Startup Therapy Podcast

Episode #119


Ryan Rutan: Welcome back to another episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rutan and Wil schroder from startups dot com. Well, normally we like to talk about things that we've already experienced, but it seems like today we're gonna talk about the future when we both turn 37. Um, so you know, uh, That's what, how many years off is that for us? 100

Wil Schroter: 100

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. Oh wait, no, that is in the past. Yeah, so look, nothing magical about the, about the number 37 necessarily, but there does seem to be some debt that accumulates that gets called do around that point. Um, and well, we've told this story before. Let's go back, let's go back to uh, that magical moment in time During your 37th year of life as a founder will and, and and how that went just a little bit off the rails.

Wil Schroter: I mean, you're talking about the year of my life ended because for a brief moment, it actually, yeah, so figured by that point, I had been in my professional career almost 20 years straight uh, did the typical founder thing where it was like working nonstop, working weekends, working every waking hour, doing exactly what, you know what, what we, we cherish founders for doing, uh, and was so proud of it. Yes. And that

Ryan Rutan: beautiful badge of honor that none of us can find in our in our closet anyway.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. There's a badge that pays very interesting dividends. Little did I know that, that entire time where I was just kind of motoring through life. I developed this really incredible ability to just compartmentalize everything that would ever happen to me because the only way to keep working every waking hour is to not pay attention to life, right?

Ryan Rutan: So in this

Wil Schroter: particular year, my 37th year, I had nearly every life event you could imagine. Um, and at this time we were just launching startups dot com, if you remember Ryan? Uh really? Yeah, just a minute ago, at this time, I was, we were in the beginning of our launch, I was getting married, we're having our first child had moved across the country and all these different things and um in things were stacking up, remember, you know, you and I are sitting at lunch and I said, yeah, I said, hey, I'm not feeling right, like something's just off and I had never left to go home for lunch, but I was like, I need to go home, something is just wrong.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. And you hadn't even had chicken parm that day. I mean, that was normally

Wil Schroter: what put you under,

Ryan Rutan: like, you

Wil Schroter: haven't even eaten that that day. All right. So before we get into this next topic, I just want to let you know what we talk about here is like 1% of the conversation, you know, really, this conversation is going on all day long online at groups dot startups dot com. Well, Ryan and I pretty much talk endlessly with founders about every one of these topics. So if by the end of this discussion, you like the topic and you want to dig into it a little bit more with Ryan and I just had two groups startups dot com and we'll pick it up from there. Yeah. And so, uh, so I hop in my car and head home and we're like five minutes away and I'm on the highway and I'm talking to my wife and I'm like, you know, I can't put my finger on it, but just something feels off. It's almost like clockwork, like a movie moment. The moment I say off, my heart stops, I mean full stop and it's one of those things, you can't not notice your heart stopping because you're dead. It's not the same as passing out, passing out, You kind of lose conscious your heart stopping, uh, you lose all the sensation in your body all at once because it's not pumping. And what's great is I decided to do this or decided while I was behind the wheel of my car, fortunately this was a very short heart attack which which I recovered from was able to keep on driving because I'm an idiot and make it back to my house. I get back to my house, I crawl out of my car. Ryan. I remember basically crawling my way to the living room so I could just lay flat on my back and I'm staring at the ceiling and I'm calling you guys, I'm calling you, I'm calling Elliot because you guys were only a few minutes away. And I'm like, guys, I think you need to come get me like something is wrong now. I didn't know what happened. I actually just didn't know I would find out later. And so you guys came and grabbed me because your idiots, you took me to a minute clinic, which was like two minutes around around the corner and they were like, you need to go to an actual er and so next thing I know I'm cruising down to the er they get me hooked up to all this equipment and they're running all these scans well after sitting there in the ICU I remember thinking and my wife rushes down with my newborn daughter. I remember thinking like this is it. Like I ran so hard and it didn't occur to me that this might, there might be a cost to this. And now I just started a family, just got married and had my daughter, like I funked it all up. Like I just didn't even see it coming. And there were no warning signs.

