I don’t have time to write this blog. But I can’t sit at my desk in integrity and not write it. Because I’ve owned a number of businesses and I have been to the dark side. And when my mission is to set business owners free, I can’t ignore the black hole that seems to engulf certain entrepreneurial spirits amongst us.
This week I’ve read about two young entrepreneurs (one in his early twenties, the other thirty years old) in America who have ended their life, seemingly worn down by the immense stress that building a business can place on the founder. In this latest article, with the tragic headline ‘Start up founder jumped to her death from a roof top bar’, the writer references a study by Dr. Michael Freeman, a clinical professor at UCSF and an entrepreneur, was one of the first to link higher rates of mental health issues to entrepreneurship.
Of the 242 entrepreneurs he surveyed, 49% reported having a mental-health condition. Depression was the No. 1 reported condition among them and was present in 30% of all entrepreneurs.
This statistic doesn’t surprise me. I talk about this subject a lot with my clients and members… the harsh reality of business that no one tells you when you get started. I call it the roller coaster of business – a world of extreme highs and extreme lows. If you are determined to be successful, this is a ride very few dedicated business owners can avoid. I talk about because I want my clients to be prepared – to buckle up tight and ride out the highs and the lows.
In business, you will have moments of joy, when everything goes right – you win clients, you love your team, the income is looking healthier than it’s ever done. And you will have times when the bottom falls out of your world. You lose a big client, you have a rogue staff member, you are worried about money, you are working too hard and sleeping too little. You can only imagine the worst. You feel like everything is on the line and you’ve put all you have into the business – your heart, your reputation, your time, your money – the thought of losing it all is overwhelming. It’s a lonely and miserable place. Despair can live here if you let it.
But you mustn’t let it. You must know that this is normal. Every business owner experiences the highs and lows. I’ve been there, I know. I nearly had a nervous break down halfway through building my first business. I will never forget how depressed I became during that time.
I do think it is very sad that young people such as the woman in the article are losing their way in our entrepreneurial society – becoming so desperate that they feel they must take their own lives. These are young people with the courage to dream, to step out into the world and take on the challenge of building something amazing. They don’t know that they are also building their own monster, the beast that grows and can eat them alive if they are not ready for it.
Of course it isn’t just young people. Success in business takes its toll on all business owners from time to time. So in writing this I want you to know that this is normal. If you are reading this, you are a business owner. And I know you will have found the whole thing unspeakably tough sometimes. So I just want to say to you something I’ve learned that keeps me sane and grounded, whatever life throws at me:
It always turns out OK. Always.
No matter how bad it seems, no matter how desperate the situation feels – it always gets better. Don’t let things keep you awake at night with worry (although I know you will sometimes). The worry doesn’t fix it. Even if the whole thing crashes and burns, you will be OK. YOU WILL BE OK. Life will go on. Your family and friends will still love you. The sun will still shine. And as Jack Dawsey says in my favorite line in Titanic, “you will die an old lady (or man) warm in your bed”. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems. Just get up in the morning and do the best you can to fix whatever is going wrong. Whatever happens, you’ll be OK.
I work with business owners because I know I can help them. I’m there through good and bad, highs and lows. Mostly we work on the growth and I push people to strive for the dream of a beautiful exit, where they get to live happily ever after. But I know it’s not a straight line to the top. So I’m also the voice of comfort and reason when the going gets tough. I love my work!
If you ever find yourself struggling and feeling like it’s all too much, remember my mantra…”it always turns out OK”.
Thank you for being a dreamer and an action taker.