That Sunday feeling won’t go unless you change

For the first time in my life, I get it.

I had spent a lovely weekend in London catching up with all my close friend & spending quality time with my family. That Sunday evening I flew back to Berlin for work on Monday morning. And it hit.

A wave of deep sadness & apathy crashed upon me as I sat squeezed into my Easyjet window seat. Sadness because I knew I would be spending the majority of my scarce resources – energy & time – on something I did not enjoy. Apathetic because I just didn’t care. I think at that point if someone had offered me a week off work if in exchange for deliberately contracting a horrible strain of flu, it would have been an easy decision.

This is the first time in my life this has happened. I would like to think that I make very deliberate steps in life: I joined this – and my last – company after 2 years of entrepreneurship because I felt there were specific things I could learn from the experience of joining more experienced startups.

Therefore, even when the work has been hard over the last year, I have enjoyed it & remained motivated enough to avoid experiencing the Sunday Blues.

This time was different however. Somewhere deep inside me I knew that this was no longer something leading towards my goals in life.

 

Being ‘Fine’

What really scared me about this experience is that some people will experience it every single Sunday for the rest of their lives. Assuming you work ~50 years, that means you will spend over 2500 Sundays (7+ years) of your working life in a state of dread, anxiety & depression, hoping that tomorrow does not come.

This is, in fact, the norm. It is accepted that you should do something you don’t enjoy for years on end because ‘that’s just life’. Well fuck that.

It is totally unacceptable for me not to enjoy every day; to not feel a sense of excitement at the thought of tomorrow. Everyday should be an exciting opportunity to build something of your own. Everyday should be building towards something meaningful in your life.

Never, ever find yourself saying your job or life is ‘good enough’, ‘fine’, ‘alright’.

Every day you settle for just FINE, you’re losing out” – Ramit Sethi

You never take risks, you ignore opportunities right in front of you & always live in a world of hypothetical promises to yourself, like ‘I’ll just do this for a few years & then do something I enjoy.’ Sadly, most people never make it past the hypotheticals.

Even when others ask how we are, we are very good at disguising the truth. We project an external image of ourselves that exudes positivity.

Even more tragic, most of us internalise this belief, tricking ourselves into believing we are OK with our current situation despite the fact that there is a niggling voice in your head that says this is not OK, that you lack purpose, that you are, deep-down, unhappy.

Hold yourself to a standard

If you don’t control your time- someone else will. If you don’t protect your dream- you will fulfill someone else ‘s dream.” ― Wayde Goodall

As humans, we have this infuriating tendency to rationalise our way out of doing something, whether it’s going to the gym or quitting your job. There are always a hundred excuses why not to make a change.

Just remember that not taking action is the same as taking action. It is still a decision you must make.

Don’t fail by default.” ― Richard Paul Evans

 

To avoid the trap of inertia, set yourself certain standards in life – certain ‘if this then that’ scenarios that compel you to make change:

“When you raise your standards and turn “should” into “must,” you are making an inner shift to take control over the quality of your life. Any area you are not getting what you want is because you haven’t raised your standards.”Tony Robbins

 

By setting crystal clear standards for yourself, you set clear guidelines on what action must be taken in certain situations. For example, you could state that ‘If I am unhappy with my current job, I must change that job within 3 months’.

This means that, as soon as you start feeling unhappy, you have a written statement holding yourself to a certain standard: that it is unacceptable for you to not take clear action when you are unhappy in your job.

These standards provide not only a moral framework to live your life, but they prevent you rationalising your way out of taking action. This forces you to adapt & make change in order to live your life to a certain standard of happiness & fulfilment.

Take Action

The standard I have set myself is that it is unacceptable for me to be unhappy in life.

The Sunday Blues have provided me with a clear signal that change is needed. I have set my own standards & defined a clear action: writing a blog & building this business for 2 hours every morning in order to be able to quit my full-time job in 3 months time.

What standards can you set in your own life? Which situations are you always able to find an excuse to not take action? What things make you unhappy? Uncomfortable? Morally-conflicted?

Whatever they are, just hold yourself to a standard, whatever that may be. You deserve better than living a life that is just fine. The fact is that we live in an exciting time to be alive. Despite the pessimism of the media, the world is a fascinating place of infinite opportunities. It would be a waste of life not to take advantage of it.

