Bootstrapped startups and the shit I learn in therapy

Have you ever been scared for your life? Not horror movie-scared, but actually convinced that you might die?

Now imagine that feeling lasting for over an hour and nothing you tell yourself can make you snap out of it. Meanwhile, your body is acting an awful lot like you’re having a heart attack or you’ve suddenly developed a brain tumor.

That’s what a panic attack feels like.

It took a horrible break up, multiple panic attacks, and 5 years of running Krit for me to get into a therapist’s office. Here are 4 reasons I recommend you go today.

1. Mental health and productivity are closely correlated

If you’re bored or unhappy at work, you aren’t going to get as much done. Think of two tasks: one that you love doing and one that you hate. How fast does the task you hate get done?

When you’re unhappy, most tasks fall in the “hate” bucket, and you’re simply not going to work as hard. Your brain is going to be distracted by problems outside of the ones you’re trying to focus on. Meanwhile, the to-dos pile up, so does the stress, and each compounds the other. This cycle is nearly impossible to break on your own.

2. Understanding yourself will improve your business strategy

In the episode, “When strength becomes weakness” from the WorkLife Podcast, organizational psychologist Adam Grant talks to Marcus Buckingham, an expert on developing the strengths in people. Marcus shares research that leaning into your strengths, not improving your weaknesses, will help you excel in your career. But it takes purposeful introspection and outside help to figure out what your strengths are.

“I think deep down, we don't actually think that our unique way of engaging with the world is worth uncovering. And what we need sometimes is someone going, ‘No, no, no -- that's you. That's weird.’”

Weird here is a positive. Understanding and owning your weird means embracing your unique strengths. And those strengths are what’s going to help you build a great business.

Anyone who has run a business for some amount of time understands that what works for someone else may not work for you. Each business and founder is unique, and the more you understand about yourself the faster you’ll be able to run.

Sure, you can be introspective without going to therapy. But a good therapist provides an outside perspective; they help you understand when you’re on the right track or going own the wrong path, and they challenge you to push deeper.

3. Therapy will make you a better manager

A huge part of therapy is learning to be a better communicator. Clearer communication will help you navigate any relationship, but especially the complex dynamics that arise when you’re managing people.

But possibly most important, I’m at my worst as a manager when I’m stressed and dealing with personal issues. Psychological safety is one of the clearest indicators of team success, and the times I’ve snapped at someone on my team are clearly correlated to times when I was feeling pressured or dealing with personal issues.

Therapy gives you an outlet to manage your stress levels, as well as learn from mistakes, and be a better manager.

4. Your happiness is more important than your business

None of the other points in this article matter if you’re miserable.

To get a new business off the ground, you may have to put it first for a while. But if the business stays your top priority indefinitely, eventually your business stops serving you...and starts hurting you. While you have a responsibility to do your best work and take care of the people who depend on you, businesses exist to serve people (including you). Not the other way around.

Life is short, and it’s important to work at being happy while you’re here. That means learning how to process your personal traumas and live a life that aligns with your values.

“I feel pretty okay right now. Should I still consider therapy?”

Therapy isn’t only for when you’re having breakdowns and everything is falling apart. Really, you want to build a relationship with a therapist way before that point. Especially if you’re a founder. Here’s what another founder, Sophia Berra, has to say about why any entrepreneur should consider therapy:

“Why would an entrepreneur need a therapist? Because you blew up your stable life and financial security to follow your dreams and that’s terrifying. Because you’re sacrificing self-care, sleep, and time with loved ones to get your business off the ground and you’re left feeling frazzled. Because imposter syndrome is real and intensifies when you’re launching a business. A therapist can help you navigate the emotional highs and lows of being an entrepreneur.

I often come back to this quote by Ryan Holiday: “Perfecting the personal regularly leads to success as a professional, but rarely the other way around.” We spend all this time up-leveling our professional lives, but we often don’t put a tenth as much effort into working on our personal lives (i.e. being the best partner, friend, or lover that we can be).”

I’ve been going to therapy for over a year now, and I spend more on my therapist than my gym or even groceries some months. It’s been the best investment I’ve ever made. Over that same time span our business has doubled in revenue, our team is happier at work, and I know myself better than I ever have before. While I’m not singing with little forest creatures every day, I’m happier too. This in turn has a compounding effect; I’m doing better work and have more energy to work on myself.

Your personal life inevitably bleeds into every aspect of your work life when you’re an entrepreneur. Your past experiences, baggage, and even your strengths directly affect the quality of the work that you do.

The opposite is also true. You won’t ever be able to completely leave your work at home.

So put in the time to work on yourself. Your business will thank you. And, more importantly, you’ll be happier for it.

Note: This is a topic I'm passionate about. If you have any questions about therapy, or need someone to talk to please don't hesitate to reach out -

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