Post-Startup Psychotherapy

Ohad Frankfurt
Jul 13, 2016 · 6 min read

It’s been a weird year.

The last ten years were about pursuing. My career goals were the main focus of my life; since 2012 I was one of the founders of a startup called Swayy, and I defined myself and made most of my life choices around that title. Then, back in July 2015, we were acquired by SimilarWeb. since then, I’ve been lucky enough to have a chance to focus on discovering — figuring out who I am and what I’d like to be.

It’s pretty easy to identify a pattern of ups and downs throughout an entrepreneurial journey. As you build your own company, you find yourself in a pretty emotional climate — and once my co-founders and I got on the grind, I found myself living in years of endless trial and error, where my inner monsters were able to run free.

This emotional climate is mostly due to the fact that pursuing your dream and starting your own venture is a crazy decision and a crazier journey. You have the option to have a job, go to work, get paid, and go home, but instead, you choose to live a life with endless worries and lots of canned tuna.

It’s not an easy choice to make, going in favor of the sleepless and broke. It’s anxiety-provoking, stressful, and pretty-much-always depression-inducing. There were days that started with a huge smile, but a few hours later I would feel like everything is closing on me, like nothing I do would make sense. These days were sometimes impossible to handle, and I can only assume those around me felt that.

Whether you’re making tons of bank or just getting started, even the most extraordinarily entrepreneurial human is a human, and all of that stress pretty quickly leaves a mark on your soul.

As a college dropout — surrounding myself with “better” people than I am is one of my main goals in life — this is my way of learning new things about this world, and throughout my entrepreneurial journey, I was lucky enough to have mentors and advisors that taught me about business and life and helped me understand many things I couldn’t figure out on my own, but about a year ago I realized I should have someone, unbiased, who would help me deal not only with the things I have on my mind, but what’s going on deep in my soul. Finally, as a new professional journey started, I’ve decided to start a personal one as well and to seek answers to all the open questions I had. to achieve that, I started to attend therapy and made a few decisions that changed the way I live my life, both on a personal and professional level.

1. Avoiding Decisions: The Fear

Even when you’ve made the decision to dive a bit deeper and understand why you make the choices you make, both the good and the bad ones, it’s easy to forget the the endless situations where we avoid taking certain decisions and pushing ourselves forward.

Our decision-making process is complex. Everything — Every. Single. Thing — we choose to do or avoid is based on something — sometimes, often, on fears. These fears are often based on both personal and professional experiences from our past — but unless we’re constantly aware of these fears, enough to identify them as they are and as they come, we will never be able to make decisions without them.

Throughout this journey I was often too drawn to stay in my comfort zone, the result was taking decisions that were “easier” to make such as staying in Israel instead of moving to the US to be closer to the market or avoiding making connections with some people. But over the last year, I had a chance to understand some of the reasons that led me to make certain decisions while avoiding others and since then I’ve decided to sort of A/B test just about everything I can in my life. This actually means i’m planing and (sometimes) executing 2 versions of each decision I’m about to make, version A is the obvious one (the “comfort zone”) while version B is that decision I used to convinced myself I shouldn’t make. Without planing and experiencing both the A and the B of most decisions i’m about to make, i’d probably miss many of what life has to offer. Since making this decision, I try to get myself into situations I tried to avoid before, just so I could find out which path is better than the other.

2. Looking Forward To Look Away: Extreme Focus

Being a startup founder means keeping your eyes on the prize (or as others call it — the lighthouse), and sometimes I failed to do so. Throughout our journey we had potential investors and clients who didn’t see the value in our product while others said it’s absolutely amazing, we sometimes planned and released product features that delivered zero value while others turned out to be a major success, and on top all that we were approached by several companies who showed interested in us joining them while we were trying to grow the business.

These highs and lows can make us lose focus, leading us to make decisions or pursue choices that don’t really make sense. Existing becomes about surviving, leading us to make decisions that seem to benefit us in the short-term, without thinking about their long-term consequences. Staying focused is what helps us achieve our goals — and that means not running away when the shit hits the fan and not being tempted when certain opportunities arise. I’d like to think of these moments as sailing a small boat out in the sea: sharks will try to attack, the weather won’t be in our favor and sometimes we’ll be tempted to jump ships. But dealing with these situations (both the good and the bad ones) can only be done by constantly rephrasing our self-examination and asking ourselves how can we put everything into perspective in order to make better decisions, no matter what challenge or opportunity arise along the way. This state of mind can truly help us stay focused and confident in our ability to reach that lighthouse on our own

3. Honesty and transparency : closing the gap.

There is a huge difference between honesty and transparency. Honesty can be achieved in multiple ways, some more passive than the others. Transparency, however is an active process; it’s maintaining connections, and being communicative about your decision-making process.

In a state of transparency, those around us should feel like we keep nothing from them, like they know every detail about us and that they can take an active part in our journey to greatness. Transparency breeds trust, leading to more rewarding, active relationships.

During the last 5 years I failed to fully involve others in what were going on with my life. I now understand that most of my closest friends and family were not involved in anything that was going on. whenever something happened, whether an ongoing fundraising process, a new product we were working on or even a negotiation process with a potential partner, I always kept it to myself, thinking that this is the best way to handle it. My lack of ability to truly communicate as I wish to or as others expected me to, usually ended up creating a lack of trust between myself and people I respect and love. Attending therapy allowed me to for the first time to be fully transparent and helped me to act the same in other situations in life.

It’s been a weird year.

A year into therapy, i’m lucky to have a chance to focus on understanding the reasons that leads me to take actions, and trying to deliver greater value on a professional and personal levels to those surrounding me.

Ultimately, the kind of therapy we decide to start is not important — it can be talking to a psychologist, finding focus and silence in meditation or any other kind of “Me Time” that will allow us to have a healthy dialog with our body and soul.

It’s easy to think that therapy is for those who need to fix something in themselves, but I see it as a compass that can help us walk a better path. If entrepreneurs are crazy enough to build companies from scratch and make endless sacrifices in order to chase their dreams, they should be conscious enough to have someone or something in their life which can help them grow, be a better version of themselves, and improve their chances to reach that lighthouse.

Thanks to Lior Degani

Ohad Frankfurt

Written by

Stung by the splendor of a sudden thought. Founder and CEO at http://swayy.co

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