As a fellow entrepreneur, you know exactly what I’m talking about…
One day you feel terrific, you receive a new order or customer, business is flowing, and all cylinders are firing just right.
But the following day, or week, you seem lost and depressed, like nothing is working, as though you’re spinning in circles.
You feel as though you haven't accomplished anything and your efforts are futile. You debate closing-up shop and returning to the daily grind as an employee.
The highs and lows of entrepreneurship are real. For anyone who's ever started a business, even a side hustle, you’ve no doubt battled these forces!
I’m here to tell you, even the most successful entrepreneur's among us struggle, and the cycle never stops.
Whether you've built a highly successful multibillion-dollar company, it’s a never-ending series of emotional highs and lows, regardless of the size (and success) of your business. Fortunately, there's a solution to mitigate this pain.
How can we minimize the impact?
If we all experience these sharp swings, how can we better understand and recognize the peaks and valleys, and hopefully, make the lows seem less intimidating?
Recently, I went through a significant low as an entrepreneur after completing a major project my team and I worked tirelessly towards for six months. This low lasted almost an entire month, and although I’ve experienced many ups and downs over the years, this one was particularly painful.
Thankfully, I've since bounced back with a better understanding of this rollercoaster process and discovered the real reason why we as entrepreneurs (and humans for that matter) experience times of such depression and anxiety.
I realized happiness originates from progress, and primarily, the solving of problems.
HAPPINESS = PROGRESS
PROGRESS REQUIRES PAIN
PAIN = GOOD
If we become stagnant, we become unhappy. Moreover, there’s no such thing as ultimate happiness because the solving of one problem leads merely to the creation of another.
For example, the person who finally gets their own car and no longer has to rely on public transit. They must now maintain and fix the car when it breaks down.
Someone who finally meets the woman of their dreams and gets married. They're now going to have arguments and new issues they must work through.
The solving of one problem invariably leads to the creation of the next. It's an endless cycle. Fortunately, this is the secret silver lining if you desire to be happy. Here’s what I mean...
Building on the notion 'happiness stems from progress,' happiness (believe it or not) is a result of the struggle, i.e. the process of achieving a goal, not the goal itself.
For example, during my officiating career, although I loved stepping onto the ice with future NHL superstars in front of thousands of screaming fans, my real passion was in the process – the struggle, the pain, the action of going to the gym and training each day, and seeing myself improve incrementally over time.
Eventually, I found myself unable to get motivated when taking to the ice for a big game. It wasn’t exciting for me because my true love was the means, not the end.
It’s the same reality with every entrepreneurial venture we undertake...
Personally, I love the process of seeing it all come together, but once the finished product arrives, I find myself often leaving early from promotional events and not overly interested in watching the end result of my labour. Once finished it’s like, “cool, I guess...” because the journey of getting there is now complete.
The secret to happiness: understand how our minds operate...
As entrepreneurs, our sincere passion and love lies in the relentless pursuit – we live for the open road but get bored staying in one place for long. However, this applies not solely to entrepreneurship, but life as well.
Happiness and self-worth is derived from progress. If we’re not progressing towards something, or achieving small wins on the road to a higher end, we become idle, which results in unhappiness.
For entrepreneurs, the means is always more exciting than the end, which is why so many founders hire CEO’s and managerial teams to operate the company after they’ve successfully built it.
As entrepreneurs, we’re not interested in horizontal progress or managing something which already exists. Our passion lies in going from zero to one (i.e. vertical progress) – always working towards the next step while overcoming challenges along the way.
As we defeat these challenges, we become happy and soar to intense emotional highs (albeit for a limited period).
The 'Now What?' phenomenon
At the end of each road is a finish line, and with it comes the question: "Now what?”
It’s this 'Now What?' aspect in which resides the entrepreneurial lows we so desperately aim to avoid. Therefore, to prevent these lows, we must set ourselves up for success by achieving small wins on a regular basis...
Contrary to human nature (as creatures programmed to avoid pain and invariably take the path of least resistance), creating pain (and overcoming it) is the hidden secret not only to happiness, but also, entrepreneurial success.
If you find yourself becoming stagnant, start something new, develop a new product, or launch a new marketing campaign. If you're an employee, work towards a promotion, or go back to school and improve your qualifications.
You must introduce a new challenge, a new form of pain and struggle into your life of which you can strive to overcome. Most of all, we must constantly be open to growth and learning new things.
Only with continuous learning, setting new goals and defeating obstacles, can we achieve true happiness.
So, get excited about something and make it happen!