249: How to Manage Your Emotions During the Startup Rollercoaster
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In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about ways you can manage your emotions in a startup. Startups are said to be emotional rollercoasters, but how do we actually deal with these emotions that we go through? Listen as Steli and Hiten explain how you can control your emotions, tips on how to avoid getting angry, and why awareness is the first step to understanding your emotions.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
- 00:03 – Today’s topic is about managing your emotions in a startup
- 00:35 – A startup is an emotional rollercoaster
- 01:26 – One of the most intense emotions an entrepreneur experiences in a startup is fear
- 01:45 – Combat fear by not having fear
- 02:03 – Will Smith says to have fear of fear
- 02:20 – Fear is irrational: you focus on things you can’t control
- 02:56 – Deal with fear by thinking through it
- 04:20 – Play it through all the way
- 04:53 – Anger is a negative, but empowering emotion
- 05:18 – Hiten says to not be pissed off and angry
- 05:52 – Hangry is the number cause of being angry – don’t take too much coffee without food
- 06:18 – “Most of the time, your emotions are coming from the same place”
- 06:35 – Dig deep on what triggers your emotions
- 07:12 – Think through your emotions and identify them, when they are triggered, and how you can recognize them
- 07:24 – Write down what makes you angry
- 07:49 – Don’t judge yourself for feeling what you feel
- 08:00 – Never write an email or text in anger
- 08:20 – Find a way to calm down
- 08:53 – Start being self-aware about the emotional state that you’re in
- 09:48 – Anger builds up before it explodes
- 10:26 – Find a productive vessel to put your energy into when you’re angry
- 11:50 – Confusion is a common and less intense emotion
- 12:10 – Hiten reminds himself to focus on the big, important things to avoid confusion
- 12:50 – Don’t get caught up n small things that would not matter in the long run
- 13:42 – Focus and do the things you CAN control
- 14:56 – Steli shares about an overwhelming experience he had yesterday
- 15:32 – Identify what is really going on
- 16:07 – Deal with one thing at a time – prioritize
- 16:56 – Being present in the moment is what eliminates overwhelm
- 17:33 – Dealing with cynical emotions
- 18:15 – “Get out of your head and go for a walk”
- 18:50 – Meditate or do something that takes your mind off of the issue
- 19:13 – Talk to people that make you happy
- 20:31 – Deal with other people’s emotions the same way you deal with yours
- 21:36 – Emotional management always starts with awareness
- 21:55 – We want to hear your opinion on this topic! Email Steli or Hiten
3 Key Points:
- Deal with your emotions by thinking through it, not by reacting to it.
- Analyze where you feel triggered and find out why you feel that way – sometimes the cause comes from childhood emotions and memories.
- Deal with other people’s emotions the way you deal with yours.
Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.
And this is Hiten Shah, and today on the startup chat, we’re gonna talk about how to manage your emotions in a startup.
Yeah, we all know that the rollercoaster example has been used many, many times. The emotional rollercoaster of starting a startup. It’s a funny image and it’s very truthful for those that hear it. It does mimic the highs and lows and the intensities of a startup from an emotional point of view, but it’s very rarely that we talk about how to deal with that. And how to manage your own emotions. So I thought that it would be a fun episode for us to just pick a bunch of challenging emotions that you’re probably gonna have to face and states of mind that you’re gonna have to face as you’re starting a company and building your business. And just common from both of us in terms of how we’ve learned to deal with these emotions, what kind of best practices we’ve utilized, just talk a little bit about that. I’ve written down a list of emotions I could think of this morning on the way here. So we can just pick one emotion at a time and just chit chat about it and go back and forth.
Let’s start with probably one of the most intense emotions and one that is the easiest to think about, and then we can work our way into more nuanced emotions. Let’s talk with fear. What do you do when you are afraid? How do you deal with the emotion of fear while building your startup?
Have not fear. Literally, like the best answer I can give anybody on that, if they ask me that, just like you did. Have no fear. What is fear? It’s like, I think Will Smith is the one … I don’t credit him with this, obviously, but he says, “I have fear. I have fear of fear.”
