Sherry Walling – How To Win The Battle Of Wits (Startup Edition) – MicroConf 2017

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    • Pre-talk video: Iocane powder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9s0UURBihH8
    • How to win the battle of wits (Start-up edition)
    • So much of what makes you successful or not successful is in your own head
      • Your ability to choose; to decide
        • What kind of life you want
        • Who you are / want to be
    • “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.” (Jean-Paul Sartre)
      • The weight of what you’re doing is big
      • The burden is significant
      • The stress is significant
      • It’s also your great gift
        • You’re all masters of the internet. You have skills that are desired. Which means you have lots of choices
        • But they’re heavy choices
      • Free to choose, but you bear the responsibility of those choices
      • No pressure 🙂
    • We know where the poison is. It’s in both choices.
    • The success stories are important. They help us learn…
      • But what I loved about what Jordan was saying this morning was the importance he placed on failure
      • How you handle failure dictates whether you’ll be successful
      • Being honest about your struggles
      • I say this as a psychologist
      • There are very significant mental health risks that come along with being in the founder community
        • Pressures
        • People who have flown too close to the sun, and crashed hard
          • In the extreme cases, even taken their own lives
        • There is a price to pay; you’re drinking your poison
    • Had our family. Rob (Walling) was transitioning from consulting
      • From the outside, looked like we were living the dream
      • But on the inside there were difficulties
      • And we weren’t telling the truth to ourselves
        • About how hard the thing is that you’re doing

 

  • And if you don’t tell yourself the truth about how hard it is, you don’t let yourself prepare for it

 

    • How do you win the battle of wits?
      • 1. Know the poison
        • Tell yourself the truth about what you’re trying to do
        • And then build immunity
          • Actively do things that get you ready for the task at hand
        • What are the iocane powders of the startup life? What makes it tough?
          • (Audience:)
            • Long hours
            • Self doubt
            • Money — no safety net
            • Being lonely
            • Critics
            • Fear of failure — fear in general
          • Anxiety is a term that encapsulate a lot of those things
          • Burnout
          • Isolation — being the sole person responsible for all of it
          • Failure
          • Implosion — when things really get bad & fall apart
          • Going to talk about each of these pieces
        • Anxiety
          • Fears and worries swirling in your mind
          • Very closely tied to long-term health problems
            • Muscles tense
            • Digestive problems
            • Trouble sleeping
            • Headaches
            • Impulsive behavior
            • Increased heart rate
            • Irritability
            • Seeking escape
          • All rational if you’re being chased by a tiger… but in the long term in running a startup, those things are dangerous
            • And dangerous to your business — you can’t think straight
          • Studies find entrepreneurs / families of entrepreneurs have higher stress levels than non-entrepreneurs
          • Anxiety isn’t all bad
            • Helps us to be awake and alert
            • Performance peaks as anxiety increases, TO A POINT
              • But when anxiety gets too high, performance plummets
        • Burnout
          • If anxiety is being on fire; unable to turn away; burnout happens on the other end of the spectrum
            • Sense of emotional exhaustion

 

  • I can’t care any more
  • I have no more F*s to give

 

          • You become cynical
            • That what you’re doing has no point. That all the effort is for nothing
          • Where the flame begins to burn out
        • Isolation
          • I think one of the main things that drives anxiety, and burnout, and all the others: is isolation
          • Health consequences of loneliness
            • Studies: loneliness decreases expected lifespan
          • Most people here are doing startups relatively by yourselves
            • You might hire here and there
            • But it’s your baby — your product.
            • You’re responsible
            • That’s scary
            • No one cares as much as you do
          • I love my husband, but he cares more about his product than I do. That will always be the nature of it. It’s in his head.
        • Failure
          • There will be big fails and little fails
          • The way you talk to yourself about what’s happening when you have a setback is incredibly important.
          • When the thing you’re putting everything into doesn’t love you back
            • Do you feel ashamed?
            • Do you not tell anyone?
            • Or do you ignore it altogether? Fail to pay attention to it?
          • Failure should be at the front of our minds all the time
            • Not because we’re afraid of it

