I am a tech “entrepreneur”. I run a successful startup that has funding, revenue, a great team, incredibly big name customers, and we even have acquisition offers. By most standards of “entrepreneurship”, we are exactly where we need to be, and I should be thrilled. But that doesn’t reflect myself, or the purpose of what I personally sacrificed to get here.
I have debilitating anxiety, that sometimes seems like depression. And that’s the purpose of what I’m writing.
To warn others who are interested in this path.
To inform friends and family of other “entrepreneurs” of what to watch for.
And to bring to light, the hidden secret, or ugly truth of entrepreneurship.
So now that we have that part out of the way, let’s go through some quick housekeeping. I’m writing this anonymously because my company has high visibility and is growing. I have become a master of putting on a ‘mask’ when I’m around customers and team members and the last thing I need right now is for that inner circle to see passed that mask. Something like this could, unfortunately, kill funding options, stinting our awesome growth.
So you can know me as John Smith. And this is my story.
A few years ago I had an idea. An idea that could revolutionize the industry I was working in, and completely took advantage of the state of technology.
Within 3 months of talking about my idea, I had a co-founder, press, and funding. Looking back on that, I probably should have waited on the press but that’s a story for another day.
We built out a larger team, an MVP of our product, and within a few more months we had our first acquisition offer from a notable Private Equity fund.
I could’ve walked away a half year from when I started, as a multi-millionaire. But I said no. We wanted to see how far we could go, and the offer really just gave us the fuel to know we had really stumbled on an opportunity.
So we kept going. Within two years from that offer, our systems were being used all over the country by paying customers.
Pretty crazy. Especially considering that at this point I still hadn’t even graduated from college.
I became known for what I do; really what my company does. No matter where I went, or who I met, the first thing people would say is “Hey aren’t you that tech guy? You started _____ right?”
That’s who I became. That guy. People knew me for my work.
When I talk about this transition with my close friends, I always can point to the day I decided to chase this dream, as the last day people had the opportunity to learn who I was personally.
There is so much that comes with this type of obsession, and going through the trials of a growing company. Like being yelled at by angry customers, losing funding, losing trust, and being told “NO” so many times that you become numb to any negativity. You get to a point that if you are not working then you just sit down and stare at a wall because you have lost the ability to think of anything else.
Imagine spending 12 months in a row so jaded and obsessed with work, that you are able to wake up every day to people yelling at you, and you still are able to push through with a smile on your face because you believe that at the end of the day, the growing pains will stop and you will finally get that big “YES” you have wanted since the beginning.
Eventually, the anxiety steps in. And your already demanding work schedule becomes twice as long because you are now waking up every night to panic attacks. The 5-minute drive home from the office starts to feel like a 20-minute drive because of the whole way back you are asking yourself if you are a failure. You even lose motivation to get out of bed.
Welcome to being an entrepreneur. The only lifestyle that you can go from a net worth of literally nothing to being worth millions, and you still feel like you are nothing.
I personally believe that I’ve lost years from my life because of the physical and emotional damage this lifestyle has caused me.
I’m writing this because I want other entrepreneurs to know what they are getting into, but mainly this is for those of you who know people like me. If you know an “entrepreneur”, they will seem thrilled and happy with their work, but don’t let the mask fool you.
One of my closest friends saw what was happening to me. They told me to step away and forget work because I was becoming unbearable to be around. This person cared for me so much, that they even paid for me to take a vacation.
That might have saved my life.
Reach out. Call someone out. Force them to get away. You don’t have to pay for them to take a vacation, but if you love that person, do what it takes to make them get away from the company.
Hell. Send them this. I’ll talk to them.
Let me know if this is helpful and I’ll write more. I could talk about this problem for days.
This article was originally featured on Medium.