It’s 2013. I’m running a failing services company into the ground, binge-drinking daily, and suffering from severe anxiety and depression. If you have ever felt like you’re drowning, keep reading:
Exec was an errand-running service. When that model started failing, we pivoted towards a cleaning service. (side note: services are a terrible business to scale. Don’t do it unless you have no other options or just love doing that service)
I was swamped with a feeling of malaise. The first thing I thought about everyday when waking up was how the startup was failing.
It got to the point where I was sad to be awake – it became harder and harder to get out of bed and face my employees, dealing with a stagnant customer base, successful competitors etc.
On top of this, my co-founders were my brother and a childhood friend. I felt like I had let them down, which was especially painful.
As our employees slowly started to quit, my anxiety skyrocketed – my reputation was on the line after raising over $3.7 million for this company.
I felt like the curtain had been pulled back and I was exposed for the fraud that I felt like I was. At that point, I wasn’t good at dealing with difficult emotions. I ran from feelings of sorrow, guilt, sadness and anxiety my entire life.
I was binging everything from whiskey to Netflix and social media just to keep running. I knew this wasn’t sustainable and something had to be done. These were the pivotal realizations that helped me through:
1. Therapy – like everyone else, I had dismissed seeing a therapist for years. I did not see it as a necessity. On the advice from my mom, and seeing no other options, I decided to give it a go. It was one of the most powerful decisions I have ever made in my life.
Don’t rush the process. Talk to a few options and find the right person for you. Therapy didn’t instantly solve all my problems, but it was so powerful to have someone that could listen and reflect my experiences.
2. Mindfulness – developing an awareness and normalizing your emotions instead of being afraid of them. Engaging in what you’re feeling in the moment allows you to process it, and acknowledge that it will pass. This helped me deal with all kinds of difficult situations
I now had the courage to deal with things that were deeply uncomfortable for me before, such as difficult conversations, firing someone, having a tough talk with a friend etc. Meditation was a practice that helped me train this aspect.
3. Exercise – Not only releases endorphins in the brain but it is a small actionable routine that can yield a feeling of consistency and progression.
When you’re depressed, exercise can feel like an impossible task. Start with a walk around the block, and build slowly from there. Set the bar as low as possible so you can build incremental improvements consistently. Don’t overwhelm yourself all at once.
4. Perspective – Under a microscope, the problems you are experiencing may seem insurmountable in the moment.
It helps to take a step back sometimes. When Exec was failing, it felt like the end of the world for me. Although it ended up not succeeding, we still managed to sell it (not close to what was promised) and everyone moved on. (cont.)
Our employees went on to better jobs, my brother @danielkan went on to found @Cruise , a billion-dollar self driving car company. I was free to join @ycombinator as a Partner and discovered my passion for investing and evangelizing, instead of being a founder and CEO.
Things that you think are a huge deal in one direction today may be the thing that launches you on the path that you’re ultimately supposed to be on.
You cannot run from those experiences no matter how many titles or accomplishments you hoard and try to hide behind. In your most private and intimate moments, they will always find you. Take some comfort in knowing that you are not alone, and reach out.
Depression and anxiety is something that everyone out there experiences some of the time. I’ve experienced it. All the people who I know are successful, rich, famous, have experienced it in one way or another.