Startup Therapy Podcast

Episode #65


Ryan Rutan: Welcome back to another episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rutan, I've got my hot cup of coffee, I've got Wil schroder, my partner and startups dot com, ceo, what do you say? We do? Another episode of the podcast here, will and talk about leaving our startup stress at work, wait, startups are stressful. When did that become a thing?

Wil Schroter: Yeah, all the time, man,

Ryan Rutan: you just you just woo sawing over there. I

Wil Schroter: like it. I like to stretch for this guy, busy meditating over your what stress? What stress exactly, I don't remember again, I'm just going back for a second. I I can't think of a single discussion, I mean, pre podcast, like in the early parts of my career, I don't remember a single discussion about leaving your stress at work. Like I remember every every discussion was you have stress at work. That was the end of the discussion was like a follow up discussion, It was just like sorry about your luck And I feel like, I don't know, what did you say right over the last 10, 15 years, you know, mindfulness has kind of become a little bit more to the forefront, mental health has come to the forefront. Um we've got all these really important things that are all kind of, you know, coming together at the same time and for the first time in kind of forever, you know, startup stresses is a real conversation that people are having and you know, trying to take uh real deliberate methods to to address, which didn't used to be a thing.

Ryan Rutan: No, it wasn't at all. I mean, and, and luckily it's, you know, it's not isolated to, to startups and startup founders, you know, this is a broader conversation that a lot of people are having now about, you know, how how can we be less stressed, how can we, you know, take better care of ourselves? Wellness is is, you know, a much bigger focus than it was in decades past. Mindfulness is is definitely a big piece of that. Yeah, and I think that just by having that conversation putting it out there, um, it helps a ton. Um, and you know, you and I have had a lot of, lot of, lot of conversations around this and things that we've specifically done to try to fight this off. Um, but you know, I find talking about startups, stressful, stressful, right? Start stress stressful. I just just, just even thinking about like, oh my God, maybe I am stressed should I don't know, was I stressed before we started with it? Yeah, so,

Wil Schroter: well, I mean look for uh, for me and for, you know, pretty much every single other founder and you know, you Ryan everybody, it's startup stress comes part and parcel with the startup. However, we have located some mystical means to be able to kind of manage some of this stuff, I've certainly gotten geometrically better at it. Uh, you know, which I'm excited to share, but people are going to think that, you know, um I'm speaking from a standpoint of, you know, I'm just kind of the zen monk on a, on a grassy knoll somewhere. Just kind of like meditating and staring off into space. When in fact, when I say that,

Ryan Rutan: I can confirm that he's not, I can confirm that he's not on the

Wil Schroter: video now. Everybody knows just some idiot in a baseball cap. But you're

Ryan Rutan: talking about me or you, I can't see right now you're wearing a cap to, okay, it's idiots and baseball caps.

Wil Schroter: But, but I mean, really, the truth is, my stress level was so disproportionately high from the get go that anything I could figure out how to do to cut that down, you know, made a world of difference. And to be fair, you know, I've again, I've made a world of difference, but I think part of it and again, Ryan, I'd be curious to your thoughts here. But I think part of us kind of leaving stress at work is just even knowing we can, you don't even knowing that that's, that's uh, that's an option because a lot of us, I don't know that we do, you know, I don't know that that we, we do realize that we can kind of separate it to. Um, and I'd be curious kind of, how are you separating the two? Just at its core did you always in, what's it like now versus then?

Ryan Rutan: Well, you know, when you, when you walk out of your office, I mean we're still in covid folks, we're still, we're still doing that fun thing. So that, that's still part of life. Um so you know, when, when I walk out of my office, which is just upstairs in my house and, and I walked downstairs, I don't have room for work stress because now I have to make room for three kids worth of stress. So you know, now it's, it's that's that's not true. Um Yeah, you know, I think that going back to what you just touched on, which is that we now have this sort of implicit permission that it's, it's okay to do that. I think that was a huge fundamental step was that people started talking about it and it was like, yeah, actually you don't, you don't have to do that right there. That is definitely not a scout merit badge. Um that you go home stressed out and that you hold on to all that and that, you know, somehow angst and stress is driving the success of your business or whatever else in life you're trying to accomplish. Right? So I think just, you know, when we talk about permission a lot, but I think that really is a huge piece of this particular puzzle is, is just knowing that, you know, I don't have to right now, some of that comes from permission. Some of that comes from experience, right? I I have been stressed out for significant portions of my life and when I can go back and objectively pick those apart, the stress didn't make me any better at anything I needed to accomplish right? Nothing wrong with having some urgency, nothing wrong with thinking about things and analyzing things. But if you just find yourself and this was almost always that the trigger for me, it was just these over over the top, never ending analytical loops where I was actually doing anything, I was just considering the problem over and over and over and over and just dwelling and that led to huge amounts of stress. And so You know, I the permission part of it was probably, I'd say 10 or 15% in this case, 85% of it was just realizing at some point that it wasn't having any impact, right? And and I was just smart enough to pick up on that and say I guess I don't need to do that anymore, right? And then that could be easier said than done, but I think that having you know been doing this long enough to have seen that that stress doesn't manifest itself in any useful ways. The anxiety wasn't helping me, it wasn't driving me on to greater things, it was just driving me nuts. And so you know with enough with enough evidence on that side of the fence, it's like you know what, just breathe, it's gonna be okay, I don't need to stress out about this. Not only is it not going to help, it can be counterproductive. And you know, after I told myself that about 2.6 million times, I finally started to believe it.

