The Death Trap: Why Entrepreneurs Are More Likely To Commit Suicide
As the number of entrepreneurs rises, so does the number of entrepreneurs who commit suicide. It's sad, but it's a fact. Not too many people consider this before they decide to make their life goals starting and growing a successful business. Those who do know about the risks don't often heed them—they allow their egos to get the better of them and think that they are stronger or wiser than those who "couldn't cut it," those who decided that taking their lives was the best option.
Suicide is not something that you decide on a whim. It's something that you contemplate for weeks, months, maybe even years before deciding to act. You run through all possible scenarios of relieving your pain, of finding some sort of comfort or joy, of ridding your life of all the chaos and overwhelming experiences clouding your perspective. Unfortunately, those who have the "right personality" to do great things in entrepreneurship are also those that are most prone to break and jump off the edge.
Starting a successful business is not something that you simply do; it's something that you live. It's not a 9-5 job — it's an around-the-clock job. Entrepreneurs have the ability to merge with their businesses and their goals to a larger extent than the average individual. They are capable of honing in and obsessing over their projects for extended periods of time with such fervor that they begin to lose track of where they end and their company begins. Arguably, this is necessary for the creation of a successful, innovative and lucrative business. Just as artists identify themselves with their paintings, sculptures, music… so do the entrepreneurs identify with their art: their businesses.
One thing that I came to recently understand all too well is the importance of obsessing over your work. The only way for an entrepreneur to have full control of his company and the direction it takes is to obsess over it. You start at the details and work your way up to the grand picture — you obsess over everything, focusing on every aspect of the company and doing your best to improve, to innovate, to grow and to bring greater benefit to your customers.
Being obsessed can feel like a fresh breath of air; an obsession is your passion. It gives you direction in life and purpose. Having a healthy obsession can be the greatest joy of a person's life. Unfortunately, it is also guaranteed to be the source of greatest stress and anguish.
Because entrepreneurs identify their persons with their company, when their company runs into problems or isn't doing so well, entrepreneurs will take it to heart. They will feel as if they themselves are either being demeaned, scrutinized or underappreciated. I'd go as far as to say that having your business insulted or put down is the same as hearing or watching your child be bullied and harassed. Just as the child is a part of you, so is the business a part of the entrepreneur. Just as entrepreneurs obsess over all the good things about the business, they will obsess threefold over all the negative remarks or results they are experiencing.
Running into such difficulties is, unfortunately, unavoidable. You can't do everything right because you are only human and you will make mistakes from time to time. Consumers are fickle creatures that half the time are uncertain of what they themselves want and trying to cater to their wants and needs is exhausting. But without customers or users, there is no business, so entrepreneurs are always fighting an inner battle between pleasing the status quo and doing what they believe to be right.
To say the least, all of this is nerve-racking. If you are running a business, you already have more on your plate than you can swallow — and that's before the criticism, the mistakes, the bad luck, the unavoidable problems and — we can't forget — all the issues you are having with your personal life. Entrepreneurs devote their time primarily to their business.
However, they remain human and still have needs that have to be catered to on a regular basis — needs that are often left unmet. As human beings, we need a certain amount of sleep, certain nutrients and vitamins, a certain amount of hydration and social interaction. Because entrepreneurs have the ability to obsess so intensely, their basic human needs will often go un-catered to for extended periods of time, affecting their emotional stability.
Without taking care of themselves in conjunction with all the stress and nerve-racking experiences that are a part of the life of an entrepreneur, entrepreneurs' emotional stability and sanity comes to a tipping point. Now, here's where it really gets bad. Entrepreneurs often have certain distinct personality traits that make them good at what they do; one of them being the experience of strong emotional states.
When entrepreneurs feel they often feel very strongly one way or another — almost as if they live in a world where emotions are either black or white, no shades of grey. This is great when joy is felt, but when sadness, uncertainty, stress, or general unhappiness are felt, depression is a common result.
The bigger the company, the more problems will need to be addressed and dealt with. The more problems, the more stress the entrepreneur will need to deal with. The longer things go south, the more bruised the ego becomes and the more their work is affected. The more their work is affected the worse things begin to go and you now have a down spiraling cycle into a dark abyss.
How do you deal with this? How do you avoid falling into such a terrible rut? How do you avoid wanting to take your own life to make it all stop? Talk to someone. Please, please, please, if you believe that you have no way out of a hole, talk to someone — anyone — about it. Talk about your emotions, vent, get advice, don't get advice and just talk at them, whatever — just open lines of communication. The simple act of talking to someone about what you are feeling can be the difference of living to see your company make a great positive impact on humanity and the end of your short-lived life.
The most important thing to remember is that nothing in this world is worth your life. If that is the tradeoff, then you are better off doing something else. There is more than one way to be happy and make a difference in the world that doesn't require carrying such a large burden on your shoulders. I don't want to discourage people from embracing entrepreneurship, but I want to advise all those considering starting a company never to keep their emotions bottled up. Find a confidant. Find a friend that is willing to listen and maybe even give you good advice.
If things start to go south then just remember that your life is more important than any company that you could ever create; without you, there is no company. If you are considering suicide then before you give up on your life, give up on your business. Give yourself a few months to clear your mind and find joy in your life. Then reassess your situation and your dreams.
Maybe entrepreneurship isn't worth it for you. Maybe you'd be happier doing something else. Maybe the industry that you were in wasn't a right fit. There are always other options, other markets, and other companies to start. You are only you. There is no other you and not having you in this world would make the world worse off for it.
Photo credit: Wolf Of Wall St