Mental Health isn’t black or white. We’re not all either sick or healthy. We don’t give nearly as much precision to mental health as we do to physical health, with its body mass Index, its diseases and conditions. Failing mental health is almost always diagnosed in hindsight.
I’ve known a number of entrepreneurs, startup employees & investors who have burnt out. We see it all the time. Someone’s at every conference we go to or every after party and suddenly they’re not. Colleagues we work with who just stop getting along with everyone and then they quit. We can all confidently eyeball someone’s physical health by observing them, but when we see a change in behavior, someone distancing themselves from those around them, we see it only with respect to our own situation (“Why is this person being such a pain?”) - Yeah, why are they? What are they feeling?
I love entrepreneurship. I am utterly fascinated by seeing how someone with A, B, C & D creates E, and every successful startup makes that connection - (A) trains are unreliable and expensive, (B) cars sometimes make 4-hour trips faster than public/rail transit © most cars on the road have empty seats, and (D) car owners are always worrying about money, because it costs money to power a car. (E) Blablacar. Lyft. Drivy. Heetch. Stanley Robotics.
That said, entrepreneurship is not in and of itself a recipe for balanced mental health.
Why are so many successful entrepreneurs meditating, kite-surfing, learning to become a pilot, or constantly vacationing? Because entrepreneurship needs balance, and people who find that balance will naturally lean & adjust based on how they are doing, dodging burnout while staying productive.
I’ve been playing guitar since I was 12. I stopped playing guitar while on conference calls after a few people started noticing and asked me to “turn the music in the background down.” Sometimes I just want to pick a few melodies to calm down and focus my head.
I love music - Olivia & I met at a music festival, and in the last 20 days I’ve seen Modest Mouse, Arctic Monkeys, Bjork, Beck, Migos, Jamie XX, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke (this Tuesday), and Foo Fighters (this Sunday). Foo Fighters headlined the festival where we met, and I also proposed to Olivia on the night we saw them the second time together, so it’s a pretty big deal.
Music balances me out and keeps me healthy - I’ve listened to Bon Iver’s 22, a Million
on loop while writing this - an album I saw played live last year at the Philharmonie de Paris. My symptoms for poor mental health usually revolve around (1) me not enjoying listening to anything on Spotify (or keeping it close to the chest - 90’s alternative rock on loop), or (2) me not having any creative energy to write a song or belt out some Californication. That and poor eating habits, a relic of my overweight youth.
What I’m trying to say is - it’s OK if you sometimes feel like the floor is falling out from under you. It’s OK if you have a super-productive day, and a less productive day the next day. It’s also OK to talk about it. So let’s talk about it.
It’s also OK if you’re reading this whole thing, thinking “I don’t identify one bit with this.” Like physical health, you don’t have to have the same condition in order to empathize with others. I’ve never had endometriosis, but as many as 10% of women suffer more violent pains each month than I could imagine.
I’ll make you a promise - the same promise I make every newsletter, which many of you have taken me up on, but this time I put it on you as well. Make yourself available to others indiscriminately. It has paid me dividends beyond imagine. I met founders because I raised my hand and said “I’d like to hear what you’re working on.” I’ve made best friends because I raised my hand and said “I’m around this weekend. Who’s here?”
I’m not saying we’re going to cure mental health over night with hugs and hand-holding. I’m saying that sometimes a little Advil to dull the headache is good enough for a Monday morning.
If you hit reply, I will.