Ryan Rutan: That was the thing. Yeah, I want to stick on that. I want to stick on that for a

Wil Schroter: 2nd, right? Like there

Ryan Rutan: were warning signs, right? It wasn't as the okay, going back in time and looking at photos of ourselves from them and kind of remembering some of our habits around that time, there weren't obvious warning signs, like your body wasn't telling you specifically, like you weren't like, oh, geez, I've been to the doctor three times because I've been feeling a certain way. Were we taking great care of ourselves at that point? Absolutely not. But did it look like dire straits also? Absolutely not right? Like it wasn't as though it was like, well, it looks like he's going to drop dead any day now because we would have said something right. Like we were all going through stuff at the time. I timing for all three of us was really similar in terms of marriage kid. Um, you moved cross country. Elliott had moved cross country. I had moved internationally like, and then we started a business and it started running our lives for us and we let it. Um, so yeah, there, but there weren't obvious warning signs. It wasn't like, why is will look blue for the last two weeks? That didn't happen. So, okay. Sorry, continue.

Wil Schroter: No, it's all the stuff you can't see stuff in your head and stuff your, your body, it's, um, I was in reasonable shape, you know, so I wasn't obese, you know, some of the things you tend to see, we were still relatively young. So like physically, you kind of don't see it yet. Um, but all these things behind the scenes were conspiring against me. And so

Ryan Rutan: there was a palace revolt happening within the palace of will,

Wil Schroter: It was unbelievable. And like and so if I didn't sleep enough, the answer was always just more caffeine. Right? I mean like more monster energy. Do you remember you remember in our

Ryan Rutan: break room when

Wil Schroter: we had cases upon cases of monster energy? Like we had this thing where like the entire room II no exaggeration was stacked florida stealing with cases of monster energy during and how proud of that we were. Yeah, we're doing

Ryan Rutan: to our bodies promo or something. Didn't they literally like realize our consumption levels and come in and drop that on this. Like that was a gift, right? Like a gift of sorts. But when you say stacks, you're not kidding. Like it was like a cube like it was several cubic meters of of monster energy drink which argue are so happy about it. Yeah. Right there definitely not sponsors of ours at this point.

Wil Schroter: If you're, if you're unsure that does really bad things to your heart, it does, if you want to compound stress with intense amounts of caffeine, you can wind up where I wind up in this story. So so rewind back to the story. So I'm sitting there and the doctor comes in and he's trying to understand what happened to me as as am I and he's he brings me this kind of this tablet and he said, listen, I need you to mark down every life event or symptom uh that has occurred to you like in the last year or two years, right? That says, you know, you don't have to

Ryan Rutan: how do I draw a line

Wil Schroter: doctor? That's exactly what I did there. Like there like a job change lifestyle, change marriage, you know, like almost literally everything. Um and the doctor looks at me And he's like, Okay, so what's the time period? I was like, I was probably last 6 to 12 months. Like this is what happens to people their entire lives. You're talking about compounding all this in 6 to 12 months. And I gotta tell you, you could probably relate to this at the time when all of these things were happening. Here's how I process them. Oh, I'm getting married, People get married all the time. No big deal, right? Having a kid, People have kids all the time. No big deal. Right? Starting a company. It's my ninth company. Done this before. No big deal. Moving across country done it before. No big deal. And this was just how I got used to processing all of life. Well even even beyond

Ryan Rutan: that, some of these things like, individually we're looking at them and going like we're super happy about these things, right? Like I'm getting married. Yay, start another business having a kid. Yeah, yeah, yeah, right? Like we were like pumped up about this shit um that behind the scenes because of the way we were dealing with, it was killing us, right? So it's it not only was it not presenting itself as a problem, it was presenting itself as the opposite, right? Like, you know? Yeah, we were burning the candle at both ends but we were smiling about it, right? We were happy, right? There was not again like it wasn't, I wasn't looking at you going, he's about to drop, it was like man awesome things are happening to us right now, right? Business is growing families, growing kids are growing, you know, friendships are growing, all this great stuff is happening and yet we're in the emergency room,

Wil Schroter: doctor explains to me and this was this was news to me. He said what happened was you had a severe panic attack, Like a damn near a heart attack, but a panic attack. And he said, what happened was your body has been building up this revolt as you described it, right? This revolt for years upon years upon years and you just kept quelling the revolt right? With with with with more dissonance, With more cash,

Ryan Rutan: Right? Let them

Wil Schroter: eat cake. And and he said at some point, your body wins whether you want it to or not, no matter who you are, no matter how much you try to like, you know motor past it, it will to win. And you know, in the victory that is you dying? Apparently, he said, what's interesting is your heart is actually incredibly healthy, thankfully, right? He said, but your mind in your body is so far gone at this point That you have to have a 180 change in the most dramatic way to not have this happen again. And he's I remember him saying and it will happen again. It will happen again. Nothing is more terrifying than having an event that incredible. Right? Where you actually feel yourself dying and then being told it's going to happen