That’s straight up where it’s at, you know? I’m a big Will Smith fan. I really think he is very motivational, to be honest. Watch some videos of his on YouTube. I like his perspective. At the end of the day, though, fear. What is fear? It’s irrationality. It’s focusing on things you can’t control. And I know this is a theme across a lot of our non-tactical podcasts, Steli, but when you’re in fear or you fear something from a business startup standpoint, it’s usually because you don’t have enough information, you don’t have clarity, and/or you’re focused on things you just can’t control. A lot of things are not in your control in a startup. You don’t know what’s gonna happen tomorrow. And that’s okay. That’s the reason you’re doing this. There’s my motivational speech on fear.
I love it. What I’ll say about fear is that, I think that the best way to deal with it is actually to just think through it, because fear is an emotion that historically has its place, in terms of being a utility to survival. But, in a startup, I won’t say never, but it should be very rare that you have to fear for your life. Right? That should not be a common occurrence, but the things that you’re really afraid of are different things. The fear that most people have is to make a mistake. Is not to accomplish what they want. Is to be embarrassed. Is to whatever it is. It’s some kind of a psychological irrational thing that if you actually sit down and you do the exercise of writing down, “Hey, in the worst case scenario, what could really happen? What’s the worst that could happen here? And then what happens after that? And then what happens after that?” Eventually you’ll get to a point that you’ll realize that there’s nothing really to fear. Even in the worst case scenario, if you play it down long enough, you’re gonna arrive at something that doesn’t matter. Like, what’s gonna happen if we make this … The worst thing that could happen is we make a bad decision. And then we’re gonna not be able to raise money. And then? And then we’re gonna run out of money. And then? Then we’re gonna be out of business. And then? I don’t know, then I’m gonna have to find a job. Okay, and then? Well, then I’m gonna have to try again and start a new startup. Okay, how life threatening is that, really? So, just playing it through all the way to the end of the thing that you are afraid of, a lot of times gives people enough of a timeline, and extended timeline to have perspective and to realize, “Yeah, you know, I don’t want that to happen, but it’s not the worst thing of the world. I definitely don’t have to be afraid of it.” Now, let’s take another … It’s an opposing … it’s not really an opposing emotion, but it’s kind of an element opposite end of the spectrum, but it’s still negative. So, I don’t want to go from fear to something super positive. But, let’s gro from fear to anger, alright? Anger is still very negative, but it’s a much more empowering emotion. It’s a much more high energy emotion versus fear is an emotion that takes a lot of energy and power away from you physically speaking. What do you do and how do you deal with the emotion of anger? What do you do when you are pissed off and you are angry in a startup?
Damn, I’ll my answers are just gonna be so blunt. Don’t get-
Don’t be angry.
Don’t get pissed off and angry. Honestly though, let’s say you’re pissed off and angry. Why are you pissed off and angry? Why are you really? This whole five whys exercise of asking yourself why five times. Just do that. And you’ll get to some root cause that you probably didn’t … Wasn’t on the surface. Right? It could be as stupid as, I didn’t eat enough today.
Yeah, hangry. For those of us who have children, we’re pretty familiar with that.
I don’t even need to have children to be familiar with that. Hangry. Hangry is one of the number one causes of being angry. I think for children as well as adults, because sometimes you just don’t eat. Too much coffee and not enough food. So that’s one example I’d give you, but honestly man, why you gotta get angry? Why you gotta get angry? Figure out what … You know what? Most of the stuff around how do you manage emotion, has everything to do with understanding where your emotions come from. And most of the time your emotions are coming from the same place over and over again. Right? And how many people, like Freudian, or psychological, or spiritual, things like that. Emotions have root cause. There’s only one of three places emotions come from. And if you really dig in deep and find the patterns of what triggers you, that’s good, because there are millions of triggers for your emotions, then the emotions you feel, most people, they feel the same emotions over and over again, and they come from the same place. Something with childhood. Something with again, I think honestly, some come from childhood, whether it’s really young all the way to college. And then post college, most things tend to be very in terms of your patterns. Maybe even post high school. And if you could just think through, what are my triggers? What are the common emotions I feel, and when I feel them how can I recognize them? And I’ll give a quick tip and the angry and the emotion thing. I’ve given this tip before for stuff, but I write it down. I literally write down, “She said this, and it made me feel like this, and now, I want to strangle her.” And literally, if you write that down, you’re like, “Oh that sounds absurd. Why do I even feel that way?” But, that’s a very aggressive emotion. You probably wouldn’t share that with the person that makes you feel that way. But, if you feel that way, it’s okay. So the first thing is don’t judge yourself for feeling that way. Figure out why you feel that way, and that’s how you’ll stop feeling that way.
