6 Founder Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them (Part 2 of 3)

This is a continuation from Part 1.

3. Impatience

This one often gets even the best founders, and understandably so. We have a tendency to celebrate impatience as a desirable quality for someone who wants to get stuff done. In this we forget that it is patience that is an ancient and philosophical virtue, not impatience.

Impatience is actually one of the symptoms of the before mentioned arrogance, and it makes us disconnect from people around us. When we are impatient we are unpleasant to be around. Maybe we can impress and intimidate others, and make them speed up. But it will only be to discover that quality of output as well as relationships go downhill. 

Also it is highly unhealthy for the person who is in an impatient state: high blood pressure, heart conditions, sleep deprivation, eventually stress and burnout. No matter how busy we think we are, and we feel that there are not enough hours in the day, it is just a story. It is not worth treating ourselves and others in such a destructive way. 

It is an illusion to think that we can be better founders and innovators by working from a state of being impatient. 

The next time you feel impatient here are 3 things to try out:

  1. Have a walk in the park. Make a point to observe how Mother Nature takes her time. 

  2. Do breathing exercises. There are many good apps if you need assistance. 

  3. Take a yoga class. Perfect to get the energy flowing in your body, and regain perspective. 

4. Stress & burnout

In recent years there is a scenario that I have noticed more and more often: someone in the founding team of a startup or scaleup has to take a long break because of stress and/or burnout. Needless to say, this is highly unfortunate both for the startup and for the individual. Especially because of the uncertainty if the person will return or not.

In Denmark a team member can be down with stress for up to 6 months, with full pay, and the company has to wait and see if they will come back. This makes a lot of sense in terms of taking care of the individual, and I love my country for this caring approach. At the same time, it is of course very challenging to the founders that remain and have to run the business.

Understandable as stress and burnout can be (startup life can be quite insane!), it is also totally unnecessary. Stress is related to self doubt. Over time, disbelief in ourselves leads us to feel stressed and overwhelmed. When we truly believe in ourselves, then there is nothing to be stressed about. We know that we will be just fine, no matter what happens – or doesn’t happen. 

I once heard a wise person saying: “if you can breathe, are not bleeding, and your house is not on fire, then there is no real urgency”. This resonated deeply with me, because I was constantly stressed about failing with the startup I was running at the time. 

Yes, our business can run out of money, and may have to close down. Very sad and disappointing indeed. But is it really worth damaging our health over? Especially since we all know that stress will reduce our performance, definitely not increase it. When we feel stressed our attention span is severely compromised. We forget even simple things, and we get into unnecessary conflicts, just to name a few consequences. When, on the other hand, we insist on keeping our perspective, on staying calm and present while doing our important work, then everything works out so much better. 

Stress and burnout is a big topic, and I will not proclaim to have easy answers. For me meditation, nature and a life coach have made an enormous difference. It all starts with the decision to learn a new way of working. A way that is focused on doing everything with joy and fulfilment, rather than allowing stress and anxiety to take over. 

Pitfall 5 and 6 will follow next week.

Illustrations by 13-year old freelance artist, Mynte Sidor Bjergegaard