Ryan Rutan: again. And with certainty.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, with certainty, right? He's like, there's actually no version where it doesn't happen again. Uh and I remember coming home and just like, because your whole life is flashing before you. And when I was in the ICU I'm thinking, what if I never become a dad, right? What if I just orphan my kid? Like of all the dumb shit, I've been again. I didn't know what was happening, but all that stuff goes through your head and the stakes are as big as they're ever going to be. And I remember thinking, you know, I bet uh none of my friends know about this right right now. Like I bet like I bet I should tell them and warn them of what happened. And I remember talking to you and Elliot about it, you know, explaining to you guys what happened? And I don't think you guys had Elliot. I think Elliot and dealt someone had you had like the the big panic attack yet. Not yet. Remember where you guys were at the

Ryan Rutan: time. No, I I was definitely dealing with with some physical manifestations at that point around

Wil Schroter: stress, right? Yes,

Ryan Rutan: my my psoriasis was was near peak. It had moved from just being a really annoying skin affliction to like extremely painful joints to the point where like, I wasn't able to be the dad, I wanted to be, I couldn't get up and down off the floor um to play because I was in so much pain all the time. I just this incredible joint inflammation. Um And like, so that was driven by stress. Guess what else drives stress being like 35 36 not being able to get up and down off the floor. Um That drives more stress, which drives more pain, which drives more stress. So yeah, I was in I I had started my own my own spiral. Um No, my thing was not the panic attacks, although I did finally, I finally earned mine recently, in fact, um and I can talk about it a little bit. Um But yeah, it was, it took me a bit longer to get there. Um But I was dealing, you know with with different things spiraling out of control mostly around stress. And my issue was always like pushing to the point of exhaustion and I would do it multiple times a year, where like, I would just go, go, go, go go and then I would need to collapse for like two or three days. And I just always thought like, that's just me, that's just, that's how I do, this is this is normal, like this is okay, right? Like, right? As if this was just some workout that I was doing and I was, you know, working muscle and then it would be better on the other side of that. It's not better on the other side of that, right? Every one of those exhaustive collapses has compounding effects long term on the body. Not good. I figured out the formula for not doing that now. Um and it's called discipline, right? It's called paying attention to your body. It's called listening to the people around you. Um which I wasn't particularly good at for a very long time. So, so yeah, no, I don't think neither Elliot nor I were going through at the same level that you were certainly, it didn't, we didn't hit that peak moment that you did where, where we got the fun time ride in the backseat of somebody else's car to the er

Wil Schroter: Well look, I think part of it though, is that uh when we're younger and this is where the 37 year old threshold starts to kick in when we're younger, it's kind of free. And what I mean by that is like um your body has so much, you know, ability to adapt um that that like, like minded, that you can kind of shrug off these problems for a long time And because they're all under the surface, you don't see them. It's it's it's there's there's nothing symptomatic, right? So I had I had done two things that really, really blew up on me. The first is I had built this hustle kind of mentality and I, you know, convinced everybody else that it's the right thing to And I had gotten rewarded for it. So, so start there. I was getting rewarded for 20 years for killing myself. Right? And so because I was like, look how many hours I'm willing to work or look how much stress I'm willing to undertake or look how much when everyone else is shook about a situation, I have no issue with it whatsoever. And I felt brave and I felt incredibly, you know, empowered all the while, I was poisoning myself. Right? I didn't even know it

Ryan Rutan: building up reasons to be anxious and panic about things at some point, right? But it takes time stacks up. It overlaps.

Wil Schroter: The second part is it wasn't happening to anyone else. So, like, it was like being the only person who ever caught a cold, right? Like when everybody catches a cold, you start to think about it, oh man, I need to make sure I don't get a cold, but when you don't see it happening anywhere else and there are no warning signs like this entire podcast, you not only don't see it coming, You don't even know that it would, that's the thing, right?

