Mental Health and Entrepreneurship

I’ll admit - not the lightest topic in the world. But it’s something that can’t be talked about enough.

When I heard about the death of Anthony Bourdain, I was shocked. As a big fan of his travel and food shows, I had always known that Bourdain lived life on his own terms. After all, even in his high budget shows with him as the star, his true personality managed to shine through; fire-tongued, wild, and honest.

It’s my belief that everybody is striving to live to the most honest form of themselves. To be able to represent your honest beliefs through work, relationships, and conversations brings you closer to your purpose in life. From the outside looking in, Bourdain accomplished all of this, yet, was still torn internally.

Most entrepreneurs I know would be happy to walk the path that Bourdain lived, living a life travelling, speaking, and eating. However, he was notorious for his consistently dark thoughts, indicating that his external accomplishments were no remedy for his internal dialogue.

As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to let the business we built from scratch destroy our mental fortitude. Our society of instant gratification tells us accomplishment is owed to us, leaving us with endless stresses, from cash flow, relationships, and loneliness.

You hope to make money along the way, but money shouldn’t be the greatest point of stress. We start companies with a unique vision of the future to build something of value for society, but also because the way we make a living is of value to us. It’s a daily process, and the mission is always changing.

The best startup CEO’s that I know have money very far down on their list of priorities, instead valuing states of happiness. They strive every day to give happiness, not money, to their customers, team, and selves. As tragic as it is, Bourdain, and many other figures, have proven that money does very little for one’s well-being. Instead, an intentional commitment to wellness should replace the intense need for money.

Having a mindset focused on each day’s task and not getting lost in the grandiose mission is the way to maintain a healthy balance as an entrepreneur. Your business is going to be, and should be, one of the most important things in your life, but it can also be the largest cause of stress. Managing internal expectations and trusting in each day’s work is how you will feel gratification from the small things.

We believe that a successful business is a symbol of our life’s sacrifices and devotion, just like raising a well-adjusted child. We want to show these things off to the world as a sign of our abilities and skills. But we are so much more than that. Our identity is not tied to our business, just like how we are not tied to our thoughts, emotions, or pains.

Everybody battles through their own struggles, and I have had my own fair share of moments. However, I know there is someone out there dealing with far worse. I have always considered myself a lucky person, so my own good fortune is what motivates me to start the conversation amongst founders, or those who know one in their life.

As founders, we need to continue to support one another. There is kinship created amongst startup founders, and if you choose to seek it out, you will find it. I believe that a significant amount of potential is unlocked when people work in groups, giving a business of one or two the feeling of community that is so engrained in us. Shared work spaces, incubators, and founder communities have made this much easier than before.

For those who are friends, family members, or acquaintances with a business owner, take a minute to understand what their day is like. Take interest in what they do, but also give them space to think. Much of the day of a successful founder is spent in apparent inaction, recovering, thinking, and strategizing, so realize that those rare moments of peace are so critical to their success. It might be difficult to understand what is going through their minds in those moments, but be patient and help them work through it.

If you are a founder, take the time to give yourself some credit for the life you’ve chosen. It’s not about 80-hour work weeks with no end in sight. There is always a purpose for what we do. Even in our failures, we take a giant step forward in understanding ourselves.

Success comes in one form or another.

“The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.” -Seneca