Being a founder, stress comes with the territory. Elon Musk famously said: starting a company is like eating glass and staring into the abyss. Psychological dark nights are one of the biggest obstacles founders faces. The mental challenges are insidious. Stress is not only harmful to our productivity, and decision-making, but myriad studies suggest it is equally bad for our health and well-being. This is why it is critical for founders to pay close attention to their sources of stress and anxiety and develop a strategy to deal with them.
In this collection of lessons from founders, we feature learnings and strategies on dealing with the stress and challenges of being a founder from 5 founders: Sarjeena Maodud is the Co-founder and CEO of Sheraspace. Rayana Hossain is the founder and CEO of ISHO. Aziz Arman is the co-founder and CEO of Jatri. Firoze M Zahidur Rahman is the founder and CEO of Loosely Coupled Technologies Ltd. Eddie Bearnot is the co-founder and CEO of Frontier Nutrition.
Future Startup: How do you deal with the challenges and stress that come with being a founder?
Sarjeena Maodud: I have a simple approach to dealing with challenges and stress – I keep an open mindset. I am always open to failure and this outlook has helped me greatly in navigating unpleasant situations.
I am unafraid of experimenting, as I have gathered much greater learnings and wisdom from my failures than I ever have from any of my successes. This enables me to avoid impulsive decision-making, especially in stressful situations. I always try to look at errors with curiosity and decode insights and learnings from them to apply in the future.
So, stress and challenges aren’t so bad after all – they are opportunities for growth! I also try to maintain a habit of reading, learning, and taking courses – the knowledge from which often helps me traverse stressful situations.
Rayana Hossain: Challenges and stress shouldn’t be yours alone and I personally try and adopt a collaborative approach at ISHO.
I have weekly management meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page across all departments.
The key is to maintain transparency and constant communication, particularly within the top management of every department, to ensure that we identify problem areas and address issues together.
Sometimes, you need to take a step backward to move forward is what I believe in.
Aziz Arman: Despite all my work, I make sure to consistently take care of myself so that I’m in a clear headspace whenever needed.
I journal often to record and track developments, ideas, and strategies.
I’m also very fortunate to be part of an innovative, experienced, and cohesive team – we have worked hard to develop a strong organizational culture within the company. Every time we face drawbacks, we cooperate and share the workload responsibly- helping us build trust among ourselves.
Firoze M Zahidur Rahman: I pray, it always helps and I believe it is the most de-stressing thing that one can do. I sleep. I can sleep in 30 sec and almost anywhere. Besides, I listen to music and watch a movie with my wife, son, friends, and family. Hang out with best friends – real long hangout like 4 hours to 2 days – based on the situation. When I am stressed, I spend time with my wife, we eat out a lot.
One regular thing that I do is spend about an hour alone, reflecting and planning. For me, I need to write things down. Once I can see things on paper/drawn out, I feel less stressed. I am not worried about problems; I mainly need to know what they are so that I can decide if it is worth taking the stress.
Eddie Bearnot: Routine and community. Life as a founder is chaotic and uncertain. For me, a fixed daily routine helps me take back control.
I also schedule calls with friends and family several weeks in advance so that no matter what is going on day-to-day, I can stay connected and have something to look forward to. I find these relationships and conversations to be a great source of energy and inspiration.
As I mentioned before, routine and community are key to staying motivated, as well as regular exercise. I am up by 7 AM every morning. I take calls with stakeholders in the US until 8:30 and am at the office by 9 AM.
I spend at least two days a week at the factory or visiting field operations, and on those days will be out of the house by 7 AM to avoid traffic.
On days in the office, I am at my desk or taking meetings in person until 6 PM, when I pause from 6 PM and 9 PM to hit the gym, eat dinner, and call my family. I try to intentionally protect this time every day. It is easy to keep working, but the consequences for my mental health are very bad.
From 9 PM to midnight I finish up emails and other work from the day and try to read a few pages every night before heading to sleep.
Originally published on Aug 29, 2021. Updated on 12 October 2022