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Depression and Founders

Depression and Founders

I understand that the word depression can evoke some serious emotions for some, most of which I’m extremely familiar with. But I received an email today from Jock Fairweather, the owner of co-working space Little Tokyo Two, that really resonated for me, and is an email that you’ll very rarely find shared or talked about amongst business owners.  I think it is far too important of a topic to ignore, so I wanted to share these words with you, in the hope that they may help when you need it.

Here’s a bit more about my story:

For 10 years, I worked tirelessly and drunk tirelessly; I have caused irreparable damage to myself. I’ve experienced inescapable panic attacks and at the worst, been stuck in them for up to 16 hours.I’ve also previously had deep deep depression for 2 years, had friends suicide and also have shock therapy – so I don’t take this subject lightly.

In-fact, currently, I spend a good portion of every day escaping.

So let’s get positive, because peoples and founders mental health is something I am super passionate about which is also why I am heavily backing the team at The Optimisation Hub (who are doing crazy good work in this space for women and also sport).

Taking positive steps asap. In my opinion Depression and Anxiety which I’d suggest go hand-in-hand need to be dealt with daily, with vigour.

What I have found works in terms of fighting against THAT overwhelming feeling was best described in the book ‘Living with IT‘ – in essence to tackle your feeling head-on. Tell it to come, to bring it – you and I both know nothing is going to happen. As soon as you recognise the feeling and begin to force it away, it’s surprising the way it can disappear. It’s all about mental strength, the power the human mind has is quite amazing.

In terms of fighting against long-term-looming doom.

An incredible video that inspired me greatly from Ted X (I’m still trying to find it again) was an explanation of how a man was able to get through the most incredibly difficult place by just continuing to move forward step-by-step. Great White Sharks die if they aren’t moving forward. No matter what day it is, I think of my most happy thing (my daughter) and count the steps until I get to play with her on the swings again).

On feeling good. Exercise – Conquer the morning to conquer the day, get the fuck out of bed and go and do something that get’s oxygen in your blood. I’d suggest doing a class of some sort because you will have pressure on you to show up and you will be distracted by the others there. Post-exercise, spend some time in the sun – you’ll feel excellent.

Social media – Get the fuck off it, honestly. For real, If you are using a phone for more than calling/ texting for work and friends than you have it all wrong. Social media, is not social, it’s anti-social – said best in the book ‘Team Human‘. I guarantee you social media is increasing your anxiety/ stress levels double. Also, I don’t see the point in talking about it all the time – putting your feelings on social media seems counter-intuitive i.e you put the post up and then you are waiting for justification again (hamster wheel).

Money – I’ve been on the essentialism bandwagon ever since leaving the luxury fashion Industry, the best thing I ever did was throw out all my materialistic bullshit. I live out of one backpack (yes I do have to wash all of my clothes every second day) (my books don’t fit though). I buy only what I need, when I need and everything else goes to my daughter. Period. Liberating.

Sun – No-one has ever had a panic attack while closing their eyes, standing in the sun and looking upwards with their palms out. Do it often, multiple times a day. It’s better than cigarettes.

Journal – Create a Things that make you Happy List, Things that make you Grateful List and Things that you’ve Conquered list. I found that Conquer list particularly strong. Each of them is printed/ written out and stuck up on multiple very obvious, visible places.

Friends – No one in the world can know more that 120-150 people well and of those you’d be lucky if you could count the people on one hand that would actually sacrifice for you. Find those that are truly close to you and spend ALL your time with them. You’ll notice how much happier you are when you are with them, all the rest are peripheral.

Volunteer – Nothing puts you in your place more than helping those in worse positions than yourself. I am a volunteer for Orange Sky Laundry. What an amazing organisation that is.

Founders mental health

On trying to get rich and famous – Being ‘rich’ makes you understand how much nothing matters except for the people you are with. Being famous just means more people will hate you. Let your brand and product do the talking, I don’t advise being the face of a business. – being the face is a big risk for investors and exiting.

On managing overwhelm with goals – Simply create achievable goals that matter such as 1. Make enough money to pay myself a salary 2. Make more money to start offloading the jobs that are less impactful or I don’t like and-so-on.

Next, create a strategy page, create actionable tasks that will complete your targets, create experiments from those actions and then put those directly into your calendar or something like (I’ll do an extended post about this another time).

If you make those goals longer term outlooks, like 10-years, suddenly all of the pressure resides. Jason Andrew speaks about it all the time.

ALSO, if you’re looking to raise capital etc. if you have built a good system and customer base over time, when you go to raise money – you’ll get a-lot more bang for your buck with equity.

On failing – I learnt a million lessons around failing. But most importantly, maybe for a week-or-two some people will care, after that no-one cares, literally. At LT2 I had a database of >15,000 with high open/ read rates, >600 teams we supported at the time, >100 people we helped do very very very well and we did our best to take as little as we could from them. Believe it or not giving was our downfall. Guess how many of all of those people actually gave a fuck in the end? 13 in total plus some asshole journalists. I counted them. That’s 0.08%. I wouldn’t worry about it.

On working ridiculous hours – Look at business like a marathon and take sprints during when needed. You can’t expect employees to put in 50,60,70,80,90,100 hours of work per week NOR can you model the success of your business on your own work ethic. That will be a floored model. Take the weekends and also add in half a day every week just for thinking. (learned that from the book Maverick)

On pay – If you aren’t able to pay yourself properly ask your accountant to help you ‘book’ your salary, or in other words account for the gap in pay that you aren’t actually taking. This is super important because when you exit, this money you are owed is the first money that get’s paid out. Secondly, if you are taking the risk and doing the hard work – then why would you pay yourself less than your employees. That is rubbish – some new age startup rubbish. Pay your accountant, then your lawyer, then yourself then others. Don’t be left with NOTHING at the end.

Why do I give so little fucks?

The more fucks you give the more stress you have. That’s that.

By ‘soft’, in my previous email – I was alluding to the fact that you can deal with it and you do have the power to deal with it. Complaining about it or feeling sorry for yourself will get you nowhere. Listen to something like this, go boxing then sit in the sun – you will feel brilliant and present.

We all fight our own battles, live our own lives and you should be proud of everything you achieve on a daily basis. It can be as small as just getting out of bed, going to work or taking your kids to the park.

Be proud of your daily wins and never underestimate the power of your mind.

Ps. My researcher probably won’t help with this post.

You can find out more about Jock here.

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