Wil Schroter: Let's dig into the part where, where I think a lot of people can appreciate, which is it's counterproductive, right? Um, this concept that the more I stress, the less effective I become now, some folks will tell you the opposite. Some folks will say that that stress has this, um, kind of enhancing factor that allows you to focus on something and inherently it does. I mean, given the nature of it, well, we're talking about, Yeah, correct, right? And for a moment it's great for a moment. It actually probably does raise you to what you need to do. However, what we're talking about is when you, when you never come back down, right? When you're constantly in a state of heightened stress and look, startups are constantly stressful. But part of what we need to understand and kind of work toward us founders is how to pace ourselves with that stress. See for me, I used to just take it home every day all the time, decades on end, right? All the time. And, and, and the way I looked at it was my job is inherently stressful. That's just the way it goes. Uh, when I used to, you know, watch my dad work hard, he's a carpenter, um, in his back hurt and his arms hurt and everything else like that. I would just look at it as his job is inherently hard, right? You know, that's kind of what comes with the territory. The difference is I can choose to not bring that pain with me and yet I don't, that would be like my dad choosing to have a sore back and let's just bring it home and see you and see how that works out as

Ryan Rutan: well. Just not addressed. Then

Wil Schroter: we'll, right. And so, uh, I think the first step for me was recognizing that I don't have to carry this all the time, Right? That, that there there can be a logical break point. And I would argue that after almost 30 years of doing this, I'm just starting to realize that I could have done that all along. It kills me to think of, you know, how long it's taken me to, to realize that. And I don't think it's a factor of age. I think it's a factor of awareness. I think this is something that anyone at any age they'll appreciate differently as you have more reps on the planet etcetera and more experience. But I don't think it's specific to you have to have been around long enough to do this at all. I think this is one of those things where you by all means you can start to attack it right now.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. What's going to be really interesting for me is to see how, you know, there are people younger than, than we are. Well, it turns out and I'm curious to see it, it's true and it's a good thing, we're gonna need their energy sometime soon. The for for people who have grown up in, you know, the kind of the current generation now, you know, this is people coming out of their, their teens into the twenties now, people who grew up with these conversations around, you know, the negative aspects of stress, the negative aspects of anxiety, the benefits of mindfulness and wellness to see whether or not, you know, they get to the same precipice of stress that you and I both hit before we were able to uh, to make the leap into like, let's not say zen, but a more zen existence, right? It's going to be interesting to see like how, how much that changes it, right? Because I remember, you know, the, the, the, the mantra growing up for me, it was, you know, like you work hard, right? You put your nose to the grindstone. Like we had all of these phrases that, that left absolutely no room, right? The early bird gets the worm. I'm just, I'm just going through like, there's a whole litany of these things, right. That left absolutely no space to say like, hey, take a breath. It'll be okay. No, no, it was to keep working, work harder. Uh, you know, And, and then you'll get what you want, right, right? And, and there will be this, this magical outcome at the end. And so it'll be interesting to see for the folks who grew up without that, that sort of heavy handed, you know, work first. Uh, you know, like, you know, don't, don't show your emotions on your sleeve. That was something my daddy similar all the time. Like, don't wear your emotions on your sleeve, right. And I was like, I'm wearing short sleeves, dad, where should I put them? I don't know what else to do with them. Um, So it will be interesting for me to see how that manifests as, you know, people who are coming into into the stage, we're gonna start starting companies now, you know, 15 years from now, will they have a very different perception of this? Well, they have had a very different experience than we did. And I hope so. I absolutely hope so.

Wil Schroter: I'm glad you brought up that point because I think as folks are listening to this, they should be very considered at the fact that um, the days of hard work, the way what they used to be, which usually referred to manual labor aren't what they are now. You know, most of us have, uh, jobs that, that we're using our mind more than anything more than our, you know, our bodies. Um, yet we don't, we don't treat them the same way, right? When our bodies are tired, we sit down and rest when our minds are tired, we pump more caffeine, right?

Ryan Rutan: When you said mind is tired, I literally reflexively reached for my coffee

Wil Schroter: cup. Right? Right. I mean, look, it's it's we're we're at a point where our mind is our only muscle that matters when it comes to building our business. And we treated horribly. We treated most horribly by applying a lot of what's essentially bullshit made up stress. Don't you? Every aspect of our day now I'm not pretending for a second that we can just turn it off like a lightbulb. What I what I will say and this is kind of what we can start to dig into. It is addressable. There are actual ways that's you know, just like any other problem you solve as you know, as a founder where you can dig in and you can say, okay, here's how I'm going to attack this thing. I'm gonna get militant about it. And until it's fixed, like every other problem in our business, I'm not going to let it go. So let's talk about that.

