Startup Therapy Podcast

Episode #13

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, mm hmm. Yeah. Do you find that your startup produces more anxiety than revenue? Does your morning routine consists of running down an endless list of worries. Do you lie awake at night and regret ever starting your business today on the startup therapy podcast? We're going to explore why anxiety is a part of every founder's life and how we can actually harness it as a superpower. This is Ryan Drew Tan from startups dot com back for another episode of the startup therapy podcast here with my co host and partner Will Shredder. I remember a time when this topic was particular Germaine to you, maybe more, maybe more jermaine to Elliot and I who had to load you into a car because we thought you were having a heart attack and drive you to the nearest MinuteClinic sure why we didn't take you to a proper hospital. We do love you

Wil Schroter: didn't think, I don't know what was going on. I mean, wow, that was that was like six years ago. Yeah, I remember this. I remember we're at lunch me, you Elliot and whomever else we're at lunch with and I'm just feeling really weird and just something like just about my body just felt really awkward. And I remember saying he was like, hey guys, I just don't feel right and I couldn't figure out what was going on.

Ryan Rutan: I was pretty sure, I knew, I was pretty sure it was the giant plate of chicken parm that you had eaten at lunchtime and I thought you're just going into a food coma, man, That's

Wil Schroter: right. Yeah. And so, oh man, I remember getting in my car and driving home and I was on the highway, I remember calling my wife and I was like, I something's really wrong, I can't figure out what's happening to me. And just as I was saying that to her, I'm on the phone, I'm on speakerphone with her. All of a sudden I feel my entire pulse and my heart rate just stop. And I'm on the highway in my car trying to get home to try to figure out what the hell is going on and your heart doesn't need to stop for very long for you to kind of notice it's not working and all I remember I was able to keep control of the car somehow. All I remember is saying to her, I don't feel right, and then just things going black for a fraction of a second and then just my whole body like the whole life force just drains out of me and I was terrified. I had no idea what was happening. I was all woozy. I was only about a minute from my house. Remember if you remember I got to my house and I remember calling you guys from the floor of my living room saying like I said, you guys need someone to come pick me up, remember when you guys got there, I didn't look very healthy?

Ryan Rutan: No, you you looked like a fairly bad wax figurine of yourself.

Wil Schroter: It was crazy. And again up until this point I have no idea what's going on. This is the first year we were launching the company and I'm terrified. So for some reason we thought the smartest thing to do would be take me to a minute clinic around the corner we get there and the ladies running the tests and she's like you need to be in the er like right now like you were in really bad shape.

Ryan Rutan: Ellie and I were in the waiting room getting flu shots were like, hey while we're here,

Wil Schroter: we're the worst people that could diagnose this at all. And so I get Ferried to the hospital I'm in I. C. U. And apparently what had happened was that I had a severe anxiety attack which has many of the same symptoms and feelings as a heart attack because your body just pretty much shuts down. And I didn't even really know I had anxiety, right? I didn't know that was a thing. And man, I remember sitting in the hospital room For almost two days because they were trying to figure out what was wrong with me. And you know, it's only 37 at the time. So they take this stuff pretty seriously remember my wife's there and my newborn daughter is there and I'm like what the hell man? I'm too young to have a heart attack. And it turns out I was actually had a pretty healthy heart but the doctor, I'll never forget this, right? The doctor comes in and he said, look, there's a lot of things that tend to create the onset of this type of problem. He said, here's a list of life events, any one of them

Ryan Rutan: straight line down through the check box,

Wil Schroter: Oh man, he's like, you know, death in the family change of job, change of locations, starting a family, getting married, getting and I had literally done all of them all in the course of like nine months, right? And every single time one of these giant new things happened, I was just like added it to my checklist, okay, get you know, getting married, good checklist, right? Having kid, good checklist, starting company good, I mean, I just compartmentalized all of it because that's kind of what founders do,

Ryan Rutan: yep, you didn't realize you were literally making an omelet of anxiety for yourself, holy cow all in at once,

Wil Schroter: holy cow! And so my body just went super nova immediately, totally without warning, didn't see it coming. And the doctor comes back to me and says, look, man, like you can't just take anxiety off the table, right, you can't negotiate with anxiety And for what you do, you know, I've been a startup founder now for 25 years, it's the only job I've really ever, had. I have become the ninja master at compartmentalizing startup anxiety, right? Like every time something comes up, I just kind of like forget about it, you know, ignore it, what have you And at the time, what would have been almost 20 years of compressing that anxiety turned into me, you know, staring at the lights in the ICU, It was sucking brutal.

