I got the idea to write on this topic at the back of a conversation we had during a all-hands meeting a couple of weeks back…It was about how we shouldn’t worry as individuals and more importantly as a team.
Florian, as a kick-ass COO, worries a lot because we are still not covering our expenditures and overall we are not fast enough generating more/higher revenues. I share his views that we are not fast enough which is due to two main factors:
- First, we are structurally still small and whilst everyone gives 200%, we can only go as fast as our combined hands and brains can go.
- Second, we are depending on the speed of our partners (hate the word client) and their own structural pressures (we do not have a large institution yet as partners - or shall I say clients here as co-creating might not be on the table).
During that weekly meeting, I told the team to open an account in the bank called “worry unlimited” and then transfer all of their worries into my account. Everyone laughed but I really meant it. I should be the uber-worrier because of what I get to see, hear and talk about but I am not.
We were at the point of death twice but I knew something would happen and if it didn’t we would come to the rescue of our team and brand.
I do not have time to worry because there is too much unknown and as such I would be paralysed from thinking about “what may, might or should, could, would...”.
Until something happens, it is just theory...and then once it is happening we deal with it.
To use a martial arts metaphor for one second: if you know that you will compete at a certain date, you train hard for it, you study your opponent, you eat right and rest appropriately because you want to have as close as possible to zero unknowns. You can experience doubt sometimes, have butterflies, ponder but you are set in motion and cannot use your energy to worry. There is no space for “what ifs” simply because the list would be unlimited and therefore prevent you from doing the right thing, i.e. focus on the task at hand.
If on the contrary, an unpredictable situation happens where you have to use your skills (to protect yourself for example), you don’t have time to think. As long as you have trained enough, your body will act and react. Worrying about what may happen if you get into a situation might make you a target (in certain areas) by the extra cautioness you exude.
Do I have supernatural abilities? I wish I had but no! Though I may be wired differently I must have learned to not worry. What follows is not a list of self-help platitudes (they are just platitudes!) but more some of the things that may have worked for me. Ultimately, I have no clue as to why I am less prone to worry!
How to do it?
Talk, talk, talk
It’s ok not to be a superpowered freak of nature rangers of the Universe. It’s ok to be fragile, to have doubts. It’s not ok to spiral down, to close down and contaminate others with silence and doubts. Worries are toxic for your health and for your relationships.
Stop and take a rest
We don’t have limits on holidays or impose on how our team members work i.e. if they want to work Sunday and not Monday, if they want to go to their yoga class during the day, they do…We look for outcomes not bums on seats. Take a rest too before it’s too late.
Have something to look forward to
Whether it is personal (holiday, dinner, sporting event, concert etc. whatever that may be deemed as a reward or act as a switch) or company-wise (the end of a sprint, a new release, new partner, speaking at an event…) looking forward takes you away of the pressure of “now”.
Don’t take yourself too seriously
No matter how good or senior you are, the world, your company (or its survival) does not depend on you…If there is one thing I learned (and the hard way) during my banking years is that I am not irreplaceable.
Stress is good
A good stress is what makes you focus on your presentation, product, pitch, performance…a bad stress is creating cortisol levels that start to affect your sleep patterns and your life expectancy. Look out for the signs: irritability, broken sleep patterns, high blood pressure etc.
There is nothing that a good night sleep won’t fix…. I travel a lot and hotel rooms make me sleep “in instalments”. I never get a full night sleep but on and off period around a core (if am lucky) of one or two deep cycles. Too hot, too noisy, too cold, too bright, too or not enough whatever. I want complete darkness (unlike what I experience at home) and go through a ritual to hunt for the slightest ray of light (blocking the red dot on TVs lead to some great Alex-made structures that more often than not crumble in the middle of the night!). Darkness tells the body it’s time to rests and increase melatonin levels.
I am not a life hacker but as I know that magnesium is a precursor of serotonin, I take it before going to sleep.
Being fit – which is relative to yourself, to how you feel and where you started from – is paramount to go the distance. Pushing a start-up through its cycles of life and death is a daunting task and it’s neither a marathon nor a sprint, it is a sprint marathon because it only accelerates. I will review this statement when we have our series B or IPO!
Training is more about resilience, setting habits, grit than getting a beach body! Since Jan 2017, I do "one thing a day": a little plank, a martial form, push-ups, a pilates or fitness class...I push my limits sometimes, not all the times but I have learned there is no excuse valid for not doing "one thing a day". I have more energy than ever...and it is an understatement.
Have a passion
I know I repeat myself which is a by-product of ageing as much as it is labouring a point until it gets registered. I have written a lot about it here and here and here too!. My passion is martial arts and it keeps me grounded because I will never be good enough to pretend knowing anything whilst it focuses me on the journey not the destination. Also, after many years of learning various styles not only I keep on learning but I discover new insights on old grounds, in short…I am never bored and my (innate?) curiosity gets fed. What is yours?
Live with disappointment
You will meet deadlines over and over again, you will deliver whatever you are supposed to, you will sell your products, you will get money to survive but…appreciate two things:
- The outcome will never be good enough,
- You have already moved on to the next target.
Being perfectionist is not a curse but to me the only way I can kick my ass into gear as I am happy doing nothing most of the time.
I need to create that laziness championship if it doesn’t already exist so I can at least win a price of some sort. Wait! The judges might be too lazy to turn up or worse...cast their vote!
Goals, visions, missions can be daunting in their size. Break them down, chunk a big kaboom outcome in small, tiny victories (setbacks will happen but they won’t veer you off-course). Doing something too big will make you feel lonelier and worried: “am I right?”, “am I the only one seeing this opportunity?”, “why is it so difficult to understand?”. Worries are looking for self-reinforcement; don’t feed them with lofty assumptions.
Have a big vision but come back to reality with what you do “next Monday”, how it looks like as a MVP.
To close: what you are going through is normal (except if you need medicated assistance) and temporal. Open up, share, laugh a little, and transfer your worry to me: that is a pre-requisite if we are in the same team!
Enjoy the journey!