Ryan Rutan: There's no indication, there's no indication. And, and even if you do get some of the earlier warning signs to your point when you're younger, it doesn't have the same effect. You bounce back faster, You feel more capable of pushing through it. It's like the difference of, of having a hangover when you're 21 having a hangover when you're 42 now, here's the thing, like not only is the bounce back time different, you're also more willing to go out and just have another hangover. Like I Sadly remember, you know, having hangovers multiple days in a row when I was 21, I would repeat the process. The idea of having more than one hang over a year now. Are you kidding me? Like it's just, it's not gonna happen. Um because if I layer those things, they're, they're just so heavy that I can't get out of underneath it at some point, right? Whereas when I was younger I could power through and you know, and the hangover analogy here, but like with, with work stress with family stress, with whatever it was, you know, it was, there was an inherent ability to kind of just push through, which is part and parcel and part of the reason why as we get older, we can no longer do those things because we abused ourselves when we could. So it's not just that getting older automatically leads to this. It's all the things we did when we were younger before we got older that lead to this. And I think that's an important point to make. We're not talking about just Getting old sucks. Um, that's not it, right. It's what you do to yourself when you're capable just because you can take the mortgage doesn't mean you should write and, and when you do that and you accumulate that debt at some point it becomes do in your case. And actually in a lot of cases, 37 seems to be that magic number for founders. It's 37 For rock stars. It's 27, right? Isen't that when they all die?

Wil Schroter: Yeah. Well, so, um, the difference is, you know, earlier in our careers, etcetera, we're not aware that these problems have

Ryan Rutan: consequences. Right.

Wil Schroter: In other words, we'll look at the problem itself and we'll say, hey, if my startup fails, you know, there's a financial consequence, etcetera. What we haven't experienced yet and we will is that the stress that comes with it has consequences. The difference is, you don't know when that bill is going to come do or how it's gonna come do, but it's gonna come due. And so if I'm 27 years old and I've been killing myself for five years and all these problems, life problems, relationship problems, et cetera that are going on, I'm just sort of pressing them down so I can kind of charge on with my startup and again, I'm getting high five for it at that point. I'm actually probably okay and again, I'm not saying don't deal with it. What I'm saying is I'm probably okay because I haven't seen a consequence yet. Fast Forward 10 years. Right? Well, now now the consequences start to pile up a bit. Not only have I run my body so hard for so long, I now have all of these other inputs that have consequences like kids, like a marriage like organ, all of these things that start to compound. And if I just look at it, go, everybody goes through it. It's just part of life. That's true. It's just not relevant to the fact that you've got to deal with it. You gotta process

Ryan Rutan: it right? And I think that again, as founders, we, we tend to compartmentalize things, um, even more so than than the average person. Um, in

Wil Schroter: some ways we have to

Ryan Rutan: partially out of survival, right? Like it, it's sort of, we have to write or we feel obligated to, right? Um, and I think that that's part of the founder culture that we would love to unwind a little bit, is to say like stop compartmentalizing these things as much as you are right now. Does that mean, you know, take home all the stress of the startup and unloaded on your family at the end of every day. No, because that's one of the things we compartmentalize, right, we tried to defend them from this for lots of reasons, right? I remember early on um you know, visiting my parents at their home shortly after starting the first company and and then saying boy you look you look you look really tired and like and I was always making up excuses because I didn't want them to see that this was having a negative impact on me because I didn't want them to tell me to stop or to change what I was doing because I wanted to do what I was doing, right? So part of the compartmentalization was was to defend myself from outside input. And then part of it was to protect them from thinking that I was hurting myself and I think that becomes even more more important like as we move into a partner and spouse categories and and Children categories, right? We don't want to look like we're hurting by doing this thing that we want to do and we don't want that to bleed over and hurt them. So we compartmentalize, right? This is where other founders become really, really important to have in your circle because they know they get it, they understand it's not gonna cause them the same level of duress stress and pain when you share these things because they're gonna go uh huh me too, yep, me too. Yeah, I get it. Yes, been there. Uh huh, nope, not there yet, but I can definitely see that coming, right? Whereas the family, the friends, everybody else, they just don't have the context to be empathetic. We've talked about this, they can be sympathetic, but the line kind of becomes drawn there

Wil Schroter: right? Right. And you know, it's funny because at that point I reached out to all my friends like I said, I talked to you and Elliot, I talked to all of my founder friends and I thought I was like paul revere running through the streets, warning everybody that the anxiety

