We’re excited to kick off our new “Founder Stories” series of posts here on the Pacifica blog. Many of us as founders have struggled with depression and anxiety. We’re expected to hold our heads up or to turn the other cheek because anything other than complete confidence is seen as weakness. But it isn’t. This series is an opportunity to help us face the stigma head-on.
We’re honored to have Jeff Fermin of Officevibe contribute our first post of the series. Jeffrey and I connected immediately when we started talking about the experiences we had both shared in working to get a company off the ground. It takes a lot of courage to tell this story and we couldn’t be more thankful to Jeff for sharing his here.
Entrepreneurs play a game of failure.
Though we want to believe that success comes overnight and every company gets a million dollars after the first pitch to a VC, investor or firm, it’s never the case.
Behind every startup there’s a story of people that took a chance. People that did not want to abide by the norms that society puts on them. The outlier, the deviant, the trailblazer, the one that doesn’t want to do what everyone else does.
BUT… there’s a lot more failure than success. Entrepreneurs will lose more than they win; they will fall more than they rise.
Fortunately, entrepreneurs are creatives, they see the world different and they want to change the world. If they’re truly devoted to what they do, they’ll do their best to adapt and advance.
It may sound poetic, and even heroic, but what people fail to realize is the dark side of entrepreneurship and how it affects the mind. And the younger the entrepreneur, the worse the stress and anxiety will hit.
How Entrepreneurs Get Anxiety
There is a massive amount of failures, setbacks and negativity that goes with creating something new.
The worst part is that the bigger the company gets, the worse the setbacks feel. The more setbacks, the more an individual can lose their “cool” and develop mental health issues.
I am speaking from what I’ve seen on the news and heard from other entrepreneurs, but more importantly something that I’ve learned from experience. Entrepreneurs are now becoming more prone to depression, anxiety and suicide.
What’s even worse is that they are not taking the proper steps to avoid or recover from mental health issues that might be affecting their relations with others.
Now more than ever, leaders in the tech community are bringing awareness to the mental health problems developed from entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship Is Not For Everyone
A couple years ago my co-founder and I met up and discussed the possibility of working with one another to start a company. I’ve always been the type to do my own thing and make my own path, so I agreed without any hesitation.
We went through startup incubators, met great people, and kept working hard to get out there. We eventually teamed up with a larger company to build an employee engagement tool that will make people happier at work.
At first it was fun. When you’re young, you can’t help but to think that your company is going to be the next Facebook, Whatsapp, Google, etc. I remember thinking that we were going to be making rounds in Silicon Valley and be like rockstars out there in a short time.
I was glued to Techcrunch, Mashable, and Venturebeat. I had seen movies like the Social Network and Pursuit of Happiness and thought that was going to be us. A team that goes from nothing to something in a couple of months.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t move as fast as some of the films that we watch or articles we read. Success doesn’t happen by just standing around and thinking “that’s going to be me.” Also, there’s a lot more stressful moments than any article or movie portrays.
When anxiety hit me, it hit me hard. The strange thing is that my platform preaches being happy at work, however, there were so many setbacks and challenges that I wasn’t. I began having anxiety attacks and I felt like my mind was trying to kill me off.
For months, I felt alone and that there was no one that could help me. I had written a resignation letter and was ready to leave. Imagine giving a company your all and then just quitting. The day after I wrote my “resignation letter” my investor brought me in to talk, not about business, but about how I was feeling.
I was transparent with him and I let him know how I felt, which to this day was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I even showed him my resignation letter. I gave up on myself, and I didn’t want to be apart from something I was a part of.
He asked me to work from my hometown and try as hard as I can to get happy. Even when I got back home, I had to adjust. It took me about seven months before I had another breakdown and I spoke to my family and told them everything. From there, I did the bravest thing I’ve ever done. I sought professional help.
That’s when I realized that the stigma around mental health is absolute nonsense.
From the very first day, I saw the improvement. My therapist actually induced an anxiety attack, and I became aware that all the problems were all self-inflicted. She helped me recover and changed my mindset about life and what I was doing. I did another couple of months of remote working and I came back to my office’s headquarters with a clear, well-functioning mind. I can say with confidence that I’m doing better, as well as Officevibe.. The only regret I have is not seeking help sooner.
How Entrepreneurs Avoid Falling into Deep Depression
I often think about all the other entrepreneurs out there that are scared to admit that they’re “vulnerable” humans. They want to believe that they’re flawless and that they never fail, but that’s not the case, nor has it ever been.
Deep down people struggle with insecurities and stress. Entrepreneurs have to be told by everybody that they’re not good enough. Consumers, investors, family members, and others will always tell you that what you are working on isn’t good enough. Entrepreneurs will always hear that “someone else does that!” or “why don’t you trying doing something else?” Oh, and my personal favorite, “have you heard about [insert name], they’re doing so well, why don’t you trying doing that?” Stress and anxiety is the price to pay for entrepreneurship. But if we were to poll every entrepreneur in the world, I’m sure that nearly all of them agree, it’s worth it.
While that is nice, it’s vital for entrepreneurs to avoid getting into deep depression. If you have hit rock-bottom before and escaped, you know just how difficult it can be to get out of that hole.
Taking the precautions to make sure you avoid anxiety will help you succeed and do its part in giving you a clear mind.
The first thing I would advise is having a healthy balance between work and life. For most entrepreneurs, they’re so obsessed with their product that they do their best to perfect every little aspect of their product every day. Some work deep into the night and early into the morning.
The extra stress from being overworked can cause a lot of unhealthy habits that will damage your wellbeing. Entrepreneurs feel as if they are indebted to their product, so whenever they can, they’ll take shortcuts to not work that hard on themselves and get to their idea. That tunnel vision is hard to get rid of, but they have to realize that there’s more to life than a startup or getting the next person to fall in love with a product.
Having a strict, healthy regimen and diet can help with anxiety. I noticed that I was a lot heavier set when I was depressed. I didn’t care. I stopped caring about myself, and eventually my product. When I started working out and eating right, I felt like my mind was clear. I even turned into one of those “crazy” people that wake up extra early to workout before work.
Healthy mind, healthy body. There should never be a dissonance between the two. So keep both in check and make sure that you’re keeping tabs on improving your mind and body. There are plenty of online tools to help eat and workout better. Now, thanks to creatives at Pacifica, there is a well-designed app that provides a tool to manage stress and anxiety.
I’ve had plenty of conversation with Dale (CEO of Pacifica) and he’s told me about the company’s goals and vision, and I wanted to do whatever I could to make sure that this lovely application gets out there to the masses.
As a person who beat stress, anxiety, and dealt with suicidal thoughts, I wish I would’ve had a tool to tell me that I would benefit from getting help. Being a data-driven individual, I would have loved seeing something that quantifies my stress. Whatever can be measured can be improved. If stress can be quantifiable, there has to be a way to improve it.
If you are interested in contributing to Founder Stories please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.