Ryan Rutan: You finally hit critical mess. I had critical, very critical mass,

Wil Schroter: but here's the worst part the funniest part, depending on your sense of humor about these things, what I ended up doing at that point, right after I got an I. C. U. And we're talking to you and Elliot and talking to, you know, um all of my founder friends particularly founder friends and I said, hey guys, you know, I just went through this crazy experience, my whole body shut down and I'm dealing with this thing called anxiety that I've never understood before or had before. And every single one of them were like, oh yeah, I dealt with that before, oh you were in the ICU, I was in the ICU to, I'm like how the hell is this never come up in the entire time that we've been building as founders. Like I've known you guys for decades, how is this not come up? How is this? Not like in all of our conversations? And it was just mind blowing.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, this is not uncommon at all in our space, right? We're all dealing with this. The interesting fact is that we've all decided not to talk about it and I think there's a lot of reasons and we can dig into a bunch of those, but it is a ubiquitous condition amongst the founder community. Um and with good reason, we do have plenty that we can worry about, like there's a lot going on, right, literally everything. Yeah, that's it, that's it. We're we're slowly putting it all back together, hopefully. Right. And, and so yeah, we've we've all been through these things, you know, we talked about a lot of these common experiences, staring at the ceiling at four o'clock in the morning, not just questioning your business, but your entire existence, right? I am so good At beating myself up at like 3:00 AM, just laying there staring at the sky. Uh and and just thinking about every mistake I've possibly ever made that has led me to this moment. Right? Right? For some reason, like, and you know, once you, once you put a name to it, I think that was something interesting. You know, you said I had never dealt with it before, and certainly you were suffering from anxiety prior to this, but until somebody put a name to it, you didn't have a way to describe it, you didn't have a way to understand it, you have a framework for it. Right. And so I think that that's a huge piece of it is just having away having a vernacular to describe it and be able to talk about it. The bigger step is than actually talking about it with the people, but it is certainly an omnipresent condition amongst the founder community,

Wil Schroter: and I don't think we're rewarded for talking about it. Right? I mean, who wants to hear that? That the ceo of your company is a bundle of anxiety that's just about to head to the I. C. U. It's not exactly something you want to bring up the company meeting at your next investor pitch,

Ryan Rutan: right? Yeah. You don't want to show that, right? Like, okay, here's our here's here's our current financial performance chart, here's here's the founders e K G, right? It's not something that you want to be part of all that.

Wil Schroter: No. Exactly. And so what threw me off was I was conditioned and this is self imposed. But I can't imagine I'm the only one I was conditioned to believe that the reward structure comes from talking about the things that anxiety doesn't do. I'm fearless. I'm capable, right? Nothing slows me down. I'm rewarded for those sentiments. Yeah, I'm not there's there's no reward structure for saying I'm kind of sucked up.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. Actually, there is, right. There is a there is a reward structure there, actually, it's probably far more important. The other one is really about ego. Um, and, and the second is really about, you know, self care and health. And so there is a reward structure there. It may not be obvious, and it may not feel amazing at the time, but the alternative is being being shoved headlong into. Do you remember when we loaded you into the car?