Ryan Rutan: is coming right,

Wil Schroter: and and here is the craziest thing, wasn't what I was saying? It was the response every single person I spoke to was like, oh yeah, I dealt with a panic attack last week and I was like what? And I know people pretty freaking well, right? And you know me, I'm incapable of small talk. So like I just go deep on everything. I'm like how has this not come up right? It just felt like some weird like movie moment or like, you know where I'm looking around at Alfred Hitchcock style, like how what weight am I like, am I the only person that wasn't aware of this? And I was as it would happen? And it turned out that as I kind of focused on this topic with lots of founders that they all in their own right would say, yeah, this actually just happened to me now. Incidentally, a lot of my founders, my friends were the same age, so they were all kind of coming up on this pent ultimate moment at the same time and when they did, um, to your point, they rarely had a support structure to do anything with, right? Because like you and I know I know a gazillion founders, it's what we do, but other founders don't. Other founders might know one founder, you know, so there's no camaraderie there. And I think part of where that breaks and you, you touched on this is that when we talked to our friends who have gone through panic attacks and anxiety and all these things before, they'll describe to you that it happened to them and kind of the order of events, etcetera. What, what we're missing in that discussion is why it's different for founders, right? If I work a job and I've got a jerk of a boss, that's a jerk, right? And I've got some coworkers that I don't like, definitely, you know, real responsibilities in in real friction. I'm not knocking it and that can create all kinds of, you know, emotional turmoil. The problem with the founder is we have nothing but liabilities forget responsibility's ours are all liabilities, right? If you work in the dev team and things don't pan out, you have a responsibility to make it work, your boss will yell at you, but the founder management team, they're liable for every single person in the organization doing something wrong and when you're in a startup, it's just all stuff going wrong. And I don't think as especially new founders, we understand the gravity of liability and what that means to our mental health and it happens overnight, right overnight. Like we go from, I had responsibilities, but now I have a mountain of liabilities and I'm not used to the fact that they won't go away. I think it adds up. It does, it

Ryan Rutan: adds up. And I think there's a there's a further factor that compounds this, which is that in the case of the in the case of the employee, the case of the boss, right? The case of that external thing that's creating the conditions that lead to panic, anxiety, panic attack in this case. That's something that that happened to us in this case, we happen to this to ourselves, right? We are right? So we are liable for all of the outcomes but were responsible for the conditions that created it. And I think that can make it feel even worse, right? When you know, that's like, I am the one that put myself in this situation. I am the one that ignored the warnings and I'm the one who decided to push, I'm the one, I'm the one, I'm the one right? It doesn't leave a lot of room to feel like there's hope for fixing it in the moment, right? It's like, well, but how could I have done this differently, right? I had to do these things right. I had to work the long hours. I had to push personal relationships aside. I had to do all these things and I'm not saying that's true, but this is the conversation that that's typically occurring within the founders heads and we know this because we've had a lot of these conversations with founders, they're like, but what could I have done differently? The answer is a lot of things, right? But Going back to that point where there weren't a ton of warning signs and at earlier stages in your career, you could do these things and and and be okay with it, right? Like 15 years ago, I didn't think twice about going for a diving header, right? The ball comes across the box. Now, I definitely think about, will I stand up after this if I go for the diving header, right? I can't just do that without any consequence at this point. And so I think that's part of it is that there's this, this incremental increase in the consequence, but the behavior stay the same and eventually it catches up with us,

Wil Schroter: you know, by the way, I just want to mention if what we're talking about today sounds like the kind of discussion you wish you were having more often you actually can, you know, we're online all day everyday working through exactly these types of topics with founders just like you. So any question you would have or maybe some problem you just want to work through, we're here and we love this stuff and we're easy to find, you know, head over to groups dot startups dot com and let's just start talking Ryan, you said something I thought was really interesting and I guess I hadn't even considered that up until now, it's hard to feel like a victim when you feel empowered to have made the decision, right? I think those two things run at odds. So if I say, hey, I got myself into this, it's hard for me to say, man, I'm really messed up over this because I'm like, well, I at least had the empowerment to do it. So that's on me, in other words, like I don't give myself permission to be upset or kind of emote because I made the decision. Conversely, if it was thrust upon me, if my a hole boss said, hey, you have to do this and had, you know, geometrically bad consequences, then I feel perfectly fine the motive, right? Because like that's that's his fault. And, and, and so I, I take it differently, if I look back on all of that time and all the events leading up to that, I definitely would agree that the reason I didn't process a lot of this stuff, the way I thought I should have is because it felt like it was within my own power and doing so I actually felt good about it,

