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Balancing acts: introducing A Day in the Life

In the startup world, it’s generally the stories of success that are glorified. It’s all unicorns, disruption, trendy offices, successful rounds and life-changing exits. But the stories of entrepreneurs never seeing their family, forgetting to exercise, struggling to cope with the workload, tossing and turning at 2am because they don’t think they’re going to be able to pay the wages next week, or, in extreme cases, committing suicide, are not quite as appealing to the hero entrepreneur mythology.

Increasingly, however, the health of founders and entrepreneurs is coming under the microscope. And you can see why: a survey of 242 entrepreneurs by the University of California found 49 percent identified as having a mental health condition. A whopping 30 percent said they were depressed – far more than the overall national average in the US.

When co-working provider BizDojo asked the New Zealand founder community what could be done to help those in it succeed, 20 percent of the responses that came back were around mental health and needing psychological support. As well as this, 95 percent of respondents believed being an entrepreneur had affected their mental health. 

When asked for more specifics, 79 percent of respondents experienced some degree of stress, 76 percent felt overwhelmed, 71 percent experienced anxiety, 40 percent said they were depressed and 13 percent said they were severely depressed. 

Some may argue you already have to be slightly mad to start your own business; to give up the safety and relative comfort of a salary to leap into the unknown, create something new and take on all that risk. Those people deserve kudos and, in many cases, they help push society forward. But success in business often requires sacrifices in life. So can the two be balanced?

As Vend’s Vaughan Rowsell said when asked what he wished he’d known before he started out: “It gets brutally tough … But it is not just tough, it gets staring-into-the-void-tough. Know that those moments are coming, where you will question everything and feel like you are failing everyone.”

Humans are extremely adaptable creatures and, as the many miraculous tales of survival against the odds show, we can cope with an amazing amount of hardship and bounce back from it quite quickly. With the right techniques, we can also manage a whole heap of stress. As Rowsell said, ending on a positive note: “It’s okay. You are okay and normal. You can do it.”

In an ongoing series, we'll be talking to people in high-stress roles to see how they get through the day, how they organise their time and how they handle the madness of business. We hope these insights both satisfy your curiosity into how successful business people spend their time, as well as providing inspiration for the more productive use of your own time day-to-day. 

  • If you're interested in sponsoring this series, which details the lives of high-performing entrepreneurs, there are commercial opportunities available. Get in touch with us by emailing ben@tangiblemedia.co.nz.

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