I love it. Write it down. But, here’s my tip, don’t write to that person. So, never write an email. Never write an email in anger. Never write a text in anger. It will always come off much harsher than even what you meant, and it’s just gonna make things a much bigger problem. When you’re really angry, you need to figure something out a high level of conflict with another human being, the best thing to do is to find a way to calm down. Writing things down, thinking things through might be a good idea, and then when you want to confront that person, but you want to do it in person whenever possible. You want to be able to have eye contact. You want to be able to have the context rich environment of seeing somebody’s body language, having them see how hurt you are or why you’re angry. It’s gonna be a much different scenario. I’m gonna say, regarding angry, often times, obviously it all comes back to understanding. Actually staring to take much more stock and being much more in tune and self aware of how you feel and what emotional stage you’re in, because that’s gonna help you a lot in just being in control in the way you want to engage and how you want to engage in things. Right? Sometimes, if you notice that you’re really angry, and you’re about to go into a meeting and you kind of can sense that you are really aggressive in your reactions to certain things that are being brought up, although your anger has nothing to do with that meeting, or with the person that you’re interacting with. That alone can help you to stop and either bring people into it and go, “Hey, I’m actually in a really bad state right now, so maybe I want to apologize if I come here across too aggressive.” Or, find some way to create context around that. But, I would always ask myself, why am I angry? What happened … If it’s about another person, if it’s not that I’m just in a bad mood, because I have eaten, slept, or had too much coffee, or something else, often times anger is just things that have built up for way too long and then you explode. There’s some kind of an emotion, something that was irritating you about a human being or about a situation, and you didn’t deal with it when it was small, so it has built up over time and now it feels massive, not because today is that big of a deal usually, but because it has accumulated over such a long time. The best way is to find ways to get off steam, so writing things down is a rational way of doing it. Another thing that I’ll offer is, be just a physical way to get that energy out of your system. A lot of times when people are really, really angry, there’s a lot of built up internal emotion and energy, and it’s just a good idea to find out a vessel for that. That’s productive. For some people that might be, just go for a run, or go to the gym, or really do a really hard workout. Really just push as hard as possible, or just go to a heavy bag and kick the heavy bag’s ass. Do something that’s physically also exhausting, that allows you to channel all the built up energy and amped up energy. That alone is gonna make you feel much better. It’s gonna regulate your internal biochemistry and release some endorphins, and make you feel a little calmer. And then sitting down and writing down what really happened and why you felt the way you are. All that should get to a much better place, that then allows you to take the next step and actually deal with the person or situation that got you into that super intense negative state of mind. Let’s take another one. Let’s take an emotion that’s a little bit more nuance, and more interesting. Confused. How do you at times, you might go through confusion, where you’re just like, you don’t know how to deal with the data you’re seeing, with the situation you’re in. You don’t know what direction to go. It could be overwhelming, but confusion is distinctly different. It’s interesting, those two emotions, feeling overwhelmed is different from feeling confused. Maybe talk about that kind of a state, where it’s not like fearful, anger, those are super intense emotions, but confusion, or overwhelming might be less intense, but much more common. Day in, day out, over the years as you’re trying to build your startup. How do you deal with that?