Ryan Rutan: right? That's the thing, right? The you made a choice in the moment that felt like the right thing to do. You were empowered to make the choice. You made the choice. You probably, even in the short term, got the outcome you wanted from it and it goes back to these hidden debts, right? There's so much of this in, in the life of a founder where we're constantly mortgaging something and often without realizing it. And that's that's the danger, right? Because not only do we not realize we're mortgaging it, We also have no idea what the due date is, right. We don't know when this debt is going to be called do upon us. In your case, it was the middle of your 37th year, right? Um, could happen two years later could happen two years earlier. But you didn't know it was going to happen because you didn't realize that you were mortgaging anything at the time that you did it over and over and over and over again and you did it to yourself, right? That's the part, right? That I think is it makes this extra extra painful again. Wasn't imposed on me. I imposed on myself and I felt damn good about doing it until now. Like that. The moment your heart stops, you're like, hmm, let me do some really quick recalculating on this, not worth it,

Wil Schroter: right? But at that

Ryan Rutan: point, all you can do is change, You can unwind and you can't go back. Um, so at that point, you gotta start to shift some behaviors

Wil Schroter: Right? For this episode though, we talked about it being the curse of the 37 year old founder. So you mentioned this, but I want to talk about why specifically 37, right? Why isn't this the curse of the 34 year old founder of the 47 year old founder, etc?

Ryan Rutan: Well, I'm gonna be honest, if you, if you start dipping into numerology here, I'm, I'm, I'm gonna walk away and I'll just come back numbers, don't

Wil Schroter: Lie Ryan the numbers are telling the story. Um, again, I think I thought it was happenstance that it happened to me at 37. Yeah. But then I start talking to again, all of my friends and of course there there are variances right? Where of where it happened, But I can name probably two dozen founders that I know personally, that all had it happened at exactly that year, Right? Like the, everything shut down like massive panic attack happened at exactly 37. Now, if I had to guess statistically it's because there are often a convergence of enough life events that have built up given enough time And your body is getting to the point where it can't take it that 37 seems like a pretty good number. Yeah. What was interesting to me though Is as I talked to people that were, um, younger, like I actually talked to last this week, actually talked to a couple of people who were 36 and, and I always tell this story

Ryan Rutan: back back,

Wil Schroter: stop

Ryan Rutan: aging.

Wil Schroter: And I always tell this story and I said, look, I'm not trying to terrify you, although too late and he did, but, but what I'm trying to explain is, um, if these series of events sound familiar and they were citing almost like they were reading off the same list, right. You know, all these major changes, I was like, number one, there's almost 0% chance you're probably, you know, processing any of this stuff because it's a lot to process, right? Number two, you may not be aware that what you're going through in all these conditions are actually happening to everyone. You know, often, I think that's the biggest problem, particularly with founders is we always assume it's just happening to us. It's a reflection of our lack of preparedness for this stage of life. Um, but I said, the next is, I don't, I'm afraid you won't do anything about it. I'm afraid all of these things are sitting there and I'm watching your train go off the tracks. If I don't warn you, that's kind of why we did this episode, then then who am I as your friend,

Ryan Rutan: Right? It's the warning and it's, and it's the permission to do something about it. And, and, and I want to cover that here in a minute because I'll tie it to my situation.

Wil Schroter: Well, yeah, go for it.

Ryan Rutan: So oddly

Wil Schroter: enough, right?

Ryan Rutan: It was exactly at 37. Um, that, that I made the move. That's the time when I left the office physically left. Ohio got to Florida where I knew my body would do better. Just literally just because of the, the physical environment that my body, psoriasis would be better there. Um, but what I had that you didn't have the benefit of, um, by being just a couple years behind you was that I had the warning tale. I had it play out right in front of me. Not only did did I have the warning, I had the permission to do something about it, right? We talked about it and I said like, look, I'm deteriorating and you're like, why aren't you doing something about it? Well, can I, and we all sat down and we're like, well, of course you can't write like, what, what, what is the benefit in us in us recreating the same situation for you, uh, that there for me in this case that, that you went through, right? And that was, you know, you, you Elliot, I talking about this. And, and so we did, it made a big change. Um, but I was absolutely on that same course and it was right around that same time where things were peaking and I was, I was going to have some sort of major collapse. I don't know that it would have been a panic attack, but there would have been some level of physical collapse there where I was just at a point where my body couldn't take it anymore. Right? And so luckily in this case because of the warning because of the permission I took prescriptive action and preemptive action and, and was able to to ward that off to the point where I could keep going. Right? And, and I think that, that It is funny. I hadn't even really thought about it until we were midway through the episode, but that was 37. That was the year. Um, so, okay, fine. 37 is the year beware?

