As an entrepreneur and startup founder, I've learned that building a successful company can be quite an emotional roller coaster. My first experience was when I moved to Silicon Valley from Canada in early 2011 to launch AeroFS in one of the most competitive startup environments in the world.
I quickly found that building and stabilizing a company from the ground up was not only physically exhausting but emotionally draining. From day one, I worked incredibly hard alongside my co-founder, Weihan, to build our company -- from perfecting our product, raising funds, hiring and finding our early customers. While, yes there were many truly amazing days as the founder and CEO of a business, there were also an equal number of "bad days," which is why it can be hard to keep your emotions in check.
The best advice I've received to help me through was to find ways to "average my emotions." This means making a concerted effort to react in the moment based on the long-term average of each emotion you have -- good or bad.
This serves to help remain level-headed in all kinds of situations. It means the "highs" don't distract you from addressing the "lows." It also allows you to foster innovation by not getting comfortable with the status quo. Yes, you should definitely take time to celebrate the wins, but don't overdo it. Get right back to work and ask your team what you could do to make it even better next time. On the opposite side, reflect on the losses, but move past them quickly. Instead of getting overly angry and dwelling, put that emotional passion into solving the issue or improving the process.
By "averaging" your emotions in this way, you should feel more grounded. You're no longer leading your company by dragging it along an emotional roller coaster. But instead, you're creating a more level, steady sense of being no matter what success or failure comes your way.
But to help your company average its emotions also means you need to find your own emotional well-being outside of the office.
I believe you cannot and should not derive all of your personal happiness only from within your company. As cliche as it may sound, you must establish a healthy work-life balance to help avoid the extremes of an emotional roller coaster. In particular, it helps to have a few hobbies where you can achieve wins when you have a bad day at the office. Many entrepreneurs I know turn to physical exercise since it is an activity directly under their control. Have a bad day at the office? Deal fall through? Go for a long run and try to beat your previous time. Physical activity is also not the only option. Our Director of Engineering, for example, turns to wood-working when he needs to let off steam. Having an activity that is more directly under your control can help you have wins in a world where at least part of your success comes from things not directly under your control.
As a leader, you will face many opportunities to take risks, make mistakes and win big. How you react to the successes and failures along the way is entirely up to you. But remember, it will impact the people around you and, ultimately, the success of your company.
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