The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship

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Taking time out and reflecting on my first journey as a Founder, before I go again, I wanted to cast some light on an often overlooked reality. 72% of entrepreneurs are effected by Mental Health Conditions. There is much synergy between the creative and entrepreneurial mind and one often acts as a catalyst for the other. The energy and emotions run high, but come with exaggerated lows. Manic periods are often when genius appears. I wanted to explore through my own experiences the well researched, but not well publicised, negative correlation between entrepreneurship and mental health.

In the age of social media and scrolling addiction, obsessing about only the very best moments of other peoples lives, I feel the realism of entrepreneurship has been lost. Podcasts, social influences and media outlets encourage people to be entrepreneurs. 'Entrepreneurs will change the world' said one, 'limitless earning potential' propagated another, but just like everything there is another side that no one seems to talk about.

Yes, don't get me wrong, it can be glamorous. You can work where you want - a sunny rooftop in the summer, fireside in the winter. Even a beach in Bali or a Chalet in Colorado. Get home before your kids go to bed, or hit the gym when its quiet. You can build your dream product or service exactly how you decide. No compromises to make, no boss to tell you what to do and free to make your own impact on the world.

This sounds amazing, where do I sign? Except when it isn't. And that is the reality, a lot of time time.

I don't write this to put people off, discourage potential entrepreneurs who ARE ready for their own journey, merely to paint a no bull shit picture of what, in my experience and drawing on the experiences of many I have spent time with, it is actually like. It is not for everyone and there is absolutely nothing wrong with a job, a salary and a great career as an employee. In fact, I am convinced that is far more suitable for some.

At the very least this list is a disclaimer if you are about to join the party.

1. Uncertainty - if you don't deal well with uncertainty then this is not for you! Every day you will meet a different challenge. Some with the potential to crush you and your business. They will often come out of the blue or even worse, just when you think things are going well. The future, short and long term becomes unpredictable. It is essential you can manage the anxiety that comes with uncertainty.

2. Remuneration and recognition - these will take a hit, there is no way around it. Be prepared!

3. Headspace - disconnecting from work becomes increasingly difficult. The deeper you get, the bigger your business, the harder this is. You can't switch off and get to sleep, and then you cant wait to wake up and get going again. Every waking moment becomes about your mission. For me competitive sport and hard exercise gives me a break and it is essential you find yours. If you are not careful the never-not-working life can be undernourished, over-caffeinated and sleep deprived.

4. You DO have a boss - Just not one in the traditional sense. Your customers and your investors. Just like a boss, you serve them, you answer to them, you report to them and they can get rid of you when they want to. You always want to give the impression to these bosses that you are in control and 'have it all together'. Determination to show infallibility can discourage help seeking behaviours when you need it.

5. Feeling the pressure - Everything stops with you. Your employees payroll and livelihoods. Their well being, development and happiness. As you become more successful, this only grows. Learning to manage this weight of expectation and responsibility is difficult.

6. Focus - if you don't have this, which could also be described as self motivation, then do not go down this path. Why get up when you had a few drinks the night before and could be snoozing? Why make those calls to chase invoices when it's sunny outside? Why work at weekends when all your mates are out socialising? Without focus, you are on a road to becoming another statistic in failure. Currently over 50% of start ups fail in the first 5 years.

7. Relationships - there is no doubt it puts strain on those around you. Loved ones, family and friends. They need to know what to expect, how consumed you will become by it, distracted at home and on holiday. You need to keep communicating.

8. Legal issues and Tax- be ready for them, they are coming. Boring and time consuming.

9. Loss of Identity - It is easy to loose yourself in building a business and your self worth becomes fused with the brand. With the inevitable roller coaster of forecasting and success comes peaks and troughs in your own identity. Pride followed by shame. Resilience is essential.

If you are about to go on your own entrepreneurial journey, which for me is also rewarding, exciting, invigorating, liberating and fulfilling I wish you the very best of luck. Lean out, find mentors, peers and support. Look after yourself mentally and physically. Its one hell of a ride.


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