 

  • But because we know it’s part of the process

 

          • It’s a lot easier to avoid the poison when you know it’s there. When you can build immunity to it
        • Implosion
          • I’ve seen it go terribly wrong
            • People lose their marriages
            • People lose their businesses
            • People lose their lives
          • We are vulnerable creatures
            • We can get hurt
            • We can break
          • Sometimes when you go all in, it still doesn’t work out

 

  • That’s a recoverable experience

 

      • Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you…
      • “What can I do about it?”
        • Breathe
          • (Put your phone down. Hands in your lap. Close your eyes. Pay attention to how the oxygen enters your body. Down your neck. Through your chest. Under your ribcage. See if you can get it all the way to your belly button.)
          • (Now reverse that. Back up your chest. Your neck. Out through your nose.)
          • (Do that a couple of times. Maybe slowing your breathing, so it takes 4 counts in……… 4 counts out……… slowing everything down)

 

  • (NB: not easy while scribing.)

 

          • 4 breaths. 4 seconds in. 4 seconds out. Will turn the table on how you’re physiologically experiencing anxiety
          • Improves heart, brain and digestive function
          • Stimulates the immune system
          • Helps to regulate mood. Decrease anxiety. Maybe even alters the expression of genes
      • How much would you pay…
        • For a product that…
          • Improves memory
          • Improves concentration
          • Decreases excessive eating
          • Improves mood
          • Builds immunity
          • Decreases accidents and mistakes
          • Improve productivity
          • Improves skin clarity and health
          • Extends life
        • Sleep!!
        • Listen to your body
          • You: why do i feel terrible?

 

  • Body: coffee is not a meal
  • Body: eat a vegetable
  • Body: sleep

 

          • You: guess we’ll never know

 

  • Body: oh my god

 

        • If you abuse your body. Days, weeks, months on end
          • You will lose
          • You will be irritable and unpleasant
          • And you will be ugly
        • I get it. You love your startup like a baby
          • You’re deeply attached to the company you love. You’ll do crazy things for it
            • But please. Look after your body
      • Know yourself
        • How you can best utilize your own internal assets to stay healthy
        • What does it look like in your inner life?
          • Self reflection
          • What does it look like inside you?
            • Like a murder scene? Walter White?
            • Or is there some life inside there.
              • Are you aware of your emotional life?
              • Are you keeping it well watered?
        • When things get difficult
          • If you have a sense of your own value, and desire
          • And can take care of your own soul; wellbeing
          • You’ll have that much more energy to protect what’s important to you
        • Track personal metrics
          • Cultivate self reflection
          • Pay attention to how you’re doing
          • Highs and lows in your day
            • What pieces of your day-to-day work + home life really infuse you with energy?
            • When do you feel good and satisfied?
            • And when do you not? What parts of your work, and home, take joy from you?
            • Lets you re-adjust things — how can I optimize for the positives?
            • Friend and I get together and reflect on the highs and lows from our week
              • We notice patterns in each other over time
              • Taking brief notes during the week
              • Helped me notice that week after week I was really irritated about very specific parts of my job
                • Should I be doing this job? I’m not happy
                • Not sure I would’ve realised that without tracking it
                • Once you figure it out — you can change it
          • Record mood, sleep, energy level
          • Activities and feelings about them
            • Here’s what I did this week → Here’s how they made me feel
            • You’d be surprised how easy it is to live out a whole life without realising you don’t enjoy it
          • Practice gratitude
            • Notice the positives
            • Write them down
            • Be grateful for them
          • Observe. Don’t judge
            • You don’t have to be critical of yourself for not having more fun at the thing you thought would be fun
            • Just notice it
            • Don’t feel all uptight about it
            • Take in the data
              • You’re science people, right? 😉
      • It’s all anxiety mastery
        • 1. Pay attention
        • 2. Look around
          • Anxiety can be caused by external, or internal, things
          • Isolate the solvable and take action
          • Identify what is out of your control and make a coping plan
        • 3. Use stress to fuel motivation
          • To get shit done
          • But don’t let it beat you up
      • Time in: retreat
        • Spend a couple of weekends a year unplugged. Separate from everything
        • It’s very difficult to cultivate this self awareness when we’re in the midst of the day to day tasks that need to be done
        • Actively take time to step away to do the deep questioning
          • What do I want from my life?
          • How’s it going?
          • What are my goals?
        • Not sit on the beach with a Mai Tai
      • What matters to you?
        • What’s important to you?
        • What do you need to stay alive?
        • Need human connection
          • We’re very relational creatures.
          • Even the introverts
          • It’s an essential part of life
          • You come to MicroConf because there are other people like you. A little ahead, or behind, you, but like you
          • Mastermind groups
          • Or monthly hangout with other founders in your city, or virtual
            • You need a place where you can talk about this stuff
            • We need some other input. Other camaraderie
          • Who is your feedback loop?
          • Who’s weighing in on your decisions with you?
      • “Everything has been figured out, except how to live.” (Jean-Paul Sartre)
      • Startup is like having a baby. No one really knows the right way to do it
        • Brute force. Just making yourself do the next thing
        • Which is good.
          • But don’t forget to have an integrated like
          • There are lots of parts of you that need to get fed. You can’t ONLY feed the business
        • I don’t like the “work-life balance” idea, as much as “work-life integration”
          • Whatever you’re doing at that moment, throw everything into that
          • Our life doesn’t work in strict schedules. 20 hours on this, 20 hours on that.
          • Take that pressure off
          • Create spaces for all the parts of you to be important
            • Time to play
            • Time to be with friends
            • Time to have a bike ride
            • Might have to push something off a couple of weeks
              • Don’t let them die altogether
      • The things that are hard make you
        • Special
          • You’re a founder
          • You’re building something unique
        • But you’re also not special
          • Others have these challenges too
          • You don’t get to isolate. To say “no one gets me”