Wil Schroter: I don't that's the problem

Ryan Rutan: that alone, like I wish we had a video of that, that would that would be the case point and sail for, you know, making sure that you don't take it to that level because we literally had to just kind of like chuck you across the backseat of the car,

Wil Schroter: but but you know, it opened my eyes and it opened the dialogue which I think is healthy because the The impetus for for why, why I wrote that that article about how I deal with my insane startup anxiety. # one was realizing that I even had it, Number two was talking to my friends and most of my friends are founders and finding out every single one of them had the same issue, yep, right. And yet it had never come up up until that point had nothing but founder conversations for two decades day and night. And yet this particular topic had never reared its head. It just seems damn near impossible, but I thought that's why it's important for us to talk about, you know, so we can kind of not only talk about the fact that it's present, I think everyone listening is just going to shake their heads and go, yeah, of course, but what to do about it, right, Right, Because you know, that's the big part,

Ryan Rutan: one of one of the most important things that came out of that particular episode for me was that I began to start to watch for it right in other people and say like, hey, right now that, you know, it's not just about talking about my own anxiety, which is also important, but now you can start to see the signs, right? And you can, you can start to try to be helpful, you know, you can ask the questions and I think that's something else that, you know, you may find and if you've got other founder friends, ask them about these things, right, it's fine to say, hey, be brave and talk about them, but you should also be brave enough to ask your friends if you see signs that somebody's really struggling or seems really worried. And guess what if they're, if they're, if they're titled somewhere, the Ceo or founder, uh, probably feel pretty safe and asking the question, yeah, they're going to have it and I think that's an important piece of it too, is that, that we, you know, because we can become aware of it and, you know, I was aware that I had anxiety, I was pretty sure that I knew other people that were, you know, suffering from this to some degree, but until that particular episode of, of, you know, shoving you into the car, I didn't realize how acute the impact could be and how serious the consequences could be. And so for me, and hopefully now just by proxy for everybody listening, there'll be some understanding about how important it is to get this out on the table in to watch for those signs and to be ready to help.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, I mean, look, there's there's no version of what we do that has certainty, right? So the very definition of what we do is running into the abyss creating things that never existed is based in anxiety. Anxiety is the fundamental of it, right? If you're not anxious about what you're doing, you're lying about it, it's kind of that simple and you should be anxious about it right now, now should be anxious and there's no way to deal with it or you have to be overwhelmed by it. And it's the same thing. Great. And so a lot of what we've talked about over the years is basically how we unpack anxiety, how we certainly talk about it, but how we just deal with it, right? And make it more of a superpower than a this, this crippling part of our lives. And a lot of what I think we should talk about today is kind of what some of those techniques are because I think for both of us, it's it's changed our lives dramatically. And I think for a lot of folks that are listening, it could have a lot of impact.

Ryan Rutan: All right, So let's let's dive in and let's start to talk about a little bit how we, how we unpack this and how we handle it in an article that you wrote a couple of years ago, we broke it out into a 44 different areas for different steps. So let's just, let's just dive in and you started by saying like, let's detail the consequences. Let's really talk about what actually happens should any or all of these, you know, horrendous fears that are driving the anxiety come to fruition.

Wil Schroter: Right? And I think what happens is and certainly what happened to me is we think about what the worst possible cases and just make that the definitive answer right? Or even worse we create this amorphous problem, write something bad will happen if this startup doesn't work or if this product doesn't launch or if we don't raise money but we never give it detail and when it lacks detail, it lacks resolution. Right? So I can't fix a problem that has no detail. And by way of that, I'm stuck in kind of this, this startup anxiety mode forever. Right? For

Ryan Rutan: sure. You got to quantify it and you got to qualify

Wil Schroter: it exactly. Exactly. And so I remember having done this inadvertently when I was in my early twenties, you know, starting my first company and I had raised about $100,000 worth of debt When I say raised, I don't mean I went to professional investors. I mean, I took out credit cards and they kept racking up debt

Ryan Rutan: I raised around who's who's in your cap table Visa Mastercard Amex denied me. But they did look at the deal, they

