4 Ways You Bulldoze Your Startup's Success, Everyday

Photo by    Dominik Scythe

Building a business is an all-encompassing experience that is emotionally and psychologically taxing.

When I first began building my first business, there were several things I was bulldozed by, and all of it had to do with my mental and emotional limits and ability to manage negative emotions, conflict, and change. Not my ability to deliver an elevator pitch or manage a 200-piece order.

Rather than receiving book recommendations and resources on how best to build a financial model and create a marketing plan, I wish someone had encouraged me to equally learn about stress management, burnout, and managing my ego in my early startup years.

Regardless of industry, size, or stage, there’s one thing I can guarantee that every entrepreneur needs to do and that’s auditing their mental and emotional edge. Below are some guiding questions to jumpstart the conversation  — 

What’s Your Relationship With Money?

Building my first two businesses magnified my relationship with money, namely in how negative my relationship with money was. At the time, I had no idea that my decisions, grit, and confidence were being invisibly guided by my underlying money story, and that I was unconsciously stopping myself from reaching my full potential.

Having grown up without money, it was really difficult for me to easily accept receiving a lot of money without the anxiety of the other shoe dropping, or believing that it wasn’t all a one-time fluke. 

I would wrap my self-worth around the balance in my bank account and think terribly of myself when my business had a low cash flow month. Reflecting back, this line of thinking stalled me and was a source of self-sabotage multiple times throughout my career. If I had recognized and neutralized the control that money had over me earlier in my career, I truly believe that I would have hit my goals on a faster timeline. 

I personally went through the exercise of identifying my relationship with money with coaches, but there are a lot of books, podcast episodes, YouTube videos, and blog posts about identifying your money story and understanding your relationship with money. 

I highly recommend that at a minimum, you identify your relationship with money so that you become aware of any mental obstacles it may create for you. Bonus points if you take the steps to remedy whichever negative money stories impact you on a daily basis. 

Are You Your Business?

As you build your business, you begin to create a bond with it that’s hard to break because it’s your creation. The business slowly becomes a reflection of you, and your identity becomes deeply intertwined with the business’ every move. Every business accomplishment becomes an accomplishment of yours, and equally, every failure also becomes a reflection of your failures. You feel every high and low of your business, resulting in a lot of moody, emotional yoyoing.

Building a business can quickly become an emotional and psychological nightmare when you allow your identity to merge with your business. Your happiness becomes wholly dependent on what’s happening at the moment with your business, rather than your general happiness level with your life overall.

It’s hard to separate your identity from your business, but it’s not impossible. Building a healthy separation between you and your business can be easily facilitated by prioritization —hobbies, time off with friends, exercise, work blackouts… whatever it looks like for you. 

Galileo famously surmised that there were mountains on the moon before telescopes were strong enough to prove his theory — he came to this conclusion from having been a painter in his free time. He understood how shadow and light worked when it came to mountain landscapes and recognized the same patterns when he looked at the moon. It was Galileo’s unique concoction of creativity, activities that filled his free time, and identity beyond astronomy that enabled this discovery.

Do not let “building your business” bleed into your hobbies and eat up all hours of your life  —  you will lose you, the only ingredient that empowers your startup to stand out amongst a sea of competitors with the same recipe book. 

Is That Your Ego Talking?

Separating your identity from your business is also important in helping you make sound decisions about your business. 

When your business is deeply intertwined with your identity, difficult decisions such as stepping down as the CEO because you’re not best for the role or closing down production on a product you’ve created is much easier to make without the emotional baggage of ‘what will people think?’ or ‘I’m a failure’.

I personally made a lot of mistakes throughout my career revolving around my inability to humble myself. It wasn’t until I detached myself emotionally from my business that I began to realize how much my ego blurred the logical next step during major decisions. Our brains are incredibly clever in convincing us that something is the right fit when the right emotions are attached to it. Becoming aware of when your ego is answering for you is a great way to navigate around this. 

How Do You Typically React During Stressful Situations?

When exposed to stressful situations in my early 20s, I usually would have reacted by completely freaking out about the situation at hand, complaining about it to multiple people, and then elongating the stress I was carrying around the issue by continuously reliving the situation. 

My solution to managing stress at the time was by stressing about it more. At the time, I didn’t realize that my style of venting helped the stressful event exist about 3 days longer than it had to. 

It wasn’t until several years later that I became emotionally wiped by this habit and decided to seek healthier outlets of stress management. Identifying and learning about my unhealthy habits of repression, victimization, and taking things way too personally helped me tremendously in creating a sustainable approach to managing everyday stressors.

Again, my starting point was just becoming aware of what my bad habits were around managing stress and then seeking the help of smart people and resources to help me through it. 

If there’s only one action you take after this post, it’s to just become aware of where you stand in your answers to these questions. Awareness is a great fertilizer and will help prompt action in areas of your life that need it. None of these questions became important to me at the same time nor sequentially — they became meaningful at random times in my life, exactly when I needed it. 

For more startup support, grab my Pitch Deck Checklist or my ‘Find Your Customers’ worksheet to fine-tune your pitch deck or marketing strategy.

Sophia Sunwoo