Man, I think one thing that I struggle with, but it’s so related to this, and I just keep having to remind myself, and when I do things just get better. It’s almost like … Heaton. This is almost self talk, right? Heaton, you should focus on the big important things. Don’t worry about all of these small little things that bother you. And often I find myself saying that to myself. And it’s been really helpful. And let me be clear. I don’t mean I shouldn’t worry about that little pixel that’s off on a design, because that’s my thing. I’m gonna really worry about that. But, I’m not gonna worry about why someone got it wrong. Or why that designer isn’t doing a great job of it. I’m gonna show them. Give them an example. But, what I mean is that sometimes you just get so caught up in some small shit that just doesn’t matter. Is it gonna matter tomorrow? Is it gonna matter a week from now? Is it gonna matter a month from now? Is it gonna matter a year from now? If the answer is no, then just get it out of your head. Don’t be so emotional about it, and move on. And that’s … My answer to this is self talk, and that’s exactly the kind of thing that, when I remember, and I say to myself, it helps. The other thing I said earlier about focusing on what you control? Super related to this. If I’m really struggling with something in my business, I’m like, “Wait, what do we control here? What do we actually control? What can we impact? Oh, ourselves. Our execution. What we do. Okay, great.” Everything else we can’t. We can’t impact the outside world without us doing something. So, there’s no reaction from anybody unless we don something about it. That means, you do things you control. And if you can’t control things right now, figure out how to get control of them. I’m not one to say, “Oh let it go.” I’m one to say, “Hey, what are the variables? What are the levers? What are the things that are not in my control and how do I get control of them?” Or just focus on the things that I can control, and that very much relates to this big picture, big things versus small things. If it’s not gonna matter in a very short period of time, and it’s just not an important thing, then why am I so hung up on it right now?
I love it. I love also the self talk example in the beginning, because a lot of people don’t realize that a very large portion of emotions and emotional states, start with the self talk that we have. Right? A lot of times, you’ve talked yourself into an emotion. You started asking yourself, “Why is this not working? Why is this person not doing this? It’s never working well, I’m just done, I don’t know what to do.” And after you’ve talked like that to yourself for a few minutes, all of a sudden the emotion starts growing and you get into a really strong . Self talk can be the way into emotional states, and often times is the way out of them as well. I don’t know. The one thing that I’ll say in terms of how to deal with overhwelmance is that whenever I’m overwhelmed … And I had this situation yesterday. There was like, there are a lot of things were going on yesterday in my mind at least, a lot of things that I had to decide a lot of things I had to figure out, a lot of things on my plate. I had this moment of overwhelmant. Of just like, “Oh my god, there’s so much fucking going on, I just can’t deal with all of this. Then, what I often do, what I catch myself in that kind of a state of mind, is I tell myself, “What is really, honestly, and truly going on right this second, in this room, right in front of me?” And then I kind of … it helps me to leave my mind, where a million things are going on and to get back in touch with reality of the present moment. The present moment, I’m just sitting here at a desk, there’s a laptop. There’s nothing. There’s not a hundred people screaming at me, there’s nobody shooting at me. I’m not … There’s nothing, there’s no craziness going on, I’m just here, it’s actually pretty calm, it’s a desk and my laptop. I’m like, “Okay, so there might be many things I want to do. But, I’m just gonna deal with one thing at a time. What’s the most important thing I need to do? Or the most urgent thing I need to decide today? Well, I haven’t decided about this thing. Okay, let’s just decide that thing.” And once I’ve decided it, I go, “See, it’s just one thing, there’s not a hundred things I have to do at one time, it’s just one thing at a time.” I don’t know, it just helps me … There’s this meditation thing I once read from somebody that was saying truly take a deep breath in and out and truly ask yourself what is the problem I have in this very moment. Usually in most moments, you don’t really have problem. Even if you’re bankrupt, even if financing, even if you have a big argument with your spouse or your partner, even if there’s big things going on in your life, in the present moment often times, there’s not much really going on. It’s in our head. So, for me the way to get out of the state of overwhelment or confusion often times is to get present in the moment and realize that the moment is not that overwhelming. This very moment is actually not that confusing. All I have to do is just focus on the present and deal with what is right in front of me versus being so stuck in my own head, thinking about a million things at a time and making myself overwhelmed or confused. That helps often times for me. Here’s another one. And this is a tricky emotion, maybe it’s going to be the last one, maybe the second to last. Let’s see. How do you deal with the emotion of feeling cynical or overly critical? You know, where you’re just like … You’re in a state of mind that makes you feel like all of this is bull shit or yeah, these might be good ideas, but we don’t know what we don’t know yet, or there’s a very high chance they’re not gonna pan out the way we said, or the timeline we said. You know, when you’re kind of in a … You’ve been burned often enough, or you’ve been experienced enough to really get into a highly cynical state, where you’re just like, you feel really super critical, you feel like poking holes in everything, and tearing down everything that’s around you. How do you deal with that state of mind? That’s an interesting one to me.