Wil Schroter: literally anybody who would, who would give me money but but I remember sitting in bed and I'm about $100,000 in personal debt and I was again 21 maybe and there's no possible way I was ever going to pay this money back. Right? So I remember that moment of laying in bed staring at the ceiling. I can picture it in my head right now thinking to myself, how the f am I going to ever pay this back? Right? Like like what happened? But then I said, wait a minute, let me look at it from the other standpoint, what will actually happen when I don't pay this back? Right as I started to unpack that, I realized that yes, I'm going to have to file for bankruptcy terrible. I'm 21. That limits a whole bunch of opportunities Being the fact that only 21 years old. Number two, I can go get a job anywhere right now and make this is given the time period like 10 bucks an hour and that's gonna be more money than I need to pay my bills. Ergo I'm gonna not, I'm going to be safe. I'm not going to stop eating. I'm not going to have, I'm not gonna lose the shelter over my head at its fundamental level, I think all of us in unpacking and detailing our anxiety, you need to understand the consequences come down to am I safe? Right? The moment you can say that I will be safe and safe. Can have have a lot of different contexts in my relationship and my finances, et cetera. Then all of a sudden you come from a place of strength. But the moment that you don't define safety and whether or not you can get to it, you just, you fall into the trap. Yeah, right. And

Ryan Rutan: you feel like it's an abyss, right? There's no end to it. I'll just keep falling forever. And, and the reality is, most of us have a better safety net than that. We may never have tested it, but you know, particularly in, in the United States, you can sort of only fall so far right? And then there are all sorts of things that are gonna catch you. And, and I heard you said, you know, particularly at the age of 21, you're ask wasn't that far from the ground in the first place, right? You weren't gonna fall very far. You didn't have much to lose at that point.

Wil Schroter: You know, I agree with that in retrospect, but, but I thought about this a lot, especially at the time it didn't feel like that at the time, right? And, and, and, and, and as you know me, I'm a pretty cavalier cowboy kind of guy, but even at the time, I remember thinking like my only frame of reference for my entire life is the past three years. So so far it's going pretty shitty so far. It's going pretty apocalyptic pretty quickly. My friends are still, you know, looking to graduate college and I'm figuring out I'm gonna be in bankruptcy for the rest of my life, right. Things weren't headed off on a really positive path. But what I found was what I found was that if I, if I were to stop and I were to say, okay, what's really going to happen when I shut this thing down? So I was basically walking through and planning for failure, right? I said, number one, I don't have to think about this anymore. Once it's done, it's done once this thing is shut down. I never have to have this conversation with myself ever again, which by the way, kind of looking forward to it, right? You know, I'll get some crappy job, but I'll have money again, you know, instead of just racking up more debt, I'll actually be able to go to the movies or do whatever it is that I wanted to do at the time. You know, imagine that, right? And the part of it was like little things like I'll have food, I'll have a place to live, it's not like that's not going to happen, It's not like I'm literally going to be, you know, on the side of the street with no idea how to, how to pay for food. Right? And so I think once I unpacked that and realize that even if everything goes to shit, I'm still going to be in a place where I'm functional, it's not going to be ideal and I'm going to regret some things, but the most important thing, I won't have this problem in front of me anymore. That will go away and that was to leave to me.

Ryan Rutan: Alright, so in, in, you know, method number two, don't believe the hype. This one resonated really strongly with me because it took me a long time to get over the idea that I needed to present a particular face that I needed to, you know, I needed to be the instagram version of myself where everything was filtered and everything was, you know, the right contrast, but well, you know, and the reality is that's, that's not true. And, and I think that in our modern era, it's far easier to fall into that trap because of the amount of filtered bullshit that were fed every day, right? We're getting the best versions of everybody's lives via facebook instagram, the news, whatever. And you know, it's like we've talked about this before, but the overnight success, right? The overnight success of a startup. Yeah, the overnight success was 15 years of anxiety leading up to that moment where then they became an overnight success. So, you know, I think that we're presented with so much of this and unless you've been on the other side of it, you really do know or or you happen to have a background in the stories, if you just take them at face value, you'd have a really shitty bar to compare yourself to write. By contrast, it would seem like, you know, I have all these flaws, I'm worrying about all this stuff, I'm not perfect. You know, the business isn't going as fast as it could, definitely not an overnight success and you start to, you know, you start to introduce all of these fallacies as facts inside your own anxiety storm and I think it just drives us further and further in the wrong direction. You know, it's so sad to me too because in an age of information sharing, were we honest in what we shared, It would abate 50% or more of the problem around anxiety that a big part of it is just thinking I'm the only one that's going through this? I'm a failure, right? Or I'm the only one that's going through this, you know, why is everybody else figured this out? AM I just too dumb to do this? What's the problem? And so it really, it's it's ironic that in a, you know, in an environment where we have the ability to open up and be honest, that what we choose to do instead is to publicize some, you know, strangely filtered version of ourselves and that we're consuming a strangely filtered version of almost everything that we consume,

