How Entrepreneurs Can Stay Sane In High Pressure Situations

by Paul Hudson

There's a reason CEOs and sociopaths have very similar mentalities — because they have to in order to survive. The disconnect that sociopaths have from their emotions is the same disconnect that successful entrepreneurs exhibit. Unfortunately, a lot of the time these stone-cold personalities are not much more than facades, veiling immense stress and pain.

Entrepreneurs have it more difficult than they are willing to admit. It's not acceptable for these leaders to exhibit weakness — even if that means keeping bottled up depression and suicidal thoughts. Depression is common amongst entrepreneurs; with jobs requiring immense attention coupled with tons of problems, massive debt and poor lifestyles, there is nothing 'fun' about finding yourself in such a position.

That's often the worst part: going in, you'll have high hopes and aspirations, plans for where your company will go. The truth is that 3 out of 4 venture-backed startups fail. Even of those that do succeed in staying in business, 95 % of them fall short of their desired mark. In other words, for every 400 entrepreneurs, 5 will achieve their goals.

With knowledge of the risk and having no choice but to live on bread and water for months or years, suicide begins to look like a good option. Suicide is never a good option. Here's how to avoid such irrational notions:

1. Sleep

Every so often I will catch myself cutting down on my sleep too much. There's always work to be done and even when the work is done, falling asleep isn't always the first thing on your to-do list. When you work 80 hours and up a week for months, you begin to crave doing some of the things that you used to do, like go out for drinks or watching TV.

Unfortunately, although going out for a few rounds or watching a couple of episodes of a series will be fun during the moment, you will be paying for it for the rest of the week. Not getting enough sleep does not allow your mind to function at optimal levels, making you feel moody and making you work inefficiently. Your work will suffer for it and that'll make you feel even worse.

2. Exercise

The key is to make yourself feel good. Nothing makes you feel better than being healthy — in other words, make sure to exercise. Back when I had a restaurant I managed to gain 30 lbs. within the first 8 months. I was working 70-90 hours a week, 7 days a week for 8 months — although to be fair, I did take two days off somewhere in between. Exercise at least twice a week — preferably 3 times. Make sure to get in your cardio; running works wonders. CIA operatives use it while under cover to keep their mind clear, focused and on point. Plus, exercise will also make you look good — looking good will make you feel even better.

3. Eat Well

Yes, you're busy — but not too busy to eat an apple instead of a slice of pizza. Being broke and busy makes eating healthy a bit more difficult. The two most common mistakes are overeating crap and not eating enough. You're an entrepreneur, not a superhuman; you need to eat and you need to eat the nutrients that your body needs in order to function properly. Gaining wait or starving yourself will make you moody, which is likely to make you depressed. Take it from me; I've been there.

4. Get Laid

I know that I said nothing will make you feel better than being healthy…well, that's not entirely true. Nothing will make you feel better than having sex — but sex will make you healthier, so I guess my original statement holds true. I have heard of some entrepreneurs giving up sex for a year to focus on their projects. But why? Correct me if I am wrong, but having sex does not necessitate a relationship. Otherwise, I've had enough relationships in the past half decade to last me a lifetime.

Sure, having sex will take up some of your time, but four hours a week (to chat, drink, and have at each other) is worth the tradeoff. Your body and mind will literally feel better after having sex thanks to all those amazing chemicals your body releases during coitus. This four-hour investment will make the rest of the work you do put in more efficient. But wear protection — you don't want to add possible STDs or babies to your roster of problems.

5. Keep Ridiculously Optimistic

Negative thoughts are contagious; before you know it, your whole world will seem bleak and miserable. Always, always, always believe that things will work out in the end. Believe they will work out when the going gets tough. Believe they will work out when the going gets really tough. Believe they will work out when things get impossible. Believe they will work out until there's no possibility of things working out. That's when you look at the reality of things.

6. Don't Think About Your Debt

One of the largest stress sources for any entrepreneur is debt. You owe money to your family, to your friends, to VCs, and to credit lenders. You're on the brink of bankruptcy — don't think about it. If you don't have any control of it, then put it to the back of your mind. There is no reason to stress yourself out — the life of an entrepreneur will do that for you. Don't forget that when things do work out, your debt will disappear.

7. Don't Forget To Relax And To Have Fun

Entrepreneurs have a nasty habit of working themselves to the bone. The problem is that once they are worn out, they can no longer push themselves and either breakdown, become suicidal and have no choice but to quit. Instead, make sure to give yourself a few hours every week (a day if possible) to do anything but work-oriented tasks. Relax. Have some fun. Our minds need time to slow down and to reboot. Do some yoga. Meditate — let your mind rest at ease for a moment. This will clear all the white noise floating about in your head and allow you to look at the issues with a clearer perspective.

8. Stay Social

Human beings need to be social — we need human interaction. The damage that will result from completely distancing yourself from your friends and family will outweigh the good from getting in that extra bit of work. If you don't work on the relationships that you do have, you will lose them. More than that, having someone to talk to and vent to could one day save your life. The life of an entrepreneur can be a very dark one.

9. Remember, It's Only Money

It's only money. You can't take it with you when you die -- and you will die. Bankruptcy is always an option and you can always bounce back afterwards. If the choice is your wallet or your life, always choose your life.

10. Quit

Sometimes you have no choice but to call it quits. Sometimes a project simply won't work and the detriment it's been having to your health and wellbeing isn't worth the possible success. What's the point of doing your best to start a company when you may not be around to run it? Physical and mental health problems do arise and cannot be ignored. True entrepreneurs take failure as a learning experience and not the end of all things. If it means saving your life, then quit. You can always try again.

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