I used to take great joy in ‘my baby’ aka my startup. I didn’t need to force the fire, because it was already burning when I woke up and it stayed nicely toasting as I slept. I would take great joy at waking up at ungodly hours and scheduling in late night calls, because for the first couple of years it was love! I had found something special (at least to me) and I was in it for the long haul…
However, over time the fire didn’t quite stay as bright as I thought it would. The plans I originally had in place took many a set back and even though I got up every time and did that wonderful thing called ‘perseverance’’, I also noticed there was a little less confidence and conviction from the time before and then from the time before that…. The domino effect of self doubt had begun and it began to plague the way I slept, communicated and created.
It was similar to the first signs of a relationship that has grown tired and it followed in this kind of order:
I began to resent meetings and calls
I no longer felt like it meant the same to me from when I first started
I didn’t feel ready when people asked me ‘what next’?
I started questioning what I could ‘give’ to it
I started questioning what it was really giving to me
I started to wonder on a regular basis whether this was really what I wanted at all…
The truth was I was losing what was left of the fire and I was constantly imagining a life without the ‘old ball and chain’. I was being told regularly ‘do what makes you happy’ and I was seriously beginning to question whether it really was stopping me from being as happy as I could be.
So I decided to give it a ‘make or break’ holiday. I didn’t actually go away anywhere myself, rather I just mentally checked out of it to see if I could reconnect with the things that made me love it so much in the first place. You might think that meant analysing areas of it that needed more attention, looking at partnerships within the business that were weighing it down rather than bringing it up or scrapping anything that wasn’t bringing in any revenue.
Actually, I started to look at myself more and realised that the long hours and knocks were blocking my creativity and my mental space, which was indirectly affecting the success of the business.
So I took a step back for a few months. Instead I started taking on other projects and got excited doing those things for a while. My family told me I needed to get more hobbies outside of work and friends, so if work was going badly I didn’t feel like everything was going south. I went and saw a professional who told me I needed to get better at expressing myself and to stop internalising everything because it would make me ill. I started investing in things like acupuncture to find a new outlet to destress that wasn’t as cell-block tango as say the gym! The pressure to constantly deliver and be available to everyone on tap wasn’t so heavy because of my decision to ‘allow this time for myself’.
The truth was I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. I saw its potential and I knew I would be miserable without it if I really did decide to cut the cord, so I gave myself even more time.
Slowly but surely I started to look at my startup in a different light again because I didn’t feel so resentful towards it because of my lack of passion. I began to think of new ideas again and became more engaged in what we were doing. I also decided to say yes to something I didn’t think I’d do and that is to let someone come into the business as a partner. Someone who can share the load, stimulate new ideas and offer new skill-sets. Although we haven’t started work yet, just the thought of having someone to share some of the load with and help take the business to the next step, makes me feel less stressed and more excited.
Nothing kills anything faster than self-doubt if you let it fester and continuously evolve each day. If you’re falling out of love with your startup, it’s not a crime to admit it. You might even decide after some time, it’s still not enough and that’s OK too. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to give yourself the space to work on yourself. In that time, you can build on some of the confidence that you were beginning to lack when things were seemingly starting to fall a part. It’s amazing just what you believe you can do when you’re in a good frame of mind, it’s just a case of allowing yourself that luxury, of getting there in the first place.