FEAR OF FAILURE AND FAST BURNOUT – HOW TO NAVIGATE THE DARK SIDE OF STARTUPS

 

New startups are lonely places, even with co-founders. From the conception of your idea through much of the journey you are mostly on your own, especially in the challenges and defeats.

Only 0.96% startups get funding from angel investors and VCs. For the rest, confidence is currency and admitting uncertainty or fear quickly drains the bank.

Launching a startup, often chucking a cushy job is an emotional decision. Self-doubts and anxiety come free with the ride. Feeling overcommitted and over-invested on metrics of time, energy and finances is real.

You could be a skilled multitasker, but as an entrepreneur this is just one of the many core skills required for survival.

You could’ve demonstrated real leadership skills in the job you just left, but at your startup your decisions have financial as well as emotional costs. A series of wrong or hazy decisions could bust your dream before it get off.

At some point of time, the initial high wears off. The waves of sunny optimism crash. The loud cheering of family and friends from the sidelines dies down. You look down and you see plenty of “unexpecteds” – the cells and sinews of startups.

Entrepreneurship Wrenches You Out of Your Comfort Zone

At this point you know enough to know how much you don’t know about what you got to do.

Depression sets in fast. There’s this feeling of not belonging anywhere. You could feel ripped out from the comfort zone of your corporate job to the mean streets of hustling.

Recent tweets by Elon Musk highlight this fear and failure narrative, although as a carefully contained arc.

 

 

Hello Ambiguity! My New Friend

For most startups in their early days, it’s difficult to quantify performance. There are no established variables and few recognizable milestones, to assess if it’s time to pop the champagne yet. Finances are unpredictable, scattered and thinly spread. Teams are not cohesive, workflow is not structured, organizational structures are not defined. It’s every color of chaotic. Welcome to entrepreneurship!

You put your hands up and yell “Yay!” over a small victory and get hit by a curveball – an investor delayed funding, client dropped out of contract, someone quit, supplier didn’t deliver, project fell through.. FML is a way of life.

If you are in the early phase of your startup, it will be puzzling to quantify revenues. The outflows are more than inflows and it is trying to keep track of what money is coming in, how much is going out, how much is being pumped back into the business and how much is left on the table.

Stay Peaceful in Chaos

Quantifying your progress on metrics of new business acquisition, recognition of your product or service in your target consumer segment and bringing together of smart, loyal teams in your organization is a smart idea.

To deal with over commitment and to avoid getting overwhelmed, break whole projects down into target-bound chunks and crush one goal at a time. High-performing, loyal teams are your real currency.

Self doubt, performance anxiety, frustration, hitting dead ends, fatigue and burnout comes free with the starting up pack. Deal with it intelligently. Don’t get disheartened by it.

 

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