Wil Schroter: You're underselling it. You, you were in in crucial pain. Uh, like in pools of blood, uh, every night. Like there is no version where you're gonna be able to go on like that, you know, for for any length of time in any capacity. Uh, and, but, but you touched on something interesting, which is, um, we're often kind of solo in this journey, even if we have a co founder. Um, we feel very isolated. So the question comes for most founders who does step in and give them permission to make a life change. Right? Who diagnosis that this is even going on because founders are the worst at diagnosing this, right? There's founders listening to this right now. So yeah, I'm going through all that stuff. Not a problem, dude. right? I'm motoring through all of this. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don't know what you're talking about. You will I guarantee that part. Um, but but perhaps you haven't yet. And so my question is, if not for ourselves, a self diagnosis, who do you think would step in and say we've got to prevent this before it starts? Like, you know, if you think about who tends to be in people's circles, who would it be if anybody at all?

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, I mean, I think that, I think it could come from a couple different places, and I think that the diagnosis and the permission may come from two different sources. I think the diagnosis tends to be from the people who who see us outside of the environment where we're muscling through and all of that, where we we tend to not appear vulnerable. We don't allow ourselves to be vulnerable. I think that the friends and family tend to be able to be better at diagnosing the problem is they lack the context to connect it back to the fact that it's what we're doing at work that's creating this, right? They'll recognize that there's a problem, right? And they may even call it out, um, but they may not be able to tie it back to, Right. And so I think it's it's really tough to be honest. It's really tough because then the permission is going to come from other founders, right? It's or hopefully just even from, you know, its founder friends or hopefully even from, you know, distant founder friends like you and I to the audience saying, look, you have permission to do something about this. Not only do you have permission? Like, could we, um, were we able and capable, we would order you to do something about this because it doesn't end well and there's no reason to force yourself through it, right? To put yourself over the brink, right? Like, let's stop at the edge. Take a look. It's a nice view from here. Let's turn around, let's go back a little bit and let's let's get healthy. But I think that oftentimes it comes from those, those two different places. The challenge becomes, the founder has to kind of connect those dots. So they have to connect the dots that my family and friends are telling me or indicating that there's something reflecting from them that says, I'm not in an okay place. And now I need to turn to my founder friends, my founder circle and tell them about this. And then the likelihood is they're going to reflect back with, hey man, hey ma'am, you need to do something about this, right? Like, you can't keep doing this, but I think it really does take both those sides. I think it's gonna be rare that you get both the diagnosis and the prescription from the same place. Um, just because they don't have neither side has the context, because again, like, we compartmentalize our founder friends aren't necessarily going to see that we're hurting and our family is not gonna necessarily know why or that we need permission to to do something about it. So, you know, hopefully this episode acts as that connection between those two parties. And so you can go, you know, maybe if you haven't in awhile, go ask people, go ask somebody, go ask your partner, go ask your spouse, go ask your, your your parents, your best friend. How do I look like I'm doing right now? Like from the outside, Like what do you think? Right? Do I look like I'm doing okay. Um, and and tell them how you feel and, and and put some pieces of the puzzle together. Um, and then take that to some of your founder friends and say, hey, here's, here's what people are telling me, what do I need to do about this, right? And I think you get some help,

Wil Schroter: you know, a lot of the time we spend in, in the, in our founder groups, um, where we've got these eight person cohorts of other founders, you know, that are all very open to each other. It was sort of the point, but what I noticed more and more during those meetings is that a founder will share something and they've probably shared it 100 times before. It could be a milestone in the business, have you? They're kind of used to the same response, which is maybe a high five or something like that. We raised money, right, high fives all around. Um, but all of a sudden when you get in a room of other founders, they asked kind of like a next level question, which is how much, how much stamina do you still have right now? I have thought about that part. Okay, you've been at this for five years, um, do you have 7 to 10 more years of stamina left in you? Well, no, I'm actually pretty fried. Have you thought about that part? And so the problem is when you open up to people that have no idea the context of what you're dealing with, it's nearly impossible for them to diagnose what else might actually be bothering you. Had I been say, I am just going to just use a founder group. Had I had a group of founders that I was deliberately open to on a consistent basis, I don't know that I would have avoided all of this, But man, I would have probably made a bunch of significant changes because what I would have talked about had I had that that venue and it's killing me that I didn't, what I would have talked about was, hey, you know, my daughter is on the way and ideally someone in the group would have said, well, how are you gonna, um, you know, uh, merge that with what you're doing in your daily activities with a startup, and I would have said, well I'll figure it out, they wouldn't have stopped there, that's the key, they would have said bullshit, how are you going to call you All right?

