Founder's Emotional Ride What motivates you as a founder? How do you respond to pressure and uncertainty?

By Atika Shukla

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It begins and ends with the founder - the all-encompassing passion, never say die drive, ambitions to leave a lasting legacy, the resilience of an armoured tank and the intellectual horsepower to address large customer pains. Yet on the flip side if the founder's mental framework can move from delusional arrogance to irrational self-doubt predominately driven by fear of failure. In effect, the success of the venture in large parts is directly co-related to the founder's mindset and his or her mastery of their mental well-being through the entrepreneurial journey.

The responsibility for a founder is enormous because the venture's success or failure doesn't just affect their own life – it impacts their family and their employees – and their families – as well! On top of that managing investor and board, expectations can be a handful!

Common Emotional Turbulences

Dealing with Uncertainty: Founders have to deal with uncertainty all the time. From finding their first customers, to achieving revenue milestones, raising the next funding, to complex regulatory issues. Net-net dealing with this level of uncertainty on a daily basis can be extremely stressful and overbearing.

Learning to Balance: Founders are inherently passionate about their startup however they need to keep in mind the larger perspective especially with respect to their family and friends. Entrepreneurship can come at a cost especially on the personal front if founders don't have spare time or energy to spare for their loved ones; it can lead to a lot of resentment caused by guilt and adds further stress.

Fear of Failure: We typically attribute our failures to the shortcomings of others or to events outside our control. Running out of capital is one but implies that an entrepreneur was not successful in raising funds. Why? Because the venture had little traction why? Because there was no product-market fit why? As founders, one should continue probing until the root cause for failure is surfaced. It's been observed some founders are ambivalent about their vision or their level of commitment to their venture. Others are headstrong—too confident about their vision and their ability to lead. Both mindsets if not balanced can be reasons for failure.

Maintaining Healthy Mental Wellbeing?

Self-reflection is the starting point. What motivates you as a founder? How do you respond to pressure and uncertainty? For some, therapy with a professional psychologist will put this in focus and bring a lot of clarity of thought.

Mentor/Support Group: A startup mentor ideally who has been there done there i.e. a successful entrepreneur can provide helpful guidance, and act as a good coach especially on aspects around the business. Organizations like TiE provide mentorship opportunities for budding entrepreneurs from senior entrepreneurs and investors.In addition, there are several founders only groups or forums which give founders a chance to learn, empathize and encourage each other – of course, the group should be well curated and have likeminded folks. Sam Altman, the former head of Y Combinator says you'll be surprised how much better you feel just by talking to people about the struggles you're facing instead of saying "we're crushing it". You'll also be surprised how much you find other founders are willing to listen

Fail Fast & Learn: Build discipline learning from your startup's failures and moving on. Discerning the causes of small setbacks may help you mitigate big ones. It's very important to recognize your emotional responses to failure or a big challenge which may follow denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and gradual, grudging acceptance.

Relieve Stress: Recognize that stress puts entrepreneurs at increased risk for depression. Important to seek help when you need it, being in constant touch with family/friends and simply have downtime.

Why? The biggest question that founders need to constantly ask whether they are still on the path that originally motivated them to launch a startup, for example, the desire to disrupt an industry, to build a great company, or simply to be independent. If not, then it needs a serious re-evaluation.

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Atika Shukla

Founder and CEO, Breaking Barriers

Atika is passionate about empowering individuals to lead a more productive and fulfilling life. She is a powerful facilitator who guides and inspires her clients to overcome obstacles, fears, inadequacies and mental constraints. She assists them to surpass barriers for further growth and progress in their personal and professional lives.

Atika has been actively involved in the field of mental and emotional well-being for the past 13 years and founded her own practice “Breaking Barriers®” in 2013. She has worked with the leading organizations like Max Healthcare, Naz Foundation, Sanjivini Society for Mental Health and National Commission for Women (NRI Cell). Furthermore, she has conducted successful consulting assignments with Delhi University, IndusInd Bank and Times Internet as well.

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