Posted by kari.petroschmidt
Everyone goes through low periods. And when you’re trying to start a business, the highs and lows can be particularly pronounced. There is obviously more risk in starting up, more doubt and fear. When you’re trying to strike out into the universe and taking all the responsibility for your venture, it can be scary. Lows are likely inevitable.
A good first step (related to me by Mary Lemmer, one of the Entrepreneur-in-Residence applicants for this year) is to ask oneself the question, what is this low trying to teach me? You feel this way for a reason. Identify it. Learn from it. Sometimes you will just have to ride a low through – perhaps it’s not immediately obvious what the problem is or how to fix it. This is possibly the most frustrating aspect of the low, but there are still mechanisms for dealing with it.
Get some perspective. Try and step outside of the present moment and see the whole picture, holistically. I remember talking to Logan Elliot of Highly Flammable, who emphasized the often bipolar nature of starting up. In one day he can go from tortured low to elated high, and often does. One Friday morning he was certain Highly Flammable couldn’t work. He’d crunched the numbers, it looked impossible. By that afternoon he’d seen a bigger vision for the business that has seen him through. The important thing, whether you’re bored, over-worked or depressed, is to take a step back. Breathe. Have a break. And come back to it.
From a philosophical point of view, life is all about perspective. As lost as we can feel sometimes, there’s always worth in it and whether you believe this or not, you’re probably right (at least, in terms of how you feel). Maybe you’ll have a friend who will support you in your time of need. You’ll have four orgasms in a row, or find yourself in that beautifully timeless, infinite space of working on something you love. A great conversation will emerge out of nowhere. You’ll listen to a lecture or talk where someone says something really awesome and true. Experience some great piece of art. We can complain forever, but at least we have options. You can stop what you’re doing, make a drastic change. Or go harder than ever before. Yes, sometimes it is a necessary and inevitable that we’ll have to wallow in our own self-pity. But in the words of Henry David Thoreau, “the cost of a thing is the amount of… life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” Every moment spent whining is a moment where you’re wasting it.
Get some advice. Talk it through. This can help you identify the problem, the solutions and how to get your low into perspective. In saying this, advice can only go so far. The only person who can really decide what to do with your life, is you. As Justin Ryan Scott state’s in this post – everyone has a perspective. Yours is unique to you. Only you really understand what you want and who you are, based on your own particular experience and disposition.
Finally, if everything else fails, DO SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. The great musician Paul Simon is a perfect example. After an approximately decade-long period of just sort of muddling along post Simon & Garfunkel, his album Graceland was a “shot at redemption”. And in the most random way possible – going to South Africa and collaborating with African mbaquanga and isicathamiya artists (who can almost hear the Music Exec’s exclaiming ‘WHAT THE FUCK?’). And just like that, life completely turned around.
A ‘low’ is a complex beast. Maybe it’s just a moment in time. Maybe you’re just over-worked. Your brain needs some oxygen, you need to go for a run, have a laugh, get back to nature. Maybe there’s something in your life that’s more fundamentally wrong, and you need to take a big step to change that. Whatever the reason, DON’T FREAK OUT. Lows are a part of life, providing it with the dynamism and meaning that makes it what it is. Experience it. Learn from it. Don’t let it beat you.