Wil Schroter: you know, along those lines, going through your facebook feed is almost an exercise and anxiety, right? And I almost don't care who you are and here's, here's, here's the funniest thing, right? If I would have looked at will from 25 years ago when I was first starting and I looked at the facebook feed and so all these other people that are doing well and I would have thought, man, if I could just do as well as they were doing, I wouldn't have anxiety more dude, Like I'm 44 years old, right? I built a multimillion dollar company has had more success than I ever thought I would. And I still have an exercise and anxiety every time I go through the facebook feed and here's the fun part, like I'm looking at people who aren't even doing as well or doing is amazing things and it still gives me anxiety, which is to say there was no way off that treadmill, no matter how well I did, I was still going to feel the same way it was the exercise of comparison that blew me up, not what the actual comparison was.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, now just just the act of going through and doing the comparison is anxiety driving.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, it's brutal. And so when that happened I moved on to method number three, which was focusing on action right, every time that my anxiety started to bubble and it was a lot right? And I say was because Ryan, it's not anymore and I'll talk a little bit later about why it's not anymore. And some of that are these methods and there's some other things that I've been able to tackle, but When it used to bubble up and that would be about every 3-4 hours, right? Go into this this high intensity kind of mode where I where I was feeling anxious that I needed to burn off some steam, so to speak.

Ryan Rutan: I'm Googling old faithful right now. I think you guys may be on exactly the same schedule for boiling

Wil Schroter: over except don't blow them more often. It's crazy what I learned to do. This was so helpful. I kept a list of all the things that I needed to get done that were very action oriented things a lot of times, things that didn't necessarily have time for right now, but as soon as I could tell that feeling was coming up, that kind of, oh shit, I'm about to have this anxious moment. The first thing is I did is I went to my task list and I just started ripping off tasks right? I just put my focus on anything that I could get done quickly, right and it turns out it's kind of little known fact, all of that bound up energy can actually be used for good, right? And I found during those moments of anxiety, I would start doing some of my most productive work, right? I would write articles, I would do product development, I would do so many things that actually took all of that energy and put it into something useful versus something shitty, which was me hopping on the internet and finding 20 more things that would stress me

Ryan Rutan: out,

Wil Schroter: right? And

Ryan Rutan: because it becomes an endless cycle, if you don't start to catalog them, they just stay worries. I've had this discussion with a lot of people after having kind of come across a similar method for myself whereby, you know, if you just keep worrying, worrying in itself, doesn't do anything. I said, you know, well, I've just been worried about this for like two weeks, right? And my question was always like, well, what the fudge have you been doing for two weeks? Like you could have solved this in like a day if you just apply the same level of activity to actually solving the problem. And so I think that a big part of its cataloging it and and you know, then setting a plan in action and sometimes you don't even have to go through with it for me even knowing that yeah, okay, there's a problem. I'm worried about this thing. I'm typically worried because I don't know what the point of resolution will be. And so simply by cataloging it and then determining what at least one or two methods or points for resolution would be the anxiety goes away. The problem may still be there, but I'm no longer worried about it and I know what I have to do when I decide that it's enough of a problem to clear it off my plate. But, you know, to your to your point around, you know, driving using this energy to drive anxiety is just it's another heightened state of awareness. And and there's definitely been times where my anxiety drove like almost manic level thinking, but some good stuff has come out of that, as long as you harness it, right? Put some rails around it, channel it into taking action. I think that it's it's a critical step. And I think that it's one where once you learn how to do it, it changes everything. Because what used to happen to me was that energy would would just increase and increase the pace of thinking would increase and increase and increase, but it would just continue to spiral down in a minute I stop worrying about one thing. My brain would automatically go into the archives of ships. I need to worry about and grab another one and then another one and another one until it just spiraled out of control. And so yeah, being able to just get that action. Focus has has a huge huge impact. And I think that, you know, a big part of this, this walks us right into Method four, which is take the long view, right? Not all of this stuff has to happen right now. None of these things are usually as critical or as urgent as we think. Um and you know, I I imagine that that's part of of what has, has led to you being able to be a bit more zen about this stuff and say, hey, you know, it's okay,

