Wouldn’t it be awesome if we all went through life on an even keel, no matter what happened it didn’t phase us?
Equally wouldn’t it be awesome if Winston Churchill was right and success was actually going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm?
If we did have that even keel would we have as much fun? would the lack drama in our lives keep us as engaged and interested enough to do it all again tomorrow?
Fact is we all have moods, life has ebbs and flows, shit happens both good and bad. Failure while a fantastic learning opportunity does effect us a very personal level and impacts our ability to cope or have the resilience to pick ourselves up and do it again – it seems so we can fail again and learn some more. Drama is what keeps it interesting. As a business owner the high highs and the low lows do happen and they do drive us to come back tomorrow to achieve the high again or to avoid ever experiencing another of those lows.
Understanding The Struggle
My all time go-to blog when feeling what I now understand to be The Struggle is Ben Horowitz post titled “The Struggle“. Discovering this blog revolutionised my life – not in that it provided answers, it doesn’t, it provides context and a shared experience. Everything he lists in defining The Struggle had me nodding and agreeing, his post told me I am not alone and that really mattered to me.
Read this blog! tell me if you don’t have that same ah-ha moment and if it doesn’t change your life, even a little. Here is a tiny taster to get you interested in reading The Struggle:
- The Struggle is when you wonder why you started the company in the first place.
- The Struggle is when you are surrounded by people and you are all alone. The Struggle has no mercy.
- Every great entrepreneur from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg went through The Struggle and struggle they did, so you are not alone. But that does not mean that you will make it. You may not make it. That is why it is The Struggle.
His summation at the end of the section “some stuff that may or may not help” helped me the most:
Remember that this is what separates the women from the girls. If you want to be great, this is the challenge. If you don’t want to be great, then you never should have started a company.
Is there an art to coping?
Having felt a little tired and a little stressed recently I reread The Struggle to validate that I am not alone in the world then half heartedly reached to the internet to read about good coping mechanisms, thinking I would only find articles on sleeping, eating well, exercising and all the things I know I forgo when stressed. Alongside those usual tips there were a couple of good sources of advice with specific techniques that I knew all along, and I even tell other people to do, but found myself forgetting:
- reframe negative thoughts
- maintain focus on what matters
- talk it out
For me talking is the best technique, I verbalise to think things through (often mistaken for verbal diarrhoea) so for me it’s logical to talk it out. Recognising my stress symptoms as a prompt to go talk through the cause is, it seems, my biggest challenge.
So this got me thinking – what if you don’t have a natural support network who provide that sounding board function? or what if the stress is being caused by your usual support network not being their usual sounding board? here are a few ideas:
- find a mentor, this can be hard – to find a person who understands your context, has walked in your shoes and is willing to give you their time as your mentor – hard but possible, people are generous and supportive of others experiencing the startup or growing pains they have overcome themselves
- find a business partner, if you do not have a co-founder or partner to work through the challenges with it can be hard to find one who will share your vision, passion and moral basis – again hard but possible, business partners can join your business at any age or stage with the right motivation and agreements in place
- share with your team, Antony Horowitz does provide this insight within his post. He suggests you won’t be able to share every burden but share every burden that you can.
If talking isn’t your coping mechanism identifying the technique that talking provides for me should be top of your list. Finding effective means of reframing your thoughts, pushing through the current struggle and coming out the other end in as shortest timeframe as possible (I don’t like to take my struggle into the next day, it would waste a perfectly productive day) will make a difference.
Some of the useful links referred to in this blog post: