Dearest founders, please take care of your mental health

If you’re a founder, you know. For all of the veneer and hype, it’s incredibly draining to be the founder of a startup — or any company for that matter. It’s lonely. It’s grueling. It’s emotionally and mentally challenging. And it’s nearly impossible to manage everything you have to do.

Suffice it to say that being a founder is arguably one of the most debilitating professional experiences that anyone can choose to pursue.

But we rarely talk about that. Instead choosing to focus on hustle porn, who raised what, and the hype of the next shiny object. We fall prey to the mythology surrounding entrepreneurship. And we celebrate the wins while trying to ignore the issues and failures.

But below all of that hubbub sits reality. And the people — often an individual — who is dealing with that reality.

The pressure entrepreneurs face — compounded by societal myths surrounding startups and a glamorized hustle culture — can take a steep toll on mental health leading to burnout, breakdowns or worse. The issue was beginning to get some widespread attention prior to the pandemic. Inc and Entrepreneur magazines published stories and startup luminaries like investor Brad Feld started talking openly about depression and mental health.

So I’m always a fan of folks who take the time to share the truth. Who reveal their own personal experiences for the benefit of others. And who try to help folks understand what being a founder really means.

Given that it’s Friday, I’ve got a little homework assignment for you. Please take a few minutes this weekend to read this series of pieces by Malia Spencer in the Portland Business Journal on startup founder burnout and mental health. Which features first-person accounts from a variety of folks in the Portland startup community, including Pregame founder Ciara Pressler, Puppet founder Luke Kanies, Salt & Straw founder Kim Malek, and WILDFANG founder Emma Mcilroy.

So do yourself a favor. And add these to your reading list. Because your being able to remain mentally and physically healthy is important to me. And it’s important to the community. And it’s important to your peers and your company and other founders and would-be founders.

You’re under an incredible amount of pressure. So please press pause and take a few minutes. Maybe even step outside during this gorgeous spring weather. And take a breath.

Please and thank you.