The Time is (Always) Now to Discuss Mental Fitness in the Startup Realm

This is an edited version of a Linkedin post that appeared prior to Boulder Startup Week. We were lucky enough to have Naropa University, our gracious host, record the panel that’s mentioned in this blog. The video is embedded below. Stay tuned for the video from our Denver Startup Week panel on the same topic!

During my relatively short six-year journey through the startup landscape- I’ve been through ugly founder breakups, I’ve lost plenty of money, lost way too much time, and I ended up in the hospital from exhaustion from too many 100 hour weeks.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the reality of building new companies. I know of suicides, families being torn apart and of course several cases of debilitating depression.

While it can be exhilarating to be an entrepreneur or to work as a member of a startup, it’s most certainly a roller-coaster of emotions- and it often goes on for YEARS. Successes are often followed by disappointments and just being able to process the complexities of legal agreements, founder disputes, hiring and firing employees, scaling or downsizing, taking on funding, failing, iterating…you get the point. It can and does boggle the mind.

The most helpful thing for me personally was to be able to compare notes on a regular basis with my fellow entrepreneurs who were going through similar challenges. Even with a monthly ‘therapy’ session with my brothers-and-sisters-in-arms, my stress levels remained incredibly high and exercise and meditation were barely addressing my issues. Alcohol helped- only for a few hours- and of course, the next day – I was never at my best, unable to focus or be productive. I’ve recently started my journey to leave alcohol behind, for good.

The good news is I’m not alone – nor do I feel that way. I recognize these issues are not unique to startups and they’ve been around for millenia- but entrepreneurs and startup vets do indeed have a propensity to having more acute mental fitness issues than the majority of the population.

One of my missions in the coming weeks, months and years is to provide my fellow entrepreneurs with tools to become more educated, less stressed, and more productive when it comes to their wellness- despite the constant barrage of change and tribulation in the startup realm.

My first public effort of this sort was to moderate a discussion during the 2016 Boulder Startup Week with some of the most prolific and respected names in startups including Brad Feld, Sarah Jane Coffey and Tom Higley. A key portion of this event was also a Q&A session with the audience to ensure folks can get answers they needed.

Each panelist had important personal stories to share, and tools and modalities to recommend. None of us pretend to have all the answers- but each of us has enough experience to know that it’s a fools errand to not listen to those who have been through it before. If we can help even one person who needs it- it will be worthwhile. One more important note- if you are easily offended by the F-bomb, this video may not be for you, as its used liberally and quite effectively.

I will personally continue to explore healthy alternatives and approaches to my own stress including different mindfulness techniques, exercise that requires being fully present, and yes, more therapy.

I also look forward to finding more colleagues and partners that are passionate about this subject.

To that end- I look forward to building further interactive and truly immersive programs in Colorado focused on entrepreneur wellbeing. I know we can help our colleagues lead healthier and happier lives. The impact of that can’t be understated.

I hope you’ll join me.

Here is the video from our BSW panel- sorry, I was a bit nervous at the beginning : )