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Burnout can be a hard topic to talk about. When founders start sharing their burnout stories, the stories usually surface after the startup journey is over. But a lot more VCs are starting to pay attention to the burnout of their portfolio founders. Freestyle Capital is providing mental health services, and underwriting 100% of the cost for two programs, Meru Health (https://www.meruhealth.com/) and Hoffman Institute (https://www.hoffmaninstitute.org/), for all of their founders. You can read more about this imitative here (https://medium.com/@joshmedia/for-the-love-of-founders-d50b405f42a3).
Recently I was invited to give a talk about my burnout experiences to the founders of a prominent VC fund who invests in gaming. Whilst preparing for the talk, I noticed that out of all the content that I wanted to talk about, my meditation practices were the most uplifting for me. Meditation has given me so much power, starting with an app called Calm, and then later transitioned into unassisted meditation.
Please excuse me, I’m going to go and meditate now, but I’ll be back soon.
I first started meditations during the spring of 2019. I realized that I needed to get some focus on my life. I’ve always been an anxious person. This has manifested in ways of wanting to see the results of my work as soon as possible. The results orientation came from an idea that I wanted to achieve something, so that I could then achieve something else, and onwards. I was planning, but I wouldn’t stick to my plans. I was lacking focus.
I heard about an app called Calm, so I downloaded it and went through the guided meditation programs when you listen to an instructor who guides you to become present in the moment. First thinking about my face, then hair, shoulders, arms, visualizing myself in the moment. Having only one thing to think about, me. During these 12-minute sessions, my mind would wander and I wasn’t paying attention to the instructor. This was a signal to me that I wasn’t doing what I was supposed.
I gave up on Calm, but from time to time, I would try out different ways of getting back to meditation. Just three months ago, I found a meditation practice that feels to work. I just sit down, listen to white noise from my AirPods, eyes closed, then try to focus on my body. I’d sit on a couch, or bed, comfortably. Hands on the sides. Fifteen to twenty minutes.
Sometimes, if I really want to get some thoughts out of my head, I imagine a drawer. I then open one of the drawer boxes, put the thoughts in that box and close it. I’ve noticed that it immediately removes the thoughts from my mind and I can focus a bit more.
Noticing a difference
Afterward the meditation, I’d get up and feel that the noises in my head were gone. I could go back to work and feel great for the first time in years.
But then there would be days when I just couldn’t find the time to meditate. It would be a weekend, I would sleep late and then the family would be busy with all sorts of activities. My meditation time slot wasn’t fixed, so I had to sneak to the bedroom for a quick meditation. I noticed that if I didn’t get at least ten minutes of meditation, I would start going back to my crappy old self. Around Christmas, I had a week of no meditation, and it really felt bad. The anxieties were back.
For 2020, I promised myself that I wouldn’t skip a single day of doing at least fifteen minutes of meditation. Preferably in the morning, so that I’d have more energy for the whole day. No more coasting. I want to give this time to my self.
Where should you start
Just pick up meditation, say to yourself that this is time for me. Do it for a few days, sit silently for twenty minutes. Maybe use white noise. See how you start feeling. I bet you will feel much better. And don’t stop. Don’t start coasting as I did. Make it a routine to do it every day.
You can try an app like Calm to get started. That’s what I did. There’s also Headspace out there, which I’ve heard is a really good one for starting to do meditations.
Just last week, I had a fellow gaming founder on my podcast. You can listen to the episode here.