When Selling Your Company for $2.5 Billion Leads to Depression
You've likely heard of the popular video game Minecraft. What you may not know is that it was developed by Markus “Notch” Persson ("Notch" being his gamertag), who was just out to make a fun game. He later sold the property to Microsoft for $2.5 billion.
What's more, it's believed that Persson retained ownership of 70 percent of the company, which means he netted $1.75 billion.
Now, you might think that that would be reason for him to feel on top of the world with his new life, which has included partying with Selena Gomez in his $70 million mansion. But, the truth is that the introverted Swede finds himself in a bad place. "I've never felt more isolated," he told Gamespot.com. Depression, loneliness, and a lack of a sense of purpose have him pining for the days when he was just a developer, he's said in various Tweets.
This kind of emotional fall is more common than you'd think. Terry Bradshaw, winner of four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Hall of Fame player, and nationally televised commentator, has famously talked about his depression.
Bradshaw has described how, when he won a Super Bowl, he’d feel happy for the day, then experience major anxiety about the expectations he believed he faced to do the same again the next year.
Sound familiar? That’s because it is. For many people. Myself included.
These down feelings can happen because we are so driven and because we've set our sights on achieving a big dream. When we achieve it, we briefly celebrate. Then comes the emptiness.
We buy things, hang out with different people, talk about the “next thing” we’re going to tackle, which everyone wants to know about.
Yet therein lies the anxiety. Because now you’re feeling renewed pressure to perform again.
Do you know what almost every CEO I've gotten close to has admitted to me? The feeling of being a fraud. They don’t truly know what they’re doing, they say. Yet there's so much pressure on them, they have to put on a face that says everything’s okay.
What's more, they fear that they’ll be found out: by their employees, their customers, their spouse and most of all, their children. They get so used to this defense mechanism that they learn to live with it and tell themselves everything is fine. They shut themselves off to the outside world in their own way.
The result can be escapism activities like drinking, drugs (both prescription and street), large purchases, excessive eating or working out, and often, a tendency to pour themselves into work. Then comes the worry that it will all be taken away from them in a single swoop. Some unrealistic catastrophic event will occur, and they’ll be left with nothing. And this second wave of negative emotion can develop into paranoia.
Sound familiar? The question is, what do you do when you recognize you’re in a similar bad place? Whether you feel like you’re in a rut, don’t have a purpose in life anymore or are just tired of feeling like a fraud, what steps do you take? Assuming you’re not in a full-fledged clinical depression (if so, please contact a mental health professional and get help), here are five things you can do right now:
1. Be honest with yourself.
Quit trying to act like superman or superwoman. You are human. Stop expecting to be this “perfect person” that’s always healthy and happy. Be clear about what you’re going through, and give yourself permission to feel the way you do. Because, when you’re beating yourself up for feeling low, you’re self-perpetuating the process, and you’ll never get out.
2. Reach out.
This is the time that you call up that person you know will really listen to you. Right now, you don’t need advice. You just need an ear. You’ll be surprised how deeply your friends and family will be there for you when you let them see what you’re going through. If you don’t have that person, call me. Go to my website and contact me, and I’ll simply listen to you for an hour. Free of charge. Because I’ve been through these times in my life, and I know how important it is just to be heard.
3. Work on yourself.
While you can’t immediately break patterns that have taken years to put into place, there are many things you can do to make fast progress: Quit drinking and taking drugs, eat healthy, get some sleep and exercise. You would be surprised how quickly they work. If you’ve never done yoga, now’s a good time. (Don’t worry; I looked funny in my first yoga class too . . .)
4. Reconnect with happy times.
Take some reflective time and think about when you were really happy. Don’t worry about how much money you were making or how old you were. Then, connect with the reason you were happy, and the feeling. Finally, ask how can you re-create it now. If you want to find your “purpose” in life, which is a massively overused term nowadays, this simple process will help you find it.
5. Work from the inside out.
Quit trying to get validation from outside sources. Money, cars, the size of your company, whom you date/marry, what your kids do, etc.: These are all “false gods.” I say that because it’s never-ending. Do you think that winning the lottery will solve your problems and make you happy? Not according to studies.
Reconnect with what you’re proud of. Go volunteer somewhere and help someone else -- without expecting something in return. That’s a sure-fire way to up your mood.
As someone who’s had his share of depression and substance abuse, I can tell you it’s like a prison. A self-created prison, but a prison just the same.
The good thing is that it’s not hard to start shifting things in your life so that you can make your escape.
But nothing is going to change until you take that first step.
And if you know Notch, tell him to reach out to me. I’m here to listen.
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