This article is about the emotional intricacies of being a CEO or entrepreneur and the emotional roller coaster you’ll ride, or are already riding. Marc Andreesen, co-founder of Netscape, once wrote:
“First and foremost, a startup puts you on an emotional rollercoaster unlike anything you have ever experienced. You flip rapidly from day-to-day – one where you are euphorically convinced you are going to own the world, to a day in which doom seems only weeks away and you feel completely ruined, and back again.
Over and over and over.
And I’m talking about what happens to stable entrepreneurs. There is so much uncertainty and so much risk around practically everything you are doing. The level of stress that you’re under generally will magnify things incredible highs and unbelievable lows at whiplash speed and huge magnitude.
Sound like fun?”
The concept that we’re going to examine is called the “Transition Curve.” It resembles a rollercoaster. Regardless of whether or not you believe you will ride an emotional rollercoaster running a business, you will. You have two fundamental choices: you can hold on and scream, or you can wave your hands in the air and have some fun.
I’m going to walk you through these different analogies, but let’s first look at the various stages of this process:
- Stage 1: The first stage of the concept is called “Uninformed Optimism”. At this stage on a rollercoaster, just getting to the top of the rollercoaster, you experience feelings of an adrenalin rush, characterized by excitement and nervous energy.
- Stage 2: The second stage is called “Informed Pessimism”. As you ride over the top of the curve you now have a bit more information. Feelings of fear, nervousness and frustration begin to set in. Perhaps you even want to get off of it.
- Stage 3 – The third stage is called “Crisis of Meaning”. You’re past scared. You feel despair. It’s as if you’re standing on the edge of a cliff ready to jump, and you begin to think, “Today the rollercoaster’s going off the bottom of the track for the very first time.” You feel helpless and you’re both terrified and frozen. At this point, you face a critical juncture. You can come off the bottom of the curve and crash and burn, which is when your business goes bankrupt, you lose your marriage, or you end up in a doctor’s office because of stress. Or you can come around the corner because you’re getting support at “Crisis of Meaning” and you can enter an upward swing called “Informed Optimism”.
- Stage 4 – Informed Optimism. You’re calm. You’re informed. You might even say you are cautiously optimistic.
This cycle then repeats itself. But here is the critical point — at each stage of the curve, you can do things to leverage the feelings and energy — positive or negative — that you have at that moment. Fighting against these phases is like working against a natural force. Now that you understand why you’re feeling like you do – next issue I’ll tell you how to deal with each stage of the curve including What To Do – and – What Not To Do at each stage. Enjoy the ride instead of fighting it.
Cameron Herold is the founder of BackPocket COO, where he coaches CEOs and entrepreneurs, and the former COO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? He is speaker resource for the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and Young Presidents’ Organization, global networks of more than 24,000 business leaders in over 100 countries, and has spoken to entrepreneurs in 17 countries and in groups as large as 2,000 people. His blog can be found at www.BackPocketCOO.com/blog.