Wil Schroter: Well, and look, there's I've got the benefit now of experience, right? And I've got 25 years of building nine companies and I've seen more stuff firsthand than I can possibly fathom when I was young, I didn't have, that was my first company, I didn't have that, I didn't understand the difference between this is present. So this is the biggest, most important issue ever. And this is one of about 1000 more issues that are going to come around, right? As an example, when I was first, starting in my career, every single time we ran into the smallest issue could be a personnel issue could be a customer issue could be really anything. It was an apocalyptic, career ending, life ending moment, right? And if I didn't, I didn't solve that issue today, there would be no, no, next episode of my comic, right? Like that was a point

Ryan Rutan: two candidates down, We're blowing the bottom out of the boat. It's all

Wil Schroter: Exactly right now, Later on in my career, what I started to learn was it's nothing but those moments, right? And one honestly ain't that more important than the next, Right? And I never forget there's this um there's this great scene at the opening of saving Private Ryan where all of the guys are, you know, running storming the beach and most of them, you know, they've never fired a rifle, so to speak and they're terrified, right? And then you just see like this grizzly kind of old sergeant who's just seen it all before, just kind of like merrily walking up the beach because he's just like he's been to this show so many times. He's like, I'm going to either get shot or I'm not, there's not much we can do about it.

Ryan Rutan: I like this analogy, but isn't he the one that then gets blown to smithereens about eight seconds later.

Wil Schroter: You know, you're really trying to dig into a lot of details here that aren't important to the story. Um, but listen, the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 9th time around all of a sudden I started to realize that every one of these problems are big in the near term, in meaningless in the long term, right? Meaningless not to say that that there's no value to the problems. I don't ever want to kind of like take value out of things. I'm talking about, they aren't worth firing all of your anxiety bullets over, right? You know, you have an employee situation that's really difficult to deal with. Cool, guess what? You're going to have 900 more of those, right? So if every single time that that this situation comes up, you go full atomic and use all your anxiety juice on that, it's it's all going to get worse

Ryan Rutan: Every single time. And then that makes your ability to deal with the next issue in the next issue that much more diminished, which increases your anxiety that much more. Yeah, it's it's a it's a horrible catch 22

Wil Schroter: when I talked to my wife about it, I come home and unpack my day with her and we talked about all the things that happen and she's often mortified, right? She's like, hell could you let that happen? Right. And I always say the same thing I said, it's this simple. I have 100 more of those problems to deal with. They just haven't shown up yet today, right? Like I just can't get that excited about this one problem because I've got 100 more to go. But I don't know what they are yet. I just know that they're all going to be coming. Right. And so this came they came with experience. So I don't think I could have done this when I was younger. Even if somebody explained it to me, But once I kind of zoomed out and I tried to take a greater longview that my career isn't just what's going to happen by tomorrow. My career is what's going to happen over the next 10 2030 years in today's one tiny pebble in that journey. All of a sudden man, I got real zen right? I started to look at and said I care about problems, but I don't I don't create this ball of anxiety about every single one. Like it's a life or death moment because it just never is,

Ryan Rutan: it isn't. And and the reality is that once you can start to take that long view, you have the ability to to deal with the problems better, right? Like at the end of the day, being worried, being stressed out and you know, being anxious doesn't help you to solve any of the problems, right? And it compounds. So, you know, at the point where you have faced enough of these things that you know that like they're not all life and death, Yeah, they're all important and you know, being able to take that proper longview should help, right? Mileage will vary, right? But it should help you to to actually solve those problems better by not letting them bubble up and and get out of control.

