It is now well acknowledged in the startup community that only a tiny fraction of new ventures succeed. Nobody knows what happens to the ones who failed because they never get media attention.
Whether successful or not, almost one third of entrepreneurs have experienced depression and that is a very high percentage.
Depression is an epidemic, especially among entrepreneurs around the world and nobody wants to talk about it openly.
Past few years has witnessed many suicides in the start up community.
The media hype around entrepreneurship and start ups around the world makes it sound like it’s a picnic to Hyde Park, where anyone who can spell ‘apple’ can jump in and enjoy the fresh air.
Many young people even believe you just order few books on entrepreneurship from Amazon, follow popular CEO’s on social media, talk about business/revenue models even if they don’t understand them, hey – you are an entrepreneur.
Depression can affect anyone, not just entrepreneurs. However, what adds to the misery for start up founders is they are often alone in this long and overwhelming journey. Either they isolate themselves from society and friends or their friends isolate them.
It is unfortunate that many refer to sadness due to minor setback as depression, which has diluted the seriousness of ‘real’ depression where people have constant suicidal thoughts.
If you were employed and suffered from depression, life can become very hard, yet there is some motivation for you to get up from bed, drive to work and meet people (even if you don’t like them much).
When you are employed, you may have two bad days in a week, but three good days to balance it off and you can enjoy the weekend with the family or friends. There is no such thing as weekend for entrepreneurs.
There is a reason why entrepreneurs do not speak up openly. Starting a business is seen as an adventure undertaken by the courageous. It is not an act of bravery that requires physical strength. Entrepreneurship requires mental strength, perseverance and a never give up spirit to fight any challenge that comes their way.
The difference between a small business and a startup
Many mistakenly assume start ups as smaller version of small business. A small business like a coffee shop is able to generate revenue as soon it is launched.
Start ups on the other hand is a product that is yet to be built, a market that is yet to be discovered and a revenue model that is yet to be identified.
Start ups take a lot of time. Many struggle to find investors, struggle to scale and then there is the ever growing challenge of acquiring customers in the highly competitive economy, let alone make any profit.
The added pressure of either doing it all alone or with under staffed resources can pose a lot of mental stress on the founders even if they have the investor backing.
Working under prolonged period of stress can lead to mental health problems even for the thick skinned people.
What are the coping strategies for start up founders experiencing depression ?
First and foremost, you must understand that you are attempting something which very few in the world would dare to. Hence you need to pat on your back for even trying.
Most entrepreneurs achieve success only in their 3rd or 4th attempt.
It is okay to feel the emotions you are going through. It is also okay not to feel any emotions because that is what depression does to you.
One needs to remove the thought what should have been. If you are reading this, it means you are alive and as long as you are alive, there are possibilities to bounce back in life.
Few things you must do to take care of yourself during depression are :
Set realistic expectations
It is all right if you are not going to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. Be yourself. It is better to be known as ‘The best Dad’ rather than a millionaire nobody cares about. Nobody has achieved success overnight. Stop reading those books with title similar to ‘Get rich in 100 days’. The only people got rich from that book are the publishers and the author.
Cut off from social media
Unless you really need to know your friends’ daily schedule for breakfast and lunch and you are intrigued to know how ugly they look in a swim suit, there is no real reason to have thousands of friends on Facebook. One or two close friends who support you in your journey is enough.
Don’t blame anyone :
You might get agitated yourself as to why you got into this. It is perfectly fine to think that way.Imagine how frustrated you would have been had you not pursued your dream. You only what it takes to run a business only when you get into it.
Look after your health:
Nothing more important than your mental health. Exercise, eat healthy, listen to music, read books, write positive thoughts and connect with people who will motivate you.
The above image was shot near Piccadilly Circus in London.
What you can see in the image above is a pigeon on top of a street lamp and dark clouds in the background. Yet there is a glimmer of hope in this gloomy world of entrepreneurship.
What you cannot see in the above image is the man who clicked the picture who wanted to end his life around that time.
It’s been a long and tiring journey since then. He has survived to write this post.
There is hope. Never give up !
If your loved ones do not support you in your entrepreneurial journey – I will.