Are Entrepreneurs Suicidal?

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The topic of depression in startup founders is becoming more prominent. It is an important discussion that was highlighted when outspoken serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis was asked his views by a journalist.

He replied, “Running a startup is a mentally-challenging pursuit, with the chances of failure being absurdly high and the effort required being so extreme. Most of the people attracted to changing the world via a startup are highly-driven and quixotic, but sometimes they are manic.”

“I don’t think startups cause depression, but I do think depressed people can be lured into the chemical rush of running a startup without understanding how trying it really is.”

My personal view on the topic is that being prone to depression should not be a contra-indicator to becoming an entrepreneur.

Instead there are methods for dealing with depression, fostering resilience and reducing fear (of failure, of success) that while important for all entrepreneurs become imperative for those who need to fight their shadows more than others.

The most likely accelerator for depression is not being true to one self. Do a startup for the right reasons that resonate at your soul level, not because it is cool. Not being true to yourself creates emotional friction that will wear down your resilience and let the shadows in.

There is also a misunderstanding about what generates depression and people often oversimplify this very complex issue. It is not as simple as “just getting over it”.

This comment from a Reddit thread on the topic points to the complexity involved:

“The solution to depression is to be happier and stay positive, but doing that involves rehauling habits, improving one’s environment, setting goals, having the proper environment and support, and putting consistent work into changing the way one thinks, day after day without fail or else one runs the risk of undoing every step of progress. By the way, you have to do all of this while your mind tells you how pointless everything is and leeches away your capacity to feel pleasure or pride about a job well done, so any progress you do make provides no intrinsic motivation.”

Many entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed by the sheer number and weight of the decisions they face. Do I hire this person? Do I fire that person? Should I take funding from them, or them? Who is giving me the right advice? What are the consequences of releasing a new product feature – too early, or too late? Should I sell the business to them, at that price? And on and on.

These decisions can mean life or death for their business. Yet for people living with anxiety, every single decision, no matter how small they may seem to others, feels like they have life or death consequences. Factor anxiety into the mix for an entrepreneur and they become far more prone to depression and even suicide.

Another Reddit comment highlights how someone with anxiety thinks:

“It’s like a life or death game of chess. You have to think ten moves ahead and have a move for every situation in advance. The fear of death gets worse with every possible move you analyze. And if life makes a move that you didn’t see coming, instant breakdown, no matter how small insignificant the move was.”

Nor is depression a tap that can be turned on or off at will. It is with someone constantly as another poster to Reddit said:

“Every day of my life! Normal people don’t get it. They think you are acting crazy and irrational and treat you like you can just turn it on and off whenever you want, like it’s a choice. It’s not. I’ve learned to “deal” with it and suppress it a bit but it’s always there.”

Unfortunately there is a rise in suicide rates across all demographics, not only entrepreneurs. A 24% rise between 1999 and 2014 in the US has been attributed to concerns about jobs and personal finances. These issues can be exacerbated amongst entrepreneurs worried about how they keep supporting their staff and feeding their families.

It is important for entrepreneurs to realise that there is no direct causal link between being in the grip of fear and spiralling into depression. Realisation and resilience are key to staving off the shadows. Former Google and now CEO at Accompany, Amy Chang said in an interview recently, “I’ve made so many mistakes along the way. I have those ‘3am wake up and can’t go back to sleep moments’ all the time. It is good for people who are just starting their careers to know that too, so that when they are totally scared out of their minds of failure, or whatever else, they know it is 100% normal.”

My advice to entrepreneurs, be they new to the game or old hands, is tread the entrepreneurial path with eyes wide open. Do not be afraid to talk about your fears and anxieties and seek assistance if things get more serious.

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This post was initially published as part of the EXOscalr BeFierce newsletter. You can subscribe here:http://eepurl.com/bxGzD1 .

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A World Leading Entrepreneur Growth Program for Leaders

EXOscalr is proud to launch its world leading Entrepreneur Growth Program, which is designed to provide early to mid stage companies invaluable insights into achieving high growth.

The Program runs over 6 weeks and gives senior executives practical advice, algorithms and methodologies that will significantly boost the velocity of their growth.

Announcing the Program, EXOscalr CEO Rand Leeb-du Toit said, “Growth is the perennial focus for business leaders. Yet it is often misunderstood and mismanaged. The Entrepreneur Growth Program dispels the myths and delivers an unfair competitive advantage.”

“This advantage firstly delivers the impetus for growth through a suite of tools designed to achieve a growth boost and secondly, delivers methods for harnessing the ensuing chaos and ensuring it is directionally correct.”

The Program is available to companies globally and brings cutting edge insights from leading high growth organisations, in Silicon Valley and internationally, directly to entrepreneurs and business executives.