Wil Schroter: Well, sticking with the bubble up right? Like a lot of people will say, yeah, some of these techniques though, aren't really allowing you to deal with the anxiety per se. They're allowing you to compact it and pack it away, just like that, got you into trouble the first time in shift your focus, right? So you're really shifting focus, you're not dealing with it head on and and I think it's important to state that when we're talking about coming up with techniques to deal with it, it's not the same as coming up with techniques to ignore it. It's looking for techniques to not make it worse to not exacerbate it, right? Because I think you can poke the bear quite a bit when

Ryan Rutan: it comes to anxiety. Yes you can I can I can tell you what that looks like, right? It's loading you into the back of a car. You poke the bear exactly right?

Wil Schroter: And and and and and it kind of blows you up. And so over the years a couple of things that I've learned and talking to friends like a lot of people dealing with this and everyone's got different levels of how they deal with it. Once I once I uncovered the fact that uh that I had anxiety, it turned out I had no surprise A. D. H. D. And a whole bunch of other uh issues tied to that. But you know I went and looked for lots of different types of help, right? And I talked to a lot of people about how they were combating it. A lot of people medicate for it, you know take prescription meds for it. Um And so and that's one way to do it. I ended up finding a solution that was a um a supplement. That it was actually a recommendation from a guy named Ray Kurzweil who's you know, lead M. I. T. S. Tech group, I can't remember which one. It was a while back, but it's also on a mission to live forever. And so Ray takes like 250 pills a day and everything else like that. But he turned me on to one of his cocktails if you will. It was a product called five HTP which is again a supplement that was basically a mood enhancer now has become super popular among founders. What a shock in another one which is D. A. G. A. Which is more of a hormone balancer. And here's what was really interesting about it on a, on a fluke. I basically took him up on this, this is maybe 3, 3.5 years ago And I ended up taking the two products like one a day and for the first few weeks nothing changed. I didn't think much of it. Right? And then Ryan, Remember you and Ellie and the rest of the team definitely saw this because you have to deal with my my emotions every day just all of a sudden one day, the typical issue that would normally come up that would normally freak me out that normally having me email or slack or text. Everybody just didn't bother me. It's not that it didn't register, it wasn't that I didn't care. It just didn't bother me.

Ryan Rutan: Right? And that's why it's such an important point, right? It's these things will still occur. You can't control whether the problems bubble up. I think a lot of founders fall into that trap to where they're like, I just have to be better at preventing this. If I was doing a better job, these things wouldn't have happened bullshit. They will. It's about how you react to them, right? And that's the only thing that you really get to choose is how do I feel about these things? And I think that to some degree, we feel like our feelings are what they are and and we're just going to feel like something's gonna happen, I'm gonna react. That's my personal, that's what it is. But that's not true, right? And you found that you know, it's probably some sort of a chemical imbalance or deficiency in a nutrient of some sorts of supplementation work for you. I started meditating and if you had told me 20 years ago as a young founder that I would start meditating someday I'd be like, oh cool, will I also be wearing Birkenstocks and and cut off jean shorts and smoking enough weed. Right? So no, I I never would have thought that. And I remember the first, I've started to meditate twice. I've had to do this, I had to go through the process twice the first time, it actually made my anxiety worse because it turned out When I sit alone by myself with my eyes closed for 20 minutes, I find plenty of time to be anxious.

Wil Schroter: Right? Literally, you're focusing on being anxious at that point,

Ryan Rutan: I was just sitting there and I was like, let me. So I almost yeah, I think I almost started hovering above the ground just from the the anxious vibrations. But so the first time it was it was a failed effort, right? I I sort of started to feel like okay this seems to be doing something for me, but eventually I just gave up because I just felt like I was more anxious and I wish I could put my finger on what the difference was the second time around, I used a different method. So I tried two different products. I used Headspace and I really liked the headspace product, I really did, I love the product, but in the end I didn't get to where I wanted to be with that and then I switched over to another one called Waking Up by Sam Harris and I really enjoyed it. The rhythm worked a little better for me. I think it may have been life changes a lot of stuff. But ultimately I got to the point where I was able to get to just a very calm place and even better than that now as these things that come up that might start to stress me out, I'm able to recreate that at almost any moment in the day and you know, it's one of those things where if somebody had told me that I'd be like, okay, yeah, hippy dippy bullshit, whatever now that I'm there, I get it right, I understand it, and for me, I think that's been the biggest turn, was just kind of being able to give myself space and a little bit of freedom to not feel stressed out and to not feel anxious