 

  • That’s bullshit. People will get you if you let them in.

 

    • How do you know you need help?
      • Big change in energy, sleep or appetite
      • “Crossing the line” — when you lose your mind and yell at your kids, or have a Twitter rant at a customer. More aggressive than usual
      • Prolonged inability to focus or shift thoughts
      • “I am just not myself”
      • Apathy, sadness, or “flat” mood lasting several weeks. Feeling numb.
      • Self harm voices speak with “authority”
        • Many people have scary thoughts
          • “It would be easier if I wasn’t there any more”
          • That’s not so unusual
          • But when that voice starts to get specific about how to enact the thoughts, or starts to get loud and authoritative,
            • Then it’s time to talk to someone. A friend, a doctor,
      • This community needs all of us. We can’t leave any brothers or sisters behind
    • Recognize what a badass you are for doing what you’re doing
      • You’re tough
      • You’re capable
      • You can breath and work through it
      • Keep at it
  • [email protected]
    @zenfounder
  • Q&A
    • “Like the idea of the time-in retreat. Do you have a framework for that?”
    • “What do you see re substance abuse amongst founders?”
      • Good question
      • Many people who have intense jobs try to regulate the intensity of their emotions
        • It’s a slippery slope into “I can’t function without my 2nd, 3rd, 4th glass of scotch”
        • Easily become a psychological dependency
        • It’s a big problem. I’m glad you brought it up
      • People also use substances to stay more on-the-ball
        • Your body is wise. If it’s telling you it needs to sleep, listen to it
    • “Impact of physical activity to manage stress?”
      • I think it’s perfect
      • Cardio activity 3 x 20 mins a week. For mild depression, that level was effective at alleviating
      • If you’re not feeling OK, first pay attention to your body. Sleep, eat, move
      • That’s not always sufficient
        • There are times when medication & professional help are important
        • Eat, sleep, move are not a cure for everything
      • All high performing professionals need to lean on someone sometimes
        • Mental health professionals are a powerful & positive way to do that

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