Ryan Rutan: Um,

Wil Schroter: and then started down that thing and not to be combative to be supportive, to say that when you said, I'll figure it out, you just said, I'm not going to process it and I'm going to kick it down the line and wait for that grenade to explode later,

Ryan Rutan: wrong to defer it, I'm going to allow it to turn to accumulate interest and then I'll severely pay for it later, right, that's what you're doing in that moment,

Wil Schroter: you bet. Uh and so I think for for folks that are, you know, kind of listening and I was like, man, I'm trying to avoid this outcome Step one of avoiding the outcome is find a forum where you can talk about this stuff very, very, very openly and just as importantly someone else that will talk back saying the same things. For example, Ryan, if I share with you, you know, if you're a founder friend and I share with you and I say, hey, I'm going through this, this and this and you're like, oh wow, that sounds really bad and that's the end of the thread, not even had the conversation, right, opening up only matters if the person you open up to is, you know, um invested and or learned it enough to be able to ask the questions to unpack that has

Ryan Rutan: the experience, has the understanding has the context right? To to actually be able to be empathetic because the reality is sympathy buys this very, very little for most of these, these dire situations that that we face. Um, and in fact can sometimes make it feel even worse. I know there have been times where like, I'm going through something and I'm trying to sort it out and I do share. And what I get amounts to pity. That does not help at all. Right. It feels like an additional weight that I now have to carry and I have to prove that I wasn't deserving of the pity. Um, and that's just like, it's it's another burden. I don't need that in that moment, right? I need I need actual empathy. But empathy only comes with, you know, experience and, and at least some level of context for what I'm going through. And so yeah, you're you're absolutely right. Well, um, that, you know, making sure and some of this just goes back to selection around who you're talking to, right? And so that's why I think you and I will will consistently beat the drum of like talk to other founders. Talk to other founders if you don't have other founders in your life, Go find some right there. They're out there, right? There's lots of call us right? Like Will and I are here, you know, we haven't talked about this in a while, but like, grab us on social, grab us on linkedin email us. Um, we're not hard to find and were easy to talk to. Um and we've built a product around this now, which is which is also helpful because it formalizes the process. Because I think the other thing that ends up happening is again going back to that, that very, very cogent point that you brought up earlier. We compartmentalize this and we assume that we're the only ones going through it. Therefore I'm not going to talk to anybody else about this because it feels like I'm I'm I'm being vulnerable in a place where I can't write. It just isn't true, Right? And so I think that one of the reasons that us taking the step to actually formalize these groups is that permission piece, right? You may have found her friends, but you may not be utilizing them in the way that you should be because you're trying to keep the stiff upper lip or whatever, right result this product so that you literally are told like this is why you're supposed to come here. This is what you're supposed to do. You're supposed to be vulnerable. You're supposed to open up and everyone else by nature has the ability to be empathetic because they are going through it too and they will tell you that,

Wil Schroter: Right? So, I mean like we said this whole episode is the curse of being 37. But as you guys have figured out this isn't really about being 37. It's a cautionary tale of all of the things that happened to us On the way to 37. It's a cautionary tale of not looking around the corner to realize that all this stuff and all the pressure we're creating for ourselves doesn't lead to anywhere good. And most specifically it's a prescription to say no matter what you're dealing with, no matter how overloaded you do or don't feel if you don't create a persistent release valve that you can go to get stuff out of your head off your chest and more specifically have someone else push you a bit further to say well have you let off that pressure then this is only going to explode. I hope this happens to none of you. I hope everything we just said today leads to nothing for you because you've taken the proactive steps. But if you don't I'd love for this to be a warning and Ryan, I know you share the same feeling to go out there create some some release valve in your own life and let some of this pressure off in that way you can avoid everything. We just talked about. Alright, so that was fun, but let's actually keep this conversation going. You've heard what we think about this. But you know Ryan and I would really like to hear what you think and we're online like all day long, pretty much talking about every startup topic you could think of from fundraising, the customer acquisition to just really had to get all of this crazy startup stuff out of your head. And there's tons of other founders just like you, they're weighing in on these topics so you'll get a chance to just hang out and meet some really smart founders were also super, super easy to find you head over to groups dot startups dot com and let Ryan and I hear what's on your mind. Let's get to know each other a little bit and let's just start having more of these conversations.

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