Having been self-employed for a number of years I can attest to having those moments where promise, hope and opportunity are overcome with fits of frustration, anxiety and depression. I thought it was simple me, and as I looked inside my personality and portfolio it raised many questions as to who I am and why am I subjecting myself to such abuse. In pursuit of an answer I scoured the internet and bookshelves. Sometimes delving into the bizarre and complex world of clinical psychology, and other times looking to ways people have vented themselves (possibly as a means of alleviating depression or whatever label we wish to assign). I came across an interesting discussion that took place back in 2003 about this topic (http://www.feld.com/wp/archives/2013/01/are-entrepreneurs-more-prone-to-depression-and-divorce.html) by B.Feld (venture capitalist at the Foundary Group) and found that its more than just an occassional situation but one that seems to rustle around through the entrepreneural community. Some confessed that they had been diagnosed while others gave way to the effects of depression. I found no indication what so ever that it had effect on the ability to deliver service, but often it manifested itself in their personal lives. Does this mean that our private lives are a second to business? Does it mean that if we are going to sacrifice anything it will be those things that we emotion connected with?
Talking with some of these folks I found that people didn’t willingly discard their personal connections. Rather the intense quest for answers to depression related to business consumed them to a point where there was no room for those personal things. Those that lost business but kept their personal relationships were more apt to be geared toward having the ability to always start another venture. But what did they do in these lulls between fits of depression and tranquility? Was it productive and did it make a difference in abating the seemingly endless cycle of depression?
No, rest was not productive and in fact breaking the cycle of rest was a challenging as it was to break the cycle of depression. While spits and spurts of innovation and creativity occurred allot failed to ground the concept with an outcome that would be judged as a successful. How many people know that people like Abraham Lincoln, Johnny Depp, David Beckham, Kim Basinger, Princess Diana, and Billy Joel would suffer from such a gut wrenching affliction? Outwardly supreme performers and accomplished individuals, yet deep inside they suffer on a daily basis. What seems to be common with all forms of depression is the unbelievably intense desire to achieve and to fulfill. As a trainer once told me, “education isn’t that hard to deliver but its the intense lond standing on stage that keeps the audience captivated that is so difficult to endure”. Having stood in those shoes I could fully understand what he was saying.
As some of you sit there reading this piece I hope that you understand that you may not be alone. Some may be vocal about it, while others keep it close for fear of being viewed as weird or unworthy (a mild case of paranoia). I can assure you that most people have depression, anxiety and vacillating focus. The difference is whether this is a brief, or a very occasional situation or whether its recurring.
We look for answers, some that have sever issues seek both counseling and pharmaceutical solutions. But for the average entrepreneur we seek solutions in our own unique, sometimes quirky, and often experimental way. Unfortunately we sometime exploit non-business solutions like drug and alcohol abuse, self-abuse through overwork (I’m sure you have heard those people who are self-anointed workaholics) and sometime other pleasures to which I will leave your imagination to run wild with. Some of you may exploit outlets through over use of social outlets, endless and unconnected writing (I think I’m in that category) and even an endless parade of non-paid speaking engagements justified as ‘good marketing’. None of these are bad, unless of course its a sin or illegal, but its truly a matter of moderation and not to excess. I have found that many far Eastern souls love to use and explore quotes as a means to shadow their question to overcome depression, and some have even gone so far as to self-quote. Again I say, whatever works.
Yes, I am envious of those that have a normal job where pay is a normality and work is something that one can dedicate themselves totally to. As a serial entrepreneur we lack the luxury of a normal paycheck, we are driven by an intense desire to make an impact. Whether this impact is on society or whether it is on one small aspect of a project for a customer. Where I am still at odds is where, of if, entrepreneural depression is solvable or whether its a condition that cannot be overcome (only dealt with). I hopeful that regardless of whether it is or not that we find peace, joy and a means where we can help ourselves and also help others.
I am no longer depressed… I am not guardedly optimistic. My mind is free to think creatively and to control the desire to exercise a knee jerk reaction in favor of a much more controlled pragmatic though process.