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The 3 Biggest Causes of Stress for Entrepreneurs and How to DealWith Them

Mukund Mohan
6th Mar 2012
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An entrepreneur’s life is fairly stressful. Most of it (in my perspective) is self induced, so the best advice I have ever received is “take a deep breath”. That said the first step to reduce stress is to pinpoint the sources of stress.

1. The stress of “expectations”. This causes serious heartburn and is the biggest cause of all stress. Most entrepreneurs believe they can be successful in their own right and when their own “expectations” of self defined success dont match with the progress of their startup, they tend to go into a vicious circle of blame, guilt and introspection.

Expectations from family – parents thought you’d be making good money by now, as opposed to eating Ramen noodles (they fed you much better) and guzzling oodles of Red Bull (drink milk instead).

Expectations from friends – many of whom got a good job at a larger company with a steady paycheck, (mostly) defined hours of work, a ‘life’ after work and health insurance; while you sleep on the bean bag under your desk.

The expectations from friends and family can mostly be ignored.

The expectations that you set for yourself, comparing your progress to Airbnb for e.g., either in terms of your product, traction, funding or hiring will cause you more sleepless nights. I have seen many folks couch this under the category of “benchmark against the best”, but its hugely unproductive.

“There will be people much better than you and those that will be much worse than you. Deal with it”.

2. The stress of “competition”. I worked at Mercury Interactive (bought by HP) for the longest stint of my professional career in one company (side note, my dad worked at two companies for 20+ years and he claims I worked at 20+ companies in two years). At Mercury, I got to work with an immensely talented bunch of engineers based in Israel. After their mandatory 2 years at the armed forces, they were so “battle hardened” that they LOVED competition. They (David Reichman & Boaz Chalamish) taught me how to really compete in hugely competitive markets. Here is the secret of their teachings condensed in 1 line. You ought to pay me for this in gold, BTW (Feel free to send me a beta invite to your product instead).

Rule #1 – Dont care what they do. Rule #2 – There are no other rules. Rule #3 – What? Are you still looking for more rules? Go back and read Rule #1.

My suggestion, the stress from what competitors could do, would do, will do, should be the least of your worries. I am not suggesting you ignore competition – just dont get stressed about them, because you can largely not control what they do. You can only control your own actions, strategy and plan. Focus on that.

3. The stress of “closure”. We have all been in this position. You email that certain angel investor, advisor, customer, potential key hire, then call them, drop them a voice mail, send them a LinkedIn invite, stalk them on Twitter, only to get largely ignored. I send so many emails and get so few responses that if I had a penny for every email sent and 2 pennies taken away for every email I received back, I’d still be super rich.

The best way to counter this stress is to keep going. Develop “Temporary Forgetfulness” – which my wife can attest I am awesome at.

Most of all – “take a deep breath”.

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