Am I going to smile again in my life? Founders and Depression

That’s the feeling I got the first time I felt depressed while building my startup. I remember this moment very well. It was two years ago and business was tough, no bookings coming and starting to get doubts about everything. I was driving my car in Kuwait, heading to Starbucks just to do something other than work. I was thinking, am I going to smile again in my life! I was so depressed. Then things flipped very quickly after reading something in Tech Crunch, a fishing startup called FishBrain won the best startup in Sweden. The news is not even about us, but I don’t know why, I started to feel much better. I got depressed so many times after that, but I started to get used to it. I know something good will happen later that will make me feel better. The longest depression I had lasted a couple of weeks, it was in summer 2013 after I moved to Dubai.

We always write how awesome it is to be an entrepreneur. Now being a tech entrepreneur is considered the coolest thing a person can do, even cooler than being a doctor in some countries. Well I have a news for you, being a startup founder sucks sometimes and in so many ways. It sucks during the time you are raising money, it sucks when you need to fire someone, it sucks when you need to go to work with a happy smiley face while in reality you were depressed and didn’t even wanted to leave your bed, it sucks when your family asks you “how is it going with business?” and you reply “great” and try to change the subject quickly so that they don’t dig deeper, it sucks when a customer give you a bad feedback about your product and it sucks when you start asking your parents for money to pay the salaries of your employees.
It sucks big time, you’ll feel depressed, lonely and desperate.

It is shocking how things can turn from bad to good in a moment. And this is the good news, as bad as things can go, things can get better, quickly. Whatever was the situation, things will happen and the bad feeling will disappear and in some situation you’ll even feel happier, it is really a roller coaster ride. Moreover, with time you’ll be more immune to bad situations, you’ll start recovering faster. If it used to take you a week to recover, it will take you days, then just hours to recover.

I do some things that makes me feel better when I feel down:
1- Talk to Jose my co-founder: this guy is always calm even in the worst situation, I don’t know how he do it, but talking to Jose always makes things much clearer to me, and together we find a new plan to solve the problem
2- Talking to one of our advisors: I usually talk to one of our advisors either Abrar, Omar Koudsi, mohammed Alzubi, sim whatley, Abdulaziz Alloughani. It will shock you how talking to an experienced entrepreneur will make you feel better, these guys have seen it all. No money in the bank, no growth in the company, the angry customer, the bad hire, you name it they’ve seen it. Just chatting with them about their stories and how they overcome them, makes you feel better and gives you ideas how to solve your own problems.

3- Talking to a friend entrepreneur. I have a friend doing food business, non-tech, talking to him just gives an inspiration on how he solved a similar problem in the offline world. We are always trying to do things online or in the cloud, when things can actually be solved in a good, but maybe old fashion way.

4- Talking to your team about: when things gets really bad and some changes need to be done, then you better communicate it to your team. You’ll be surprised how supportive they will be, and they will even start to work harder. They will appreciate your honesty and they will really feel part of the team.

Here you go, that’s the bad side of being an entrepreneur and how you can deal with some of the down times. I’ll end with this hybrid quote (part I read in twitter and other part from Mandala (or Gandhi not sure) and the other I came up with):

Being an entrepreneur is like being punched in the face 10 times every day, and the punches will get harder with time. The more you resist these punches the stronger you get. You will be punched to the floor, the ones who stand up every time are the ones that win at the end.”

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5 Comments

  1. deeentrepreneur

     /  February 21, 2015

    Abdullah thank you for sharing your honest experience. As I was reading it, I felt like I was living it with you. Well written. It took me a good while to grow my company er2global into what it has become today. May I add another tip that helped me when times got rough? Practicing meditation and being in touch with myself was extremely helpful to my success. I encourage you to read the famous book of how to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie as well as I can make you rich by Paul McKenna. Good luck in your journey!

    Reply
  2. things always get worse before they get better. Being immune to depression helps a lot!

    Reply
  3. Thank you Abdullah for sharing your experiences. I have had several parallel situations with my education consulting company, Specialized Solutions . It’s a roller coaster for me also. I even went back to a full time job to cover costs of salaries. But we just haven’t figured out what our clients want. Every day’s an adventure. I am doing all the things that you suggest including checking in with the wonderful people at Sirdablab. I also believe that everything happens for a reason. That faith keeps me going along with a wonderful staff member who is very supportive. Hopefully, you are having more good days than bad.

    Reply
  4. Amr M.

     /  February 23, 2015

    Abdallah, my friend… thanks a lot to share what we all feel, and deal with everyday! and know that you’re not the only one getting punched… lol… but really, for me… even though i try to play it smart and avoid problems of other entrepreneurs, but i guess it’s curse that all successful entrepreneurs MUST go through these hardships and find success through them in order to really claim the title of a successful entrepreneur…

    all i can really say bro is that, you are not alone…. and stay strong!

    cheers,

    Amr #Tawabeer
    hope to see ya again soon :)… maybe at #StepConference

    Reply

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