The entrepreneur lifestyle is glorified by mainstream media and social media platforms. People willing to risk it all for the ultimate pay off of success, wealth and status. The perception put out to the public is that this lifestyle is glorious and has now become a trend with Instagram influencers painting a picture of Champaign, yachts, fast cars, VIP invitations, fine dining and award ceremonies. What the media does not show is the direct link between Entrepreneurship and Mental health issues.
My experience is that whilst there are many aspects to being an entrepreneur that are pleasurable, the whole experience is clouded by a severe and debilitating battle with anxiety which can be directly attributed to the work, job and life style of an entrepreneur.
For nine years now, I have managed my own small business that is rapidly approaching the size to be dubbed a medium sized business. For many of those years I stubbornly refused to accept the tittle of Entrepreneur as I felt is was becoming a fashionable term, used to describe millennial hipsters with top knots who sit in trendy coffee shops all day typing away on a Mac book air.
The term Entrepreneur became trendy and did not represent the sacrifices many small business owners had taken to establish and launch their businesses. The truth however is that in spite of some perception changes caused by social media platforms, the best word to describe me is the word Entrepreneur. I have always approached business and organisations with the ability to dream, vision cast and sacrifice in the short term for a larger pay off in the long term.
Likewise, in the start-up days of GDL Automotive I looked up to those who were living and walking the Entrepreneur lifestyle. What no one warned me about was the direct link between this choice of career and mental health issues. What is now a daily battle for me and my family can be directly linked to one key event in my business life which changed everything for ever.
I don’t want to dwell on the event itself or the key people involved in that event as blame removes responsibly from oneself and that’s not healthy either. What I do think needs to be explored more by medical professionals (particularly those in the mental health space) is the direct link between those who do take risks in business, the stress that places on the human body and mind and in turn the higher likelihood of small business owners suffering with mental health disorders, diagnosed or otherwise.
The easy answer to this is the simple equation of risk equals financial pressure and pressure adds to mental health issues. Whilst this is a factual statement I feel this only scratches the surface. Most Entrepreneurs take calculated risk, the anticipate cash flow issues and the periods of reduced income. We accept that living in a warehouse is what may have to happen, were ok to go without to see our dreams come to fruition. Knowing these risks before we set out on our journey means that I don’t believe the link between mental health burdens and limited or reduced income is the individual cause of the problem.
Entrepreneurship (or even business ownership if you don’t want to use the wankers word) comes with many responsibilities some real and some imagined or dream into life by the creator.
Cash flow, wages and salary’s, leadership, responsibility for short fallings of the organisation are some but in my opinion the key link between those who are truly Entrepreneurs as opposed to just business owners are those who set the standard in their own mind.
We have a preconceived idea of what success looks like, we strive for greatness in anything we are doing and the moment that’s achieved the next goal is laid out before us. I believe that this is the driver behind the success of a true Entrepreneur but is also the root cause of many of the debilitating mental health issues most Entrepreneurs struggle with.
The demon we fight is our own, high standards and expectations. For me the cash flow is a key concern but the issue is actually deeper than that. Money is just a resource used to get things done. Without Money, we can’t get our bins emptied, put fuel in our cars or buy groceries. The fear of an Entrepreneur may look like a fear of having no money but having money is only one measure of success and most Entrepreneurs I have encountered don’t use it as the form by which to measure their success.
For most of us the fear linked to having little or no money is actually the fear of failing. To have no money means you have fallen short of your own standards in business, you have missed the mark. It took me nine years to discover I’m not frightened of being broke, I’m frightened of failing.
This fear of my business failing and thus my own failure is the root cause of adrenaline dumps that wake me in my sleep, anxiety attacks while talking to my accountant and cold sweats while driving to work.