The self inflicted wounds that cause early burnout among startup entrepreneurs

Envy.

That’s the word of the day.

Try to avoid keeping up with the Kevin’s. That’s the digital entrepreneur equivalent of keeping up with the Joneses.

I know many entrepreneurs who are constantly comparing themselves to other fellow founders and wondering a) how did they raise money for “xyz” company, or “how did they raise money so quickly? b) why did I not come up with that idea? or c) how come they are growing faster than us? d) how are they able to get more press than we can or e) why is everyone talking about their company more than ours?

There are any number of reasons why entrepreneur’s envy other founders.

Envy causes a ton of stress. It is not limited to entrepreneurs alone, take the case of MIT students.

Stress causes you also to make irrational conclusions and bad decisions. When you operate under stress, you will end up making the mistake of “good data, wrong conclusion, bad decision”.

So, how do you handle stress? Since this is largely a self inflicted wound, it is “curable”, but requires a lot of discipline.

1. The most important thing I have learned is to keep routines and exercise to relieve stress. Many folks read to relieve stress, others cook, still others eat. The worst of the 3 of these is to eat. I have known at least 30% of the founders who come to our accelerator program, gain more weight after the program. The biggest reason for the weight gain is the increased food intake, especially bad foods such as those with excess sugar.

The time that I found most of our entrepreneurs eat the worst is between 2 pm in the afternoon and 6 pm in the evening. The afternoon snack is likely the worst.

Most entrepreneurs tend to wake up late, so they tend to skip breakfast. Lunch, most likely will be relatively healthy since they tend to have guilt from the previous night’s drinks. Dinner is takeout for most days among the founders I know. The older ones tend to eat at home with the family, so they tend to eat a healthy dinner.

2. Make healthy choices about eating. More than not exercising eating bad causes more weight gain. That’s one of the prime reasons to carter food to your office, instead of “grabbing a burger” for lunch. Sit down with the team and eat healthy. That’s going to work wonders for the team and you tend to eat a lot healthy.

3. Have small milestones weekly that you can celebrate. I am a big fan of frequent celebrations, for achievements, how ever small. They reinforce the belief that your team is in it together and everyone is contributing towards building the company. Celebrations also tend to reinforce culture.

Above all, try to reduce your stress by not comparing your startups progress to others, even the competitors. It may seem to be that winning is all important and that you have to beat the competitors, but I found that the founders that achieve the best or “top dog” status, believe that their sacrifices were rarely worth the stress.

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2 thoughts on “The self inflicted wounds that cause early burnout among startup entrepreneurs”

  1. Mukund,

    Try telling them that unless you are a Bill Gates, there will always be someone above and below you. Even Warren Buffet has Bill Gates above him.

    What I mean is, if they look at a guy who has raised 100 mil and they raise 120mil, even then they may find someone (to compare) who has raised 120 mil but at a better valuation or some other guy has raised 200 mil. There is just no end to comparison (and feeling bad in the process) is what I have learnt ! Better to focus on coming out with a great product or giving your customer a great experience.

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