The ultimate entrepreneurs’ guide to mastering your emotions
Originally posted on PURE LAMBDA.
In a recent article from Harvard Business School, Professor Linda Hill says that “getting an organization to its digital future is less about technology and tools, and more about people and culture. For leaders, that means (also) engaging with employees on a deeply emotional level”.
As part of our work at PURE LAMBDA, we receive a lot of questions from entrepreneurs asking themselves how to master their emotions, positive or negative, while growing their businesses. The entrepreneurship journey is often seen as a true rollercoaster navigating through worry, indecision, doubt, stress, and loneliness and how to handle success and growth.
Feelings are often linked to a situation or, more precisely, to a representation of a situation leading to a plethora of questions.
- How do I know I am on the right path with my business?
- Does the world need what I create?
- I am tired, but I am the founder of my company. Why should I care about self-care?
- Will I be okay if my startup does not work?
- Will I be okay if my startup scales faster than expected?
- Do I have suitable business models for my product and my users?
Overall, based on our entrepreneurial experience, there are some fundamental rules to follow to put some distance between a situation, a feeling, and your answer.
- Data is gold. If you are lost, trust your metrics. It is a clear and tangible indication of where you stand.
- Putting yourself first is not selfish. On the plane, they always tell you to put your mask on before helping others with putting theirs on. As a founder or an entrepreneur, your physical and mental health are paramount. Listen to yourself. Learn to delegate.
- It is normal to feel attached to your business, but remember that you and your business are two different entities.
- You never fail; you either succeed or you learn. Sadly, the entrepreneurship journey in Europe is quite different from that in the US, where failure is much more accepted.
- Being overwhelmed by success is a good problem to have; keep that in mind. It is a good strategy to think about a hiring process from the start so you can activate it as soon as needing it.
- Control your burn rate. The success of your business depends on your ability to run a marathon, not a spring run. It is okay to say no to a customer if needed, should you want to keep quality. Saying “no” to a customer is better than a customer talking about how bad their experience was.
- Never forget that the path to success includes luck, and there is no way to influence how lucky you are, but there is always a way to be ready when luck strikes. Always be prepared.
And to make it even more practical, we have decided to build up a guide listing the emotions that an entrepreneur might feel and give some practical advice and tools on how to respond to them.
To sum up it all, we would take the words of Tal Ben-Shahar, an American and Israeli teacher and well-known writer in the areas of positive psychology and leadership, who once said: “I do not think that things necessarily happen for the best, but we can learn to make the best of things that happen.”
Master you emotions
Check out the interactive tool on PURE LAMBDA.
Anxious, Worried, Stressed
Worries and anxiety are very close feelings. Both come from fear. What is scaring you? Usually, it would come from the unknown. It is impossible to control the unknown. Try to face your fear and investigate. Collect data. And for the part where you might think you have no answer, reach out to your support group (friends, family, mentor, doctor, etc…).
Usually feeling bitter comes from buried emotion. You have resentment. Try to talk about it with the involved person fast. Don’t let it fester.
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Do you have too much to do? Make a list. Separate the synchronous tasks and the asynchronous ones. Give a difficulty score to each task, then assign a reward score. Calculate the ROI and start there with the top few async ones. Then start working on the top sync one.
Usually, disappointment comes from a discrepancy between expectation and reality. Try to analyze what were your expectations, and how did the reality differ. How can you adjust your expectations in the future? How can you improve your current situation? Every positive or negative event can be an opportunity in disguise.
Are you wondering which decision to take? A first quick option would be to imagine yourself in the future after taking decision A. If you feel happy, it is the good one. If not, try to imagine making decision B. Make a list of pros and cons. If that is not enough: build criteria of success with weight, and then assign a score for each criterion for each option. Calculate the final score by summing each criteria score multiplied by the weights. You can now pick the options with the highest score.
This is a great feeling but be careful. It can be detrimental during a negotiation, for instance, you might be too obvious and the other party will notice that they can take advantage of your excitement by either raising their price or asking you to lower yours. Also, excitement could make you agree with a decision that won’t be beneficial in the long run. When you feel excited, take a pause, breathe and analyze the situation pragmatically. Is it really a great opportunity? Do you really want to do this for your future and the future of your company?
Frustrated, Irritated, Annoyed
You have tried to resolve something for a while, but you are not making progress. Someone is not responsive, or an administration is taking ages to come back to you. Those are all very annoying and frustrating situations. Try to think of ways you could make it better for yourself by yourself. How can you reduce your dependencies on other people? On the other hand, could you delegate this frustrating task to someone else that might have more patience or time available? Can you automate this process so nobody will ever have to deal with it again?