Get out of your head, go for a walk, realize that it’s not productive. Right? When you want to tear everything down that badly, something is wrong with you. Like deeply wrong. Not like, “Hey, you have problems.” I’m just saying something is wrong. You have to realize and recognize that it’s probably not a good thing. People aren’t gonna be happy around you, right? You just want to break everything or whatever. You might even be slightly depressed. Take a walk, go outside, talk to a tree. Hug a tree. I don’t know. Just get out of your head. Right? If you meditate, meditate. If you love surfing, go surf. Do something that just gets your mind off life, so to speak. You know, where you can just zen out so to speak. Whatever. And everyone’s got something they do. Read a fiction book. I always mix that up, because I only read nonfiction. Anyways, listen … Talk to a parent that makes you happy or a friend that makes you happy that has nothing to do with your life, business, or whatever. Call somebody. Do something. That’s just an unproductive mode for us when we want to just break everything and tear everything down. The way you describe it, I think it’s very visceral. Everyone knows that feeling I would say. Go do something that just distracts you from that feeling and you’ll generally come back in a much better spot.
I love that. I’m on the, “Go hug a tree. I have to hug a tree today.” Just because I haven’t done that.
When was the last time I’ve hugged a tree is a question I don’t have the answer to, which is probably a bad thing, or it’s probably a good idea for me to hug a tree today, so good answer tomorrow.
That’s great. That’s great. I love it.
Alright, so let’s wrap this episode up. I think that some people might ask themselves, “Well, okay, you guys really looked deeply into how do I manage and deal with having these emotions, myself. But I’m not that emotional of a person. I have these emotions under control. But a lot of other people are super emotional. My employees are emotional. Some team member or confounder, how do I deal with other human’s emotion?” My comment on this, I’m curious to hear yours, as kind of the closing statement to this podcast. My take on this is that, you deal with other people’s emotions the same way you deal with yours, but if you don’t know how to manage your own emotional household, and how to deal with your own emotions, you’re not gonna be able to deal with other people’s. So when people come and they’re overwhelmed, they’re angry, they’re fearful, be able to recognize that they’re at a very heightened emotional state that makes them irrational, it makes them act or communicate or think in a way that’s not their average normal self. Be able to recognize that in yourself will help you recognize that in others. And when you recognize it in others, it’s much easier for you to deal with them, because you’re not just like, “Why is this person saying I’m an asshole?” You’re just saying, “Huh. Why is this person so angry?” That shift in interpretation of reality of what’s happening makes a big difference. You going, “Why is this person so pissed at me?” Is different from you going, “Why is this person so pissed? What happened? Why is this person in such a strong state? How can I help them get out of it? How can I help them manage it? And how can I help them make sure that … To prevent it moving forward?” So I think that the way you manage other people’s emotions is the way you manage your own, and it all starts with even having the awareness and noticing the states that people are in, and nut just what they say and do and how they behave. If you do that it becomes much, much, much easier over time to deal with other people’s, as well as with your own emotions.
Yeah. Totally agree. That’s great.
Awesome. I think that’s it from us for today. Go hug a tree, and we’ll hear you very, very soon.
If you go hug a tree, let us know. Hnshah@gmail.com, or hit us up on Twitter, hnshah on Twitter, Steli, S-T-E-L-I on Twitter. We’d love to hear from you, especially if you hugged a tree today.
Especially if you hugged a tree today, so true. Alright, looking forward to hearing from all of you guys. Bye-bye.