The Mental Game of Starting Up

How overcoming the mental aspects of entrepreneurship is the key to massive success.

Dr. Louise Rix
The Mental Game
3 min readJun 27, 2023

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Having been a VC-backed founder and a VC investor, I’ve developed a hypothesis; that overcoming the mental challenge is 75% of the difficulty in the early stages of starting a company.

Overcoming the mental challenge is 75% of the difficulty of a start up.

When I told a prominent VC that I wanted to write about the mental challenges founders face, their response was, “but aren’t entrepreneurs are just wired differently?”. And in a recent interview, a reporter asked Elon Musk what encouragement he would give to would-be entrepreneurs and his response was, “if you need any encouragement you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur”.

It is so important that we move away from this rhetoric. This false image prevents qualified and capable people from becoming founders because they don’t feel on the inside how we portray the typical entrepreneur to be on the outside. This is despite there being no strong evidence to suggest that founders have a tendency to experience less fear or doubt than non-founders. In fact, the data suggests there is no difference between founders and non-founders at all.

It also stands to reason that these misconceptions disproportionately affect those who see the system as not designed for them and see themselves as ‘other’ within it. Women, people of colour, those with disabilities, those whose parents couldn’t afford to send them to private school, may be more put off by these misconceptions. This means we miss out on the impact those companies could have on the world.

I asked someone who had worked with hundreds of companies at a large startup accelerator, what proportion of companies they thought failed due to the mental challenges of starting a business. Their answer was 100%. At the time I laughed but they qualified it by saying that every time they could recall an early-stage company had failed they felt they could attribute it to a perceived insurmountable personal challenge felt by the founder that caused them to withdraw, stop trying and eventually give up.

Despite this, it seems to be the topic least talked about. Rather, the startup world is awash with bravado and founders and CEOs are seemingly expected to be superhuman, entirely immune to self-doubt or uncertainty.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to completely debunk the limiting beliefs we hold about ‘the typical entrepreneur’ and normalise the fear, uncertainty and doubt that is inherent to any entrepreneurial effort. The purpose of this publication is to do just that and empower you with practical tools and advice on overcoming any mental challenges you may face to help you achieve massive success.

If you have thoughts on the above I’d love to hear from you in the comments. If you’re a founder or investor in the space I’d love to chat with you. You can find my contact details here. I work with a number of companies as an advisor.

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Dr. Louise Rix
The Mental Game

Female Health, Product, ex-Chief Medical Officer at Béa Fertility, Founder, VC. 🧠 Writing about health tech, female health and The Mental Game 💡 louiserix.com