On being a depressed entrepreneur

I tend to write more technical, business strategy focused posts. However, there is a lot more to running a successful business than a good website, or social media campaigns. I’m a firm believer that mindset is too. As the title of this posts suggests, I want to talk about what it’s like being a depressed entrepreneur.

Unfortunately, depression fucks with people’s mindsets, and it’s something that I’ve been seriously struggling with over the last year. As with my last post from the previous Sunday, I think it’s important to talk about the emotional and mental struggles of being an entrepreneur, and for me, that also includes being a depressed entrepreneur. Being open about these things helps strengthen the entrepreneur community, and it does help others know that they are not alone. And to me, that’s too important.

Here we go!

Battling random depressive episodes with mindset work

For me, depression creeps in so well that before I know it, I’m in bed unable to get my shit together. I’m going through one of these episodes right now. Yet, earlier this year I had great success in getting out of an extremely long depressive rut (around 6 months worth of) within two weeks of doing regular mindset work. For me, mindset is mostly journaling my thoughts out for an hour straight to understand what’s going on in my head. Sometimes I meditate too. Sometimes I read self-realization books such as Girl, Wash Your Face, or You Can Heal Your Life.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve become isolated and extremely unmotivated. I’ve been playing video games and watching Netflix in my bed because that’s the only thing I could get myself to do. If something were optional such as following up with a client lead, I’d not bother with it. If something was more mandatory like a client meeting or doing the work It was like I had to pull my own teeth out.

Reading books

Earlier in the year, I took mindset work extremely seriously, and I’ve kept an almost daily mindset ritual since late April. Today, I’m realizing the importance of quality mindset again, as I am deciding to pick it back up. Over the last month, I’ve only practiced my mindset routine for about two weeks which is pretty unacceptable. And it’d probably explain why the most recent dip in motivation and feeling depressed. I love my daily journaling, but I cannot do it once a week and expect it to suffice.

Daily mindset work is critical in keeping sane while being an entrepreneur, whether you’re battling depression or not. That’s because you need a clear mind in order to take on the daily problems that come with running your own business. I highly advocate all entrepreneurs to also take up a daily mindset habit; however, for those who also happen to suffer from depression, it’s a must.

Being a depressed entrepreneur is unfortunate, but it’s not the end of the world. I know of other entrepreneurs who are succeeding while battling depression. Myself included. Over the last year, I’ve come a such a long way, and I cannot wait to see where I end up another year from now.

Mindset determines success

Mindset more than inborn talent is the best predictor of success, science shows.

– Jessica Stillman, 5 Steps to Get the Right Mindset for Success

I hold Jessica Stillman’s statement very close to hear. The reason being is that when you have a positive (or the “right”) mindset, you see the world around you differently. You see solutions to problems differently and more easily, that is if you even see issues that come up as problems at all. You breeze through things that come your way instead of dwelling on them and letting them control you. It’s an incredible, positive spiral that helps you be a better entrepreneur especially if you’re a depressed entrepreneur.

Carol Dweck wrote an incredible book titled “Grit.” In the book, she goes into the details of her research about what determines success. Success boils down to the right mindset and showing up. Trust me when I say this (and yourself if you’ve been in a shitty rut), that it’s impossible to show up and put in the work if your mindset isn’t right.

If I didn’t have a depressive mindset the last two weeks I’ve have been working like nothings the matter. I would have been writing blog posts, following up client leads or networking over the last few weeks. I guarantee you, I’d not have been of watching Netflix 24/7. It’s not the end of the world, everybody needs a break, but this was a break against my will. I would have rather be working then be an immobile couch potato. At least for me, what tends to happen is when I waste so much time, and it feels like I have no control of it, I start blaming myself, throwing myself a pity party, start exploring all sorts of negative feelings making the depression more prominent.

Even if you’re not battling depression or anything other mental illness, there is still a big difference between being open-minded and conscious of growth than having a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset is admitting defeat when you haven’t closed a couple of client deals in a row. I get it, it’s may not feel good. But someone with a growth mindset will get up, show up and try again for the third time.

Fixed versus growth mindset in a depressed entrepreneur

To quote Maria Popova, “‘fixed mindset’ assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.

For me, when I compare my thinking when I’m feeling depressed, it’s incredibly reminiscent of a fixed mindset. And that’s neither good nor like me. That’s why I’m trying my fucking harder to get out of this rut by getting back into my regular mindset work to keep learning, expanding and being more positive.

I won’t be cured of this episode within a day. Realistically speaking, it’s going to take a few days to simply get myself off the ground. But, I’m going to keep trying. I’m going to start because I don’t want to be enslaved to my depressed, fixed mind. I want to grow, get better, get clear and little by little crawl out of the rut and live my life.

Advice for other depressed entrepreneurs

Everybody is different, and I’m no medical professional. My experience of depression is my own. I don’t like going to therapy, and I’m terrified of taking anti-depressants. You do you.

However, I think we’re alike in that we have a choice. Every day, even every hour we have an option to give into our moods and stay in bed or whatever else depression makes you do. Or, you can try and do something about it.

By no means am I saying you have to turn around and start doing incredible things off the bat! But, by committing to taking even small steps, we can end up going far over time. And that’s what I’m trying to remember every day and every hour.

It’s hard, it’s fucking hard, but I’m not going to give uneasily. I change my experience by chaning my mind.

54321 on my bedroom wall

We both choose to be entrepreneurs, we both decided to go after our dreams. I choose that my depression is only going to be a temporary set back. What do you choose? My biggest advice to help you keep moving is to implement the 5-second rule from Mel Robins. Step 1 is to place sticky notes all over your house that say 54321 GO! This way you won’t ever forget to enact that rule. The second step is to watch her TEDx TalkHow to stop screwing yourself over. During the talk, you’ll get an overview of how the rule works and what it’s all about. Step three is to use the 5-second rule to get yourself to read her book. The book talks a great deal about her own struggle with depression, how she came up with the rule and the science behind it.

The 5-second rule is nothing more than a tool to help you start taking action. So use it. Take action!

The takeaway

Being a depressed entrepreneur is not something I enjoy being. Being an entrepreneur is hard enough as it is. But, being an entrepreneur with a mental illness of any kind is even more difficult. However, there are ways to get out from under the depressive grip. You can keep going, keep managing the depression and keep succeeding.

You’re not alone. You’re more then welcome to email me if you need to talk to someone who understands.

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