In addition, EXOscalr is releasing its 2016 Growth Report which highlights the 10 facets for driving business growth and how to create a concerted front strategy and business-wide operating system for achieving the levels of growth only seen by leading companies.

“Growth is not all lead generation and pitching. There is a much wider set of activities that must be undertaken by dedicated growth groups working across a business. Anything less is tantamount to stagnation in today’s dynamic business environment,” said Mr Leeb-du Toit.

The Growth Report explores what a dedicated growth group should consist of and also what to look for when hiring the right people for it.

The Report can be downloaded from the EXOscalr website and expressions of interest in the Entrepreneur Growth Program can be made directly to Mr Leeb-du Toit via email: rand@exoscalr.com.

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Growth.Reinvented: How Leading Companies Create a Concerted Front For Business Growth

As evidenced by numerous surveys, growth is the major enduring focus for business leaders. However, growth is tackled ad hoc across many organizations. Leading companies drive rapid, sustained growth through a concerted front strategy.

More and more companies have a leadership mandate to achieve growth, a vision of what growth needs to be and an understanding of a growth culture.

They embark on various growth initiatives, but these are mostly carried out in silos.

Leading organizations not only undertake numerous growth activities, but they also conduct them using a concerted front strategy.

They start by formulating a view across all their growth activities. They then translate that view into a business-wide operating system.

As their concerted activities mature this operating system shifts to being driven by a dedicated growth group that works across the business.

I’ve written a Growth Report that explores the concerted front strategy used by leading companies to achieve rapid and sustained growth.

The report starts by highlighting key aspects of the 10 facets for driving business growth, then considers what a dedicated growth group should consist of and what to look for when hiring the right people for it. It concludes with suggestions on how to create a 100 day growth dialogue.

You can download the full report from the EXOscalr website at the following LINK.

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Musings, from 30 Years Ago

I wrote this poem as a young South African in the early 80’s. It feels as applicable to the entire planet today.

MUSINGS

Shovelled in
Shovelled out
Like dirt – my
Memories cling
To a time
Before all this
Bitterness
Questions linger
Amidst the smoke
Of a conscience
Billowing
Dark against
The stark white
Nakedness
Of a soul
Lost in time

“Get a job, boy!”
Just something
To keep
You going
To keep
The hunger
Pains at bay
Whilst your brain
Strains
To grip
The reality
Of the system
That
Has already
Dug your grave
Amongst
The rocks
Of your race

Yet the pain
Marks remain
Alongside
The wrinkles
Of my smile
At the absolute
Futility
Of a comic
Creed
Whose justice
Sparks deep

My stomach
Grumbles
As the storm
Clouds roll
Over the country
I should call
Mine
Still – life
Goes on
For the privileged
Cringing lower
In the safety
Of their
Suburbs

Will
They
Swallow me
Into their
Fetid
System?

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We Dare Not Fail Ourselves

Waiheke Winter Light

We live in a world surrounded by terror and unrest. The immediate agony of disease, displacement and starvation pervades. Technological advancements bring economic uncertainty to many disengaged workers.

70 years ago Sir John Gorton, who went on to be Prime Minister of Australia, spoke of a similar world. Surrounded by so much intolerance I believe his advice echoes across the ages. May he inspire all of us to be fiercer with ourselves, with our relationships and the world around us. May we never be complacent. May we be brave and not accept injustice, wherever and however we find it.

Hear his words and be watchful: –

“We cannot expect to make a new and better world as a result of the exercise of brute military force. We can only expect to achieve the kind of world we want by the use of brains and effort during peace.”

“We must raise the spiritual standard of living so that we may get a spirit of service to the community and so that we may live together without hate, even though we may differ on the best road to reach our objectives.”

Tomorrow we must carry on again. And the tasks which lie in front of us are immense and urgent as never before.”

“What can we do? Individually, it may not be much. But we can at least all think on the problems which are in front of us and be ready to act on our thoughts if the opportunity arises. We can try to reason out how we may best provide a full and satisfactory life for all our citizens. We can practise tolerance and understanding. And we can be ready always to defend against attacks, either from within or without, the political freedom, the measure of freed which we already have.”

 “It will be hard. It will mean a constant effort from all of us. Build a world in which meanness and poverty, tyranny and hate, have no existence.”

– Sir John Gorton, Mystic Park Hall, April 3rd 1946.

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We dare not fail ourselves. We dare not see the chance to improve our world wasted.

Every single one of you reading this has the power to affect change. In fact, many of you have already demonstrated, in your unique ways, the power to lead massive change.

I implore you to step up, to break free from your daily busyness. Accept my challenge to make a commitment within 24 hours of reading this and join me on this quest.

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This post was initially shared through the EXOscalr Be Fierce newsletter. You can subscribe at: http://eepurl.com/bxGzD1

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Who are the 3 great executive coaches?

The 3 Great Executive Coaches Are-

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