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Adii Pienaar

Now working on PublicBeta. Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

Coping as an Entrepreneur

When I wrote about being born an entrepreneur, I did so to communicate what I felt / thought in an effort to be validated. Because if I can be validated, if I can find others like me, then surely it means that I'm not crazy. Right?

The various tweets & affirmations that I got subsequently made me feel like I wasn't alone. But then I read this article about entrepreneurs being soft-bipolar:

"In general, though, many believe that running startups can drive people to experience intense ups and downs. While this is true, it’s often the other way around: People in the bipolar spectrum are attracted to entrepreneurship. Building businesses can be a great way for hypomanic entrepreneurs to apply their energy and creativity.

Some people are more vulnerable to mood fluctuations and can also experience episodes of dark depression that may include feelings of hopelessness, irritability, fatigue, concentration problems, and feelings of worthlessness."*

Fuck.


In October last year, my wife & I had an argument (can't even remember what it was about) and at one point she turned to me to say: "You need to spend time with your son, not because you need to manage him, but because you really want to spend time with him."

Those very serious words hit me very hard and I left me speechless. What my wife had said was true; not because it was my intention, but it was the consequence of so many other decisions that I was making.

I left the room and upon reflection, I had to admit that deep-down I was incredibly unhappy. So I decided to see my therapist (who had I had been seeing on & off), who suggested that I definitely have a mild case of depression.

To hear those words from a therapist was tough. I had never considered myself depressed or an unhappy person; instead I'm an extrovert that always wants to be happy, optimistic & proactive.

Hearing these words from my wife (who is the one person in this world that really knows me) and my therapist though, pushed me to explore other aspects of my life & thoughts that might not have been as obvious. I found that I used the ups to disguise and forget about the downs. As such I was able to cope, but every now & again that coping mechanism completely failed as the ups would just not come quickly enough.

I had to admit & accept that regardless of how successful or happy I was, part of me was imperfect & broken.


Since then I've done a couple of things to help me cope on what is a pretty rollercoaster ride when being an entrepreneur:

  • I tweaked a couple of small things in my daily routine: I work less, I exercise more, I take vitamins to sleep better & I generally attempt to shut down my mind.
  • I write about the things that are in my head. Instead of writing about "5 Steps to Grow Your Business" or commenting on what's happening with other companies, I prefer to just share what is going on in my head & heart. This has helped me to cleanse my mind of some things that I grapple with daily and also helps me to distill those thoughts.
  • I joined EO, where I meet with a group of like-minded entrepreneurs every month to get help. I see this as some kind of Entrepreneurs Anonymous, where I can just be me, be vulnerable and ask fo help.

I'm reminded of Dan Martell's recent "Living Life in Permanent Beta" blog post, where he speaks of building soft assets as an entrepreneur.

All of the tweaks that I've made in my life in the last couple of months aren't necessarily something that I need every, single day. But I'm putting money in the bank and when those downs hit, I have an asset-base on which I can rely to help me cope (as an entrepreneur).

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