Startup Emotions

During his famous speech back in 1993 Jim Valvano said, “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.” I realize that it’s not for everybody, but if you’re looking to live a full day, every day than you would love working at a startup. You might even get lucky and be part of a team that builds something special.

It seems like a million years ago now but I'll never forget the lack of emotion at my first job. I would sit at my desk performing operational tasks over and over again. It really wasn’t always that way. During the first couple of years I was generally engaged, interested and happy at work. However, after some time those feelings began to disappear. I realized that I craved an exciting environment full of ups and downs. I was too young and had too much fire in my belly for a stable corporate lifestyle.

During the first few months working on RevivnAnthony and I often had little control over our emotions. This is normal for first time founders- things can get extremely exciting or very depressing rather quickly. I remember when we first got our initial product to market. Our expectations were extremely high and unrealistic. When we realized the first version of our product sucked, we were depressed for two weeks. It was hard to get up in the morning and keep working. After all our hard work realizing that we needed to start over was a tough pill to swallow. As Paul Graham writes in his essay: What Startups are Really Like, the ups and downs are often more extreme than founders are prepared for.

After those first few failures we began to bounce back quickly. At this point we're prepared for the mood to change every hour. During any given day we may have a bad meeting at 8am, get great news at lunch and then get back to work in the afternoon only to have to deal with a legal issue until 1 in the morning. As a founder you try (and should) learn something from each event. However, you'll soon realize that the random events that occur are just part of being on a startup rollercoaster. Don’t waste time analyzing why things happen. The worst thing you can do is blame yourself for an event that was simply a result of randomness.

Startup emotions are difficult to control and can lead to burn out.  It’s like game day is everyday. Every morning you wake up having no idea what’s going to happen. The highs and lows are dangerous. Things can fall apart quickly. Remember that it’s your job to pay attention and understand your emotions. Staying in control of them and learning from rejection is critical for success.

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