It has been a fortnight since VG Siddhartha, the founder of CCD took his life (or that’s what we are told to believe at this stage). In that time, the entrepreneurial ecosystem has heard arguments from several vantage points to understand the cause of the stress that led to his untimely demise. It is stomach-churning and thought-provoking stuff. The arguments and discussion points ranged from the insane to the incredulous and the natural ones there too. It may have conspiracy theories built-in while he had assets of 16,000 crores why did he give up when his debt seemed to be 3000 crores!
Various arguments attempted to place the cause of VG’s entrepreneurial distress onto a multitude of issues. His close political affiliations, the stress that different business bailouts had put on his balance sheet and even his battles with the income tax department. His balance sheet was funded using debt and private equity; therefore, the private equity guys were to blame as well.
However, to place the blame on any one person or phenomenon is to oversimplify a very complex issue i.e., the effects of entrepreneurial stress.
The one silver lining of this sombre episode is that it has got us all talking about entrepreneurial stress. It is a real thing, and there is an excellent chance that an entrepreneur close to you is under this stress right now. Yes, even the most successful ones. Each and every entrepreneur is suffering from stress. In the words of Sadhguru, “Pain is real, Suffering is created by the mind”
In the Indian ecosystem, a successful businessman is seen through the lens of suspicion. The underlying thought is that this guy must have taken some shortcut or the other. The ones who are successful are raised to the alters of the success that was earlier seen only after 30 to 40 years into the career. The price of this success is steep because the lens of failure is brutal. Ask any of the high-flying entrepreneurs that witness a reversal of fate – the fall from grace can be cruel and lonely.
The truth is that an entrepreneur undergoes the same level of stress as that of a high-performance athlete. Another reality is that this stress will not vanish.
The first step to dealing with entrepreneurial stress is to admit its existence. This step is most difficult because it hacks away the cloak of invincibility that entrepreneurs take painstaking effort to build. However, unless we admit that this stress exists, we cannot act on its causes.
The next step is to identify the factors causing stress. There are internal factors that the entrepreneur can control and external ones that they cannot. It could be the nature of the business (like running a stockbroking platform), an environmental factor (like the transit time from home to office) or a personality trait (like procrastination and putting off decisions). Also, the family part of the equation cannot be mentioned as any less. It is a documented fact that the driven entrepreneurs stare at a broken relationship at home. The circle gets to go round as to what came first… Relationships break down to the level of no return. A case in point can be of driven individuals like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos who could plan on going to the moon but could not manage their homes.
The factors that can be addressed, should be acted on immediately and earnestly. The factors that cannot be addressed can be overcome through several methods, which high-performance entrepreneurs utilize to channelize their stress positively.
(Recommended reading: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/315243 9 Ways High-Performing Entrepreneurs Handle Stress)
Lastly, once the stress factors have been identified and dealt with, an entrepreneur needs to build a core group of people to fall back on. The people invited to this core (aka inner circle) play a critical role, and they need to be educated on the things not to do.
(Recommended reading: THINGS NOT TO DO IF YOU’RE IN THE ENTREPRENEUR’S INNER CIRCLE https://showmedamani.com/2019/03/11/things-not-to-do-if-youre-in-the-entrepreneurs-inner-circle/ ).
This support system is the LEAST talked about at all. This beats psychatricts and consellers therephy hands down. This group of people (called advisors or well wishers for want of any better word) should be confided in the issues and problems consistantly so that in the brainstorming there may be some mitigation of some problems or issues and some stress can reduce. But the entrepreneur considers himself to be superman and most often does not do this step thinking it will render him weak.
This post is one of the toughest blogs I have ever written because I have had my personal experiences with entrepreneurial stress, which kept clouding my arguments, my judgements and my happiness and drive. I kept reverting to the times in my career when I stared from the cliff of despair into the depths of failure. I know today what I did not back then. Even then, I sometimes find myself feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and burnt out. It usually shows up with the burning sensation in my eyes, persistent pain in my back and a marked drop in my physical stamina and the dull throb of the heartbeat.
Initially, I thought this has no release. The stress is part of the job. Small ways of mitigation can actually help to increase performance tremendously. More importantly, it can prevent burnout and degradation of health – mental and physical. However, the VG Siddhartha episode has awakened me to change my stance from a reactive one to a proactive one. To begin with, taking care of health and sleep!
So should you. Do leave your comments below!