Being nuts is my edge

This morning I asked Mika to find me an inspirational post about being a startup founder. She referred me to The Story of My Addiction by Sunil Rajaraman. Sunil shares his personal, 9-year journey as the founder of Scripted.

It is a great, naked read if you’ve ever wondered how hard it is to build a tech company from scratch. It’s all in there … the big idea that flopped … the moments of crushing self-doubt … the brush with bankruptcy … the toll on his health and personal life.

One paragraph in particular resonated with me:

Very few CEOs I know are totally “normal.” Most are obsessive-compulsive . A CEO’s energy can be used in either a positive way or in a way that puts us in a very dark, dark place. I’ve seen the dark and the light, and I know most of my friends have too.

Let’s face it — everyone is a bit nuts. We’ve all got our strange obsessions, hangups and irrational fears. Being a founder just amplifies what is already there.

I go through the same highs and lows as every founder. The moments of self-doubt. The imposter syndrome. Elations at small victories. Frustrations when things don’t work out.

Age and experience have helped me get better at dealing with startup highs and lows — mostly because I’m more patient.

Sometimes I wish entrepreneurship was a “normal” career which didn’t make me so nuts.

But I can’t. And wouldn’t want to, because being a bit nuts is my edge.

The blessing and curse of my 3 AM brain

When I get into “startup mode” something happens to my sleeping patterns — I wake up every morning around 3 AM with my mind racing. I don’t know exactly when it happens … I just slowly drift out of sleep and realize I’m thinking about my startup.

Sometimes I’m trying to come up with a solution to a problem. Or a new idea will pop into my head. Or I rethink a customer conversation and wish I had handled it differently.

As you can probably imagine, losing sleep quickly leads to exhaustion and burnout. My worst startup experiences happen when I’m not taking care of myself.

But I wouldn’t turn off my 3 AM brain even if I could because I generate too many good ideas. My brain just seems to work differently at 3 AM — like somebody poured a magical elixir into my ear and created new connections.

So I’m trying to have my cake and eat it too. I’m letting myself wake up at 3 AM and spending a few minutes thinking about whatever is on my mind. I then try to fall back to sleep by listening to audiobooks or I just get up and start working.

Embracing insomnia is a bit nuts

Yes, this is a bit nuts. Normal people try to prevent or cure insomnia — just as I do when I’m not working on a startup.

But I’m not normal. I’m a founder. And being a bit nuts is my edge.

Originally published at ScribbleIQ Blog.

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