 

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The Fear

03:00 Fear

I woke up in the middle of the night full of fear and self-doubt.

I realised that in 10 weeks I will be voluntarily unemployed, living in a city still largely foreign to me, in a country where I barely speak the language, running a business that is still undefined.

I imagine a ticking clock sitting on a little mantlepiece in my mind counting down the days until we run out of money. Counting down the days until I have to find another job I find uninspiring & lacking in purpose.

I imagine the days, spent of adrenaline, frantically trying to work out what exactly we should be doing & praying that we can close our first few leads.

I thought of the myriad, endless, complex paths we could take with this new business. Each decision we make has huge implications down the road & closes off doors to other decisions & opportunities. How do we know we’ve made the right ones?

I find myself at the entrance to a maze with no clear idea about where to start or where I am meant to end up.

Entrepreneurship is always going to be scary – you are trying to solve unclear problems that no-one else has solved – but it’s different when you actually experience it.

 

The Survivor Myth

If you are considering becoming an entrepreneur, then it is highly likely you view the whole endeavour with rose-tinted glasses.

In the media, we see the success stories of Facebook & Uber emerging from nothing; of young, disruptive companies ‘making it’ against the odds. We cheer on these under-dogs as it validates our belief that the sky is the limit; we can achieve anything with the right idea & some hard work. The survivor bias, however, distorts reality.

You don’t see the scrapheap of companies that never made it. You never hear from the founders that dabbled with entrepreneurship, got their fingers burnt & then decided it wasn’t for them. You forget the early success stories that quickly fizzled out into obscurity.

You don’t hear about the dark side of it either: the high rates of depression or the ego-mania that comes with rapid success.

 

Mitigating Risk

To reduce the fear, the modern gurus of marketing, such as Seth Godin or James Altucher rightly suggest building up a business as a side project before taking the leap full-time.

Almost all budding entrepreneurs can validate an idea & its monetisation strategy in their spare time to make sure that it is not just some ego project, but a product users actually want.

Say you want to sell hand-made Pokémon jumpers to die-hard Pokémon fans. You can set up a $100 e-commerce website, make a handful of jumpers, find out where die-hard Pokémon fans hang out (online or in person), market to them & see whether you generate any sales. If your jumpers are flying off the shelf, then you can confidently quit your day job. Just do the maths & estimate how much you would be earning with more jumpers & more time to work on it. If you’ve got no sales, go back to the drawing board & try again.

 

The issue here, however, is that some business models are difficult to validate whilst in full-time work when they conflict with your day job.

If we were to let some of the articles we’ve written out into the world right now, there’s a high chance both of us would be fired. They are fairly damning of a company culture & leadership we both strongly disagree with, so we have to publish anonymously.

Berlin is also a small world, so starting an event to validate the concept would be tricky. One of our colleagues seeing a Meetup run by both of us, linked to our online content, would be a clear sign we were heading for the exit. That’s fine in a few months, but it’s a little premature at the moment.

We have an idea we believe in, but we’ve not validated it. We haven’t tested any monetisation strategy, nor have we pinned down exactly what it is we are trying to solve.

Thus the waking up at 3am worried about my plans for the future.

 

Learn to accept it

I am now on my third business & now accept that the fear will never go away – however well you plan & execute a new venture.

However successful you are, you will always live with self-doubt. Taking risks triggers that feeling within us; it goes against our survival instinct, working as a mechanism to protect ourselves against any potential threat.

Validate your ideas as early as possible. Rationalise & substantiate your fears so they don’t seem so scary. Reduce self-doubt, anxiety & fear wherever possible & in whichever way works for you.

Just know that, if you take this path, it will always be there. If you want a life of comfort, safe in the knowledge of where you will be & what you will be doing in 30 years, then stick to the 9-5.

Entrepreneurship is for those that want more. It’s for those that see where they want to end up, but head off into the unknown without a map & a faulty compass to get them there. It’s for those that remain firm when the seas inevitably become rough along the way. It’s for those that know they will face fear & uncertainty, but will get through it to get where they need to go.

 

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