Summary: Along with diet, relationships, and exercise, meditation will make your entrepreneurial journey more rewarding by helping you focus on what matters and mitigating the day-to-day stresses and distractions.
This is a response to this week’s Startup Edition Question: How do you deal with stress and life balance as an entrepreneur? I actually suggested this question to Ryan via Twitter because so many entrepreneurs have asked me for advice in dealing with this issue. 1
I wrote a few months ago that I decided to try meditation at the advice of my friend Joel Gascoigne. While I originally decided to start meditating to deal with insomnia, I’ve since found many ways it enriches my startup journey.
Entrepreneurship has Unique Challenges and Meditation Helps Us Deal with Them
Many people start meditating to deal with stress, depression, or addiction. Fortunately I’ve never suffered any of these problems – in fact, I’m one of the intrinsically happiest people I’ve ever met. When I tell people that I meditate they’re often puzzled to understand why because I don’t appear stressed out. I explain that entrepreneurship is such a uniquely challenging career that all of us can get better by investing in ourselves through positive lifestyle choices like diet, exercise, and meditation.
I’ve been using Headspace to meditate and really like the product. Even after the first few days of my Headspace journey I began to notice positive changes. Here are some ways Headspace is making me a better entrepreneur:
1. Sleep Better
One of my personal challenges with entrepreneurship has been the physical exhaustion that comes from insomnia. I fall asleep just fine but wake up at 3 AM with my mind racing.
Since I started meditating these episodes happen less frequently. When I do wake up I can usually fall back to sleep through mindfulness meditation techniques.
2. Reduce Distracting Thoughts
Entrepreneurship is a creative profession that lends itself to nonstop thinking. I find my mind racing with new ideas, ways to solve problems etc. Occasionally this result in bursts of insight (the “aha” moment in the shower), but for the most part it is a distraction. Our biggest problem is executing on the ideas we already have – not coming up with new ones.
Meditation helps me notice when I’m distracted and bring me back to the present.
3. Become More Fully Present with Family
Can you recall a time when you were physically present with family but emotionally and intellectually somewhere else? Suddenly we realize that someone is asking us a question and we’re snapped back from thinking about that next feature/deal/customer. Even little children know we’re not really there and it doesn’t take too long before loved ones start resenting our startup – and really, who can blame them?
Meditation helps me notice and appreciate what is happening right now and give loved ones the attention they deserve.
4. Deal with Change Skillfully
Being a good entrepreneur requires an appreciation of change and ability to react to new events. Nothing ever happens as planned. The key investor drops out from the deal or our best employee suddenly leaves. Just as all seems doomed a new customer sends us a glowing, appreciative email and suddenly we’re on top of the world again.
15 years ago I would let the rush of these highs and lows overwhelm me. Meditation (and experience) has helped me accept change as a natural part of life and entrepreneurship.
5. Worry Less
Most our entrepreneurship worries stem from the potential of losing something – customers to competitors, money from our bank account, or confidence of investors.
Mediation has helped me recognize when I’m trying to “hold on” to something. Recognizing that I’m doing it makes me stop worrying about it.
6. Get Better at Customer Interviews
Over time I’ve realized a key to Customer Development interviews is deeply empathizing with our potential customers. Trying to understand their motivations, fears, and challenges, the subtle clues that arise from conversations.
In getting better at understanding our own motivations, thoughts, and feelings through mindfulness meditation we also get a better understanding of them in others.
7. Deal with Competitors more Effectively
Many entrepreneurs regard competitors as enemies; every time someone mentions a competitor’s name they feel their blood pressure rising in anger. These feelings are not helpful – at best they’re a distraction and at worst they cause us to create blind spots about competitors and customer needs.
Since I started meditating regularly I’ve become a more empathetic person, even with competitors. After all, I’ve actually got more in common with competitors than anyone since we’re both trying to solve the same problem. Having empathy for them helps me understand them and their motivations and, ironically enough, makes me a more dangerous competitor.
8. Become More Patient
Passion, hard work, and determination are critical attributes for startup success. Despite popular myths to the contrary, impatience is not. Building something great takes … time.
Meditation has helped me step back, look at the bigger picture and see how much I have accomplished – not what I’m failing to do.
Above all – Stay Balanced
Of course meditation is no panacea and I still suffer from unhelpful thoughts like everyone else. But meditation has definitely reduced them and given me the tools to notice and deal with these distractions.
Above all, don’t sacrifice your health and relationships for the sake of your startup. It just isn’t worth it and at best you’ll only be trading a momentary burst of productivity for long-term life disruption that will make you a worse entrepreneur.
I’m Happy to Help You Think Through Your Situation – Unless You Need Real Help
No, it isn’t just you – every entrepreneur I know struggles to balance our lives with the demands of our profession. Connect with other entrepreneurs and talk to them about your challenges. And if you want to talk to me I’m happy to listen.
Having said that…if you’re an entrepreneur suffering from stress, depression or related problems I suggest you get PROFESSIONAL help right away – I’m not qualified to help you. If you don’t know where to look I suggest contacting Jonathan Malkin for suggestions.
About the Photo
Photo Credit: MeditationMusic.net
- This is my 3rd week writing blog essays in response to Ryan Hoover’s Startup Edition. I really like Startup Edition’s format because I get to see how fellow entrepreneurs respond to the same topic. ↩