How do you deal with founder's anxiety?

I have observed that the ups and downs cycle in emotions seems to be faster while working for my own startup that when I was working full time with companies. Within a week, there would be a happy day, such as when a potential client signs up and interacts with my website as I wanted it and sad days when no one even looks at it. The cycle also happens within a day, such as sad in the morning to find out no one signed up overnight to happy when I get an email inquiring about my product. How do you deal with this founders' anxiety? I couldn't even leave my laptop on a Sunday. One time, I had breakouts all because of stress, and I am no longer a teenager. Anyone working on a product addressing this, you may promote it on this thread (lightly).

  1. 11

    I don't know why, but coming across people sharing their own founder struggles on Twitter or Indie Hackers (like you are now) always makes me feel better. I often think everyone else has it easier or is killing it all the time, but posts like these remind me we all go through these struggles, and I'm not alone, and that is comforting.

    1. 4

      Agreed. It's easy to focus on the successes of others (the goal) and ignore the obvious drudgery it oftentimes takes to get there. I didn't realise people had these same-day swings! It is brutal and it makes me wonder why I am putting myself through this year on year. I don't even think it is for "freedom" any more. It's almost a refusal to be beaten by this challenge.

      1. 3

        Best part is when we know it is happening, so we get to control it and think logically - as in so if this is a problem, is it the end of the world? and in the comment below I learned to look at it as good news/new learning/opportunity. Thanks for this!

    2. 2

      Thanks Matt, there is a culture that we're expected to be tough like Mark or Jeff while Elon crying was not a good picture. This topic is never discussed openly, I even wrote to Mayim Bialik to put it on her Breakdown podcast. I think it is part of fake it til you make it culture among startups.

  2. 3

    There are a bunch of things that could be helpful, such as exercising and socializing, to reduce the cortisol and have a more clear picture of yourself.

    This doc from @shaanVP is an incredible resource of useful frameworks to have. I hope this helps, it sure helped me out.


    He explores 3 interesting thoughts on this topic:

    1. Getting un-stuck:
    • A dabbler hits a plateau, gives up and moves onto the nest
    • A stresser hits a plateau, gets stressed, chugs coffee, loses sleep, and tries to work through it
    • A master hits a plateau, and greets it like an old friend
    1. All News is Good News: When something is working... good news! When something is not working... good news! You learned something.

    2. Work Like a Lion: (stole from @naval) Cows stand in the field and work all day.

    Lions sit. wait. observe, looking for the prey. When they see it. They sprint, hunt, catch. Eat, enjoy, celebrate. Rest, relax, and sit again.

    Of course all of this should be taken with a grain of salt, of what works best for you.

    The rest of the doc also has huge tips on building a business.

    Best of luck.

    1. 1

      Love these insights especially the one by Naval as I absolutely loved his almanac / Book. Your tip about working like a lion rather than a cow really resonated with me, as that was one of the main insights I got out of the book: knowledge worker's should work in sprints. So work for a couple of weeks then relax. I'm trying to do this with my own startup.

      P. S Thanks for sharing the Doc!

    2. 1

      Thank you for these, yes I just need to take the plateau as good news, good opportunity.

  3. 2

    Here is a blog post I wrote on the topic specifically about addiction and entrepreneurship but it applies to stress as well: https://www.youareaccountable.com/advice-for-entrepreneurs-struggling-with-addiction

    1. 1

      Thank you for this article, just read it and it is very helpful especially the part about seeking help as a sign of strength.

  4. 2

    When running your own startup, emotionally it will be a roller coaster. Accept it.

    My suggestion is to build a routine of things that are under your control that gives you a sense of progress every day - exercising, eating healthy, casual chat with your loved ones, shipping features, having product conversations with customers are all under your control.

    pro-tip: stop looking at data so much. it's not adding any value. for most indie hackers, diving in once a week is more than enough (with the only motive of using it to improve the product)

    1. 1

      Yeah haha data stress me a lot! Thanks for this :)

  5. 1

    It's not easy but I try to simply accept the MVP/bootstrappers journey for what it is and know that circumstances like all things in life will evolve. You're on a noble path few will attempt.

    1. 1

      Thank you for this! Indeed, bootstrapping is hard...

  6. 1

    It helps me to have a full-time job and work on my business on the side - I found the diversified model really works for me, and I remind myself that I don't need to "go fast and grow" in order to achieve success.

    I group all my projects under one company, and I created my first revenue generating business HackerPen (https://hackerpen.io) that way.

    1. 1

      Thank you for this. yeah I don't need to grow fast I guess and I could go back to getting a full-time job. :)

  7. 1

    I had a meeting with a co-founder yesterday -- who happens to be my brother -- and for the first time since we started our project for real, 3 months give or take, I saw the first signs of anxiety about "when it will be good to go".

    I decided not to open our board and browse through all those cards in front of him trying to ballpark a launch date. I simply told him we need to give these 4 important steps ahead, then make a couple of decisions and have this and that person involved with us before the launch. So, a high level perspective and key points. That was enough to alleviate all his anxiety. (and saved me the time of walking him through the board...)

    1. 1

      It's always nice to have a co founder who could bounce off ideas with you. thanks for this!

  8. 1

    It's cool that you could confront this issue @PaoloJoseph Thanks for sharing :)

    I am a first time founder myself and I could totally empathize with what you've described. I actually came across a great way to cross this chasm of fluctuating emotions.

    I adopted to taking notes everyday. It would mostly consist of the following.

    1. What went well today?
    2. What didn't go well today?
    3. What could I improve upon?
    4. What could I learn from today?

    It's actually been pretty helpful to me because it's very easy to oversee the small wins that happen in a day but feel things are looking gloomy. I periodically review the notes weekly if I get a chance which helps me appreciate how far I have come and what's more in my head.

    I also try to build in public to keep myself accountable & also to learn from other founders. Well, if you're interested I am also currently working on a community based build in public platform. Here's the upcoming link if you would like to have a look https://www.producthunt.com/upcoming/astramind-for-makers

    Hope this was helpful :)

    1. 2

      Thanks for this, i like the 4 questions, jotting it down :)

  9. 1

    The foundation for dealing with stress and anxiety is the good old healthy lifestyle advice: exercise, eat lots of fruits & veggies, avoid alcohol & nicotine, investing time in your friendships and family relationships, getting adequate sleep.

    The second step is cognitive, changing your thinking about your issues actually changes your feelings. The expensive way is to have a CBT therapist or join a group therapy weekly meeting (less expensive). Or, just learn the principles from a book and apply to your own life.

    Good luck!

    1. 1

      Very simple executable suggestions that many including myself are ignoring. Thank you!

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