May 20, 2019
The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship
I’m not into conspiracies or wear tin foil hats but there has definitely been a significant rise in high profile suicides of C-Level employees and founders over the past few years. People must marvel at the idea that someone so successful, so admired, and so well known would commit suicide.
No human on this planet has never endured a bad day. Bad days can make you depressed but that type of thing is fleeting and not a chronic mental illness. The attributes of great entrepreneurs and senior executives can be the exact definition of certain types of mental illness, from psychopaths, sociopaths, bipolar disorder, as well as people on the autism spectrum such as Asperger’s Syndrome. It is well known in the community who some of these people are, and having a background in therapeutic psychology methodologies such as cognitive behavior analysis can help you work positively with these folks. It can also be drastically demoralizing and emotionally abusive for you as well. You may need to part ways if you are working in that type of work environment for your own mental health.
Being an entrepreneur means never showing that you’re having a bad day or else you risk encouraging rumors that there are problems within the company, such as cash flow issues, product launch delays, market changes, new tech disruption making your product obsolete… If you share your own fears, they can balloon into very nasty and usually completely incorrect gossip, which can have a follow on effect where you start losing your best team members, or investment money starts to dry up. This only exacerbates the problem for the entrepreneur who typically feels that he/she can’t express their fears or mourn the loss of a big opportunity without losing the faith and support of their coworkers.
For some founders, this effect is palpable. I know personally what losing sleep wondering how I was going to make payroll next month feels like. These people are counting on you to do what you do in order them to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads. They took the job believing in you and your mission. For some entrepreneurs, this burden becomes all consuming and can lead to depression and ultimately suicide. Their feeling of betraying the people who trusted them is just too much to bear.
For founders who are feeling in any way like this, you are not alone. You need to seek help. Help can come from many areas. It may be family, a trusted friend or mentor, a confidential community of founders, or a professional. It may even be a combination of two or three of these, but you need to seek help.
No company is worth your life.
Failure is part of life. Learn from it and move on. It teaches you how to do it differently the next time. You may even bring many of the same people with you and you’ll wonder at just how close you came to never being the person you were really meant to be.
If you have a challenge and need help, reach out – even to me. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed about. Would you deny yourself the medication you need for diabetes or a heart condition? The brain is an organ, too. A very complex one, so there’s no blame to be made, shame to be felt. Just get the help you need. There is light at the end of the tunnel, even if it’s just New Jersey. 🙂