Go look it up.

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