Two Harsh Truths Of Entrepreneurship

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Two hard truths about entrepreneurship

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By: Meghana Shah

In July 2020, my co-founder, Fairuz Ahmed, and I founded a nonprofit called The Parasol Cooperative with a vision to protect lives through technology and accelerate the work of domestic violence organizations. Since launching in July 2020, the entire team has made significant strides in building partnerships, building and testing our prototypes together, and enabling critical services for computing organizations. I am very grateful for that, especially for the work highlighted in Forbes and UN Women.

Then why do I wake up with paralyzing fear? Why can’t I sleep without my fear and thoughts getting the best out of me? Everyone. Day.

It turns out I’m not alone. Research has shown that many entrepreneurs face these struggles, which can lead to depression, among other things. These two problems are the most common.

[Related: Building the Mindset to Thrive in the New Normal]

1) Fear of failure, but not in the way you think.

Our brains are hardwired to remember mistakes. Since the startup boom, we have heard and seen quotes about how to “accept failure” or “fail quickly,” which exacerbates anxiety even though they are in a good mood. As if we are doing something wrong if we do not accept failure.

Most entrepreneurs HATE failure. Me too. But not for the reasons you might think.

Many entrepreneurs wake up in the morning with a paralyzing fear that we will mess something up for the organization and that people’s hard work will have been in vain. It lets the team down. It leaves the family in the lurch. That is the mistake that is unacceptable.

However, after I mentioned this fear to a fellow entrepreneur, I was reminded by my ten year old son who overheard the conversation:

Mom you know you can screw it up right? I will love you anyway.

Something I’ve said to him a million times.

We teach our children that failure is okay. This mess doesn’t mean we don’t love or respect someone less. When we are vulnerable with our family, friends and co-workers, it creates a trusting environment and enables a better learning environment. Yet so many of us do not show these uncertainties about the chance of being perceived as weak.

It’s our strength and it’s time to embrace it.

Granted, this fear of abandoning people or “failing” motivates us to work harder and invest longer hours, which leads to the next hard truth.

[Related: Why We Need to Let Go of Gatekeeping and Perfectionism During Lockdown]

2) sleep deprivation.

Studies have shown that stress can affect the quality and duration of sleep. Insufficient sleep can increase stress levels for the same reason. Well, shoot!

The anxiety of # 1, along with the laundry list of outstanding activities, causes the brain to go into high gear. I can safely say this goes for most business owners and women. COVID-19 has upset the situation.

We forgot how to take breaks. There are days when we barely remember to have lunch. The boundaries between work and home are currently blurring.

Many of us rely on melatonin and meditation. They help, but we feel like we need to do more all the time. That leads to a cycle of criticism when we stop doing more. Sigh.

Setting limits for work and home. Take frequent breaks. Get off your device and do something you enjoy like reading. I’ve suggested these tips to so many people, but they’re easier to recommend than implement.

So for now, all we can do is acknowledge that the day has a limited amount of time and learn to accept:

I am a person I need to breathe and be kinder to myself.

[Related: Why Leadership Training is Critical to Helping Women Achieve Their Potential]

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Meghana Shah is the founder and CEO of The Parasol Cooperative, speaker, mentor and mother. She loves creating and fixing things that will help make life better, whether at home or at work. You can read more of her articles on her Medium page.