A. B. C. D. E.
A for ambition.
B for ballsy
C for competition
E for entrepreneurship:
But then, did you notice the missing ‘D’? Well, that’s Depression, with a capital D.
Founder Depression is for real. And it is haunting many.
It may not be as pronounced as publicly as one would expect, but it is a real deal.
Entrepreneurship is often equated with energy, winning, making loads of money, being famous and impacting the society in a very very meaningful way.
Except that the hard reality of the life is that 99% startups fail. In India, startups don’t really fail the way they do in US. Somehow we manage to ‘just survive’ – i.e. not make it big, but just manage to survive.
Is it okay? Well, the ‘chest thumping’ theory on entrepreneurship tells you that it isn’t. Fail fast/Move on/Do big shit/Try or Fry – you get the drift, right.
It just translates to one thing:
If your business isn’t going anywhere, you are pretty much over.
You are not cool to hang out with.
Your ‘entrepreneurial life’ is over.
Many of our Indian tech founders are currently going through this phenomena.
Let me ask you : Is this (i.e. you win or lose) the right way to look at business ? Frankly, it doesn’t matter. No matter what you say or do – you cannot change other’s perspective.
The world is going to look at you as a winner or loser (depending on your PR capabilities / shit done) – and you can’t do anything about it. But all that matters is how you are looking at this.
Founders and Social Media.
If you are entrepreneur and heavily pluggd to the ecosystem – you must be following a whole lot of entrepreneurs on Facebook / Twitter.
What are you seeing?
Selfie with PM.
Trip to Thailand.
A very ‘costly’ outing with team.
New *changing-the-world* product announcements / new mentions from celebrity folks.
And where are you?
Still struggling to close deals.
Still finding it tough to scale.
Still not going anywhere.
Hard. That must be hard.
Well, that’s what life is and that’s how it’s gonna be.
Entrepreneurs are fools and that’s the way it is. After running a business for few years, most of us are ‘unfit’ for a job – so let it be. Accept it.
The first thing to realize is that life isn’t fair and it makes no sense to expect it to be fair. You have seen this right from your childhood and it’s high time you accept it.
If there is something that needs to be changed – it is YOU and how you look at the world around yourself.
If you are stuck, here is what I’d suggest:
Get out of ‘startup echochamber’
i.e. get out of Facebook groups / Twitter discussions. Atleast for few days. Helps bring in new perspectives.
Will talking to startup community help? I am not sure – the community is a bit self-fulfilling and might backfire. Talk to individuals and not to a group.
Take time to figure out the way forward for your business. If you have to let go of your team / office – do it. Don’t stay as-is.
“If you change nothing, nothing changes.”
Learn to say NO.
No to new features. No to gyaan. No to every damn thing which delays the decision (to shut down/move on/stick).
GO out and meet people
Ping them randomly and ask for a coffee meet. You need different perspective from people and nobody says no to coffee (or beer). Ask.
Adding new features may not help. Gaining new perspectives will.
Most importantly: Ask yourself, if you are still enjoying what you are doing. If the answer is NO – change it. If it still is a NO – move on.
Always remember that life is too short to do things you don’t love doing. And frankly speaking, if you are worried about ‘log kya kahenge‘ – well, let me just tell you that nobody cares a fuck.
Nobody gives a damn and the ones who do (your family/friends) – take time off and spend some time with them. It is perfectly okay to lose some business – but go out / travel / do what’er that distracts you from your current state of mind (binge watch movies, maybe?).
Failing sucks but let’s not be defined by others. And always remember that depression / down time is part of entrepreneurship. Everyone goes through this.
Everyone worth their entrepreneurship soul will go through this. It makes you tougher. It gives you a great way to look at life (from different angles).
Everything is a passing phase – success as well as failure. The only thing you need to do is ask everyday whether you are enjoying the ride. If you are not, start making the change. Start experimenting. Do NOT shy away from trying out various things.
And to start off, go out and meet people. Talk. Talking helps*.
When you are feeling shit – tell that you are feeling shit. You have no idea how much help will you get.
Just like viral fever, Depression is NOT a disease – it is a function of how we look at life around us. The power to make that change (and produce positive chemicals) lies within us. Treat it like a viral fever – go see a doc. Give yourself some time.
Learn to talk. The one thing I can definitely tell you is that you should stop taking yourself too seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself – it’s the safest joke out there.
Please watch this video (thanks Utsav for sharing this).
*In case you want to talk to me – feel free to email.
I can’t offer you any solution but let’s talk.
If you relate to this, feel free to share within your circle – there are many depressed founders out there.
Recommended Read: Paras Chopra of Wingify shares his experience dealing with depression.
Updated (Oct 10th): I did try to get a few founders to openly share what they have been through. Most refused – for the fact that they will be ‘judged’ by others and this can potentially impact their future. Fine and fair, as long as you are sharing within your inner circle.