Wil Schroter: and you know, along those lines, the Ryan, what also happened during that time for you, for me, for the rest of our team is, and I think this might have been the single greatest change in kind of, in the, in the trajectory of our recovery was, we're open with each other about it,

Ryan Rutan: right? See, I thought you were gonna say me leaving the physical office.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, no, that, that's actually what it was. We were opened by the fact that you needed to get the hell out of the office, but like, no, we're, it got really interesting because it all of a sudden became kind of a circle of trust right where someone could raise their hand and say, dude, I'm my anxiety is off the charts right now and everyone else understood what that meant and was down to help. Now take that out of the equation where you say, hey, I've got a horrible anxiety, but instead you're terrified of telling your coworkers because you think that's going to come off as weakness or you know, you're not focused on your job or anything. That's not posit, right? Um, I, as I tend to do externalize the hell out of it, right? I told everybody that, hey, this is something I'm dealing with. I'm wrestling with all of a sudden, I'm coming at you out of the blue. Like I tend to do are used to not quite as much anymore. Hold me up and say, hey man, is this, you know, this sounds like a problem you're dealing with me before I told you guys about it, I told my wife about it and told my friends about it and what do you know, all of us started to be able to raise our hands saying, yeah, you know, it's actually a problem for me right now too. And I thought that was the most helpful thing in the world.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, yeah. Getting it out in the open, knowing that you're not the only one going through it and there's so many, so many things in life that are, that are true in the same way. But I think in terms of anxiety, it's so important because anxiety is such a self fed beast and anxiety begets anxiety. And so I think that cutting it off in that way is is really important and the reality is that oh sorry,

Wil Schroter: Oh, I'm sorry. I was gonna say, I also think that it helped us dramatically as an organization because when the leadership can be very open about some of the things that they're dealing with it kind of gives everybody else permission in, right? An agency to be able to say. It's funny, you should say that cause I'm actually dealing with it too. Like I thought I didn't think the ceo would deal with it right or you're dealing with it too Well, hey, I'm dealing with this. Incidentally over the years, I've been able to have very frank conversations with our team all across the organization about depression, about anxiety, about like deep seated personal issues that folks are dealing with stuff that would have probably never surfaced before. But I think we created an environment where people were willing to open up about these things and because they were willing to open up, we could talk through them. It became 1000 times more productive. But more importantly, a hell of a lot happier.

Ryan Rutan: See there you go method number five have a clinically relevant anxiety event that acts as an ice breaker so that it can permeate your entire company

Wil Schroter: culture. Well, hey, it worked. You know, so yeah, it is definitely did. Look there it is,

Ryan Rutan: we're all going to deal with this for the rest of our lives, right? It's not going to stop. And so I think that the, the important points to take away from today are there are ways of dealing with it, there are ways to get through it and that, you know, it's not going to go away. So learn, learn to live with it and and learn to find your own ways of dealing with it and find a way to harness as a superpower.

Wil Schroter: I agree, I agree. And I think it's your point, Ryan, we all have it, it's a scale of 1 to 10, sometimes it's at 12, but it's never at zero right? And I think we just all need to figure out how to get our volume on it turned down as much as possible. And I think that's the key to, we're dealing with it and really trying to make it a part of our lives that we can not only manage with, but flourish with.

Ryan Rutan: That's a wrap for this episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rutan on behalf of my partner Wil Schroder and all the startups dot com. Family thanking you for joining us and we hope you'll continue to join us. Be sure to subscribe rate and comment on itunes or wherever you love to listen to startup therapy. You can find all of our episodes at startups dot com slash podcast. If you're looking for more amazing resources to launch or grow your startup, be sure to head to startups dot com and check out startups unlimited. It's everything we have to offer from our online university to our amazing community of experts and founders and even all the tools we've built like biz plan, fungible and launch rock. It's everything a founder needs visit startups dot com slash begin that startups dot com slash b e g i N. You'll thank me later.

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