Take a break. Have some fresh orange juice. Go for a walk. Take some vitamin B, fuelling your body with good energy. Watch positive news, you can follow, for instance, this website: Positive.news/.
This is wonderful but it is also an opportunity. If you often feel sad or depressed, take advantage of those moments of happiness. Write down somewhere what makes you happy, and grateful. So you can re-read it later on when you are having a bad day.
There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Seek advice and ask for help from your mentor or your advising team. Make a list of goals and objectives. Sort those goals from the more pressing to the least important. Which one would be the fastest to complete among those most important ones? Start with this one. Once completed, treat yourself with a treat. Entrepreneurship is hard, never forget to take care of yourself.
Infuriated, Vengeful, Mad
Never make a decision when you are angry or feel revengeful. And never make a promise when you are happy. Take a day off, breathe, go into nature, and spend time with friends and family. Don’t make irrational decisions. Sleep on it. Wait for the next day to go back to it with fresh eyes, and a calm mind.
Insulted, Disliked, Offended
Are you feeling offended? First, make sure this is what the person meant. Maybe it is all a misunderstanding. Second, was it directly targeted at you as a person, as a human being, or maybe was it only targeted at an action you did? Maybe it was not personal? Also, is this person worth it? Should you care about what they think? Were you at fault? Get a clearer picture of the situation and reflect if having your brain busy with those thoughts is worth it. Was the person worth you spending time thinking about what happened to them?
First, look at you. Never be jealous of another entrepreneur’s success. It’s a trap and it will hit you like a boomerang. It might impact your own business growth without even knowing it by distracting you from being your best to your team and your customers. It is better to stay true to yourself rather than trying to compete against another company’s values. We all have different cards in our hands and sometimes, yes, the game is unfair, but better to fail as you than succeed as someone else.
It is a widespread feeling. Don’t make it last. Go talk to your mentors, friends, family, accelerator program, cohort colleagues, or contact PURE LAMBDA. Don’t let this feeling depress you. You are not alone!
Lost, Blocked, Stuck
When you feel hopeless: make a list of goals and organize them. Collect also your data and metrics. Analyze it. It might give you an answer or a solution that you did not see before. Talk about it with someone, talking about it might shine light from a new perspective.
To feel at peace, meditation is a great tool. One strategy that works for me as a founder is to imagine myself floating straight standing up in the middle of an infinite ocean. Each thought produces ripples and waves in this ocean. My meditation is to try to keep the water as peaceful as possible. Either by quieting thoughts or by writing them down to put them outside of my head. Don’t hesitate to use some tools or apps.
Pride is great and often the result of an accomplishment. But be careful not to turn pride into arrogance. Make sure to stay humble. Humility helps entrepreneurs in a number of ways from helping to identify weaknesses, being open to learning from others or remaining competitive. A good strategy is to always recognize your team members that contributed to this victory. Stay humble.
Relief is often felt after a moment of intense stress and anxiety. When this happens, enjoy it obviously. But then, take a moment to reflect. Were the stress and anxiety justified? What part of the situation triggered the anxiety? Were you expecting failure? Were you not confident in your chance of success? Was the decision outside of your control? In the future, how could you make similar situations easier?
To feel satisfaction more often, it is necessary to follow those steps:
- First, assign yourself a task
- Write down the criteria for completion. Those criteria must be measurable and realistic.
- Then complete the task.
Completing the task on its own is productive but it is more satisfying if you assigned it to yourself first. You have this feeling of accomplishment. Especially when you can cross that line in your TODO list!
Usually, that is a sign of too much in your head. Bring a notepad close to your bed. Do not use your phone as the blue light will trigger your brain. Write down everything you think about. You need to purge your mind and put everything outside so you can sleep with a clear head. Then the next day, you can read what you wrote and deal with it.
A troubling feeling usually comes from inconsistency in your mental representation of reality. Are you feeling discrepancies? Investigate. Collect more data. Try to talk about it and put words on what is disturbing you. Speak to your peers to confront what you think and what others see. Don’t hesitate to open up yourself to your support group (friends, family, mentor, doctor, etc…)
It is easy to bury yourself and pretty common to want to flee away from the world right now. Try to watch less news. Take a day off. Go to the forest. Practice your hobby.