5. Lack of joy
Being a founder can become the death of your joy. But don’t let it!
We all want joy in our life, even if we won’t admit it, or don’t feel that we can allow ourselves such ‘luxury’. People are naturally attracted to those that spread good vibes, and it is worth remembering that investors, employees and customers are human beings. So if we want to attract, we must be attractive! Nothing is more attractive to us than people who are full of joy, and spread these good vibes all around them. .
Our task is to be inclusive and present in the midst of our joy, not aloof or superior. None of us likes to see that there is a party going on, but that we are not invited! Be real, and be available, while at the same time being in a state of quiet, humble, natural joy.
This is a balance and a task that is complex for the intellect, but simple for the heart. Joy is a quality of the heart, but we can use the mind in our efforts to create it. For example: give yourself the task to think about 5 things in your life that you could choose to feel joyous about right now, if you wanted to. This can be anything from a sunny day, an act of kindness from a colleague, the smile on your child’s face, the smell of the roses, the freshness of the air, anything.
There is a lot to gain by creating a work culture that appreciates and consciously creates joy. If not on a daily basis, then definitely whenever there is a win of some sorts. As we take on this practice we will find that there are in fact many wins during a normal work week, small wins and big wins. Even if we are overall behind on performance, we want to remember to celebrate getting a new customer signed up, the onboarding of a new colleague, that someone wrote us an email telling us that our work matters to them. If we don’t, we run the risk of losing energy long before the finish line. Imagine a marathon runner affirming “YES!” for each accomplished kilometer, versus someone saying “oh no, there is still soooo long to go...”
We are energetic beings, our psychological wellbeing matters to our performance, and we want to cheer ourselves and each other along. We want to enjoy the process. As founders it is up to us (or down to us!) to create a culture that includes joy. In our own lives and in our startups.
It is a paradoxical fact that many founders end up feeling lonely. With people around them all day (virtually or in person) we might expect that loneliness was the last feeling a founder will experience. After all there are team members, investors, customers, suppliers, partners, and all other kinds of stakeholders, to engage with. All of them would ideally talk to the founder about most topics. So in some ways we can feel very popular as the founder, of course especially if our venture has gotten some traction. However, it is perfectly possible, and even common, to be surrounded by lots of people and still inside of oneself feel deeply lonely. For the founder this happens because of a feeling that he or she cannot be fully honest with everyone. The founder needs to radiate success and faith in the project. He or she cannot be displaying doubt, insecurity, confusion - even though there might be such feelings a lot of the time. In other words, as founders we can feel that we have to pretend. And this is what makes people lonely, in the midst of all the action.
If you have felt such loneliness here are 3 approaches that can help you.
First of all, don’t create a culture where you need to be superman or superwoman all the time. Of course, it is awesome to be excited, confident, full of energy, but when you are not… you are not. There is a time to cheer yourself up and give it all you have got. And there is a time to be real about that right now you need a little space, to realign and recharge. No shame in that.
Have a support network of family and friends. People love to help people. That goes for your family and friends too. When we are genuine and ask them if they would be willing to listen to us for a little while, even though what we are saying might not be that constructive right now, they will happily show up for us.
Consider having a mentor, coach or adviser. Someone who has walked the same path that you are walking right now. Personally, I have worked with more than a dozen coaches and guides over the years. Sometimes just for 1 session, and my record was 100+ sessions with the same coach at a time where I really needed the support. It is different for everyone, but for me I have no doubt that I would have driven myself to stress, burnout and despair, if I had not invested in my personal growth, wisdom and wellbeing continuously.
Loneliness is a feeling that separates us from life. Being a founder is a big feat, and the only way to lasting success is through overcoming our tendency to emotionally isolate when the going gets tough. Instead engage, ask for help, and allow ourselves to experience being supported. This will give us the stamina to go on, no matter what happens along the way.
These are some of the methods that have been most beneficial for me as a founder. I hope they can serve as inspiration on your journey.