Ryan Rutan: Okay, yes, let's dig in on that man. So you know, when when we talk about isolating and attacking the problem, right? So I think this was one of the areas where I had a lot of trouble originally was that I felt like the stressors were coming from so many different places that I couldn't really pick, like okay if I was going to eliminate one of these, what would it be right? Like how could I, how could I determine, you know which one of the stressors? Because that was my approach to, it was like let's figure out what's actually stressing me out um and and see if I can eliminate those, um I can tell you that wasn't actually the solution at the end, that wasn't actually how it worked, but that was where I started

Wil Schroter: back then. Did you understand that that stresses could be decoupled or did you look at as I am stressed? So stresses, you know, one monolithic thing and uh that's that's all there is to it.

Ryan Rutan: So in the beginning yeah, I'm just, I'm stressed, I'm stressed but then you know, being the, the analytical character that I am, I said like well, but that's coming from somewhere, right? And so I wanted to try to pick that apart as much as I could and then I over analyze it and I realized there were so many little things that were that were stressing me out. Um I wish that I had understood the concept of keystone behaviors at that point, which is to say that there's like there's typically one thing that leads to a cascade of other behaviors or or or actions and I think that would have helped a ton because it turned out, there were a few, you know, kind of major things that were that were really creating those um and and that it was the core stress that was allowing me to be stressed out by all these other little things um but so yeah, I tried to pick it apart and I tried to, I tried to look at what all all of the various factors could be um and it turned out there were a few that were pretty significant and sort of worthy of at least some consideration if not stressing out and worrying about it. Um You know, I noticed that I would always get stressed out around around pay periods, right? So like every two weeks I would have a little bit of stress because I've got to make sure that I've got to pay all these people that work for me um and and back then like there there was nothing to fall back on, you know, we were we were operating off of cash flows um and and that was it, right? So like, you know, cash flow goes down, you know, a client drops out like that can lead to some to some bad situations, right? So right, it wasn't a ton, I could do about that other than focus on driving revenue, focused on client satisfaction. So really trying to say like, okay, the problem, the thing that stresses me out is worrying if I can make payroll, right? But that's not actually the problem, the problem that I can solve is let's make sure there's enough revenue, right? And so what I tried to do then is I would start to feel stressed is I would start to feel tightening in the chest and that little bit of worry, you know, well is that client gonna pay in time or we're gonna have that cash in the bank? Um I would just try to find a single action that was aligned with that stressor and take that step, right? And, and that was a way for me to kind of re channel some of that energy back into something positive. And and that helped a lot.

Wil Schroter: Let me build on that for a second. Because you said a couple of things there that are really like you started, you started in with saying that you identified what the stress was, right? And like you said a moment ago, um at which point we leave any problems, stress is just one of them. But any problem in its least defined state in this amorphous kind of broad ST we're screwed. Any problem, not well defined has already been lost any problems and stress is definitely way at the

Ryan Rutan: time.

Wil Schroter: If someone says, I'm stressed and you say, okay about what they're going to say, hey, you know, we're, we can't make payroll. That is a portion of the stress, right? Because what you're really saying and you're not just summarizing in some cases, what you're really saying is it's not just payroll, I'm concerned about, it's what's going to happen when my team doesn't get their paycheck. It's gonna, it's, it's, it's what that's going to mean. Um, financially, because we can't make payroll, how that's going to affect my mortgage payments. You know, like there's, there's all of these um moving parts and sometimes it's cascading, sometimes it's not, sometimes the problem's acute, sometimes I have a problem with this person and that's kind of it with this client, right? Um, but what I find really powerful and I use this all the time to great effect is being very specific. Like, you know, I journalist, so I just write my problem down. I specifically lay it out in the most concrete details possible. And not only do I define what it is, I define what it isn't. And what I find very cathartic in this process is when I isolate things down to really their smallest components when I truly identify the stress for what it is, it's always way smaller than I thought.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah,

Wil Schroter: the second component, which, which you also touched on, you said, hey, I can't make payroll, that's my stress, but then you said, but I need to make enough revenue. You know, close the deal would have you in order to pay payroll and then you're also stressed about that? You know, will I be able to bring in another client, Will I be able to get revenues in time, will I be able to raise cash, whatever it is. But then there's actually a problem inside of that in that stressor is will I be able to close the deal? Who am I meeting with my, is the investor taking my call. You know, in all of these things, what I found to be incredibly powerful was to be able to concentrate all of my focus on the smallest piece of that puzzle. The smallest piece being, if there is this whole litany of events, I can't make payroll, we need to raise money. I need to be able to get in front of investor etcetera etcetera. I try to concentrate all of my firepower on is this is the presentation I'm about to have as good as it possibly can be. Um, have I reached out to enough investors, have I done my follow ups, you know, like basically I look for what's the smallest piece of actionable. Um, next step that I can actually stress about. I find that to be wildly helpful because when I'm stressing about getting something right, it feels like a good stress. And that's, that doesn't mean that I can also, um, leave it at home, but I'm starting to compartmentalize it and kind of channel in a way that's actually kind of healthy. I think about it lest too, by the way.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, I mean the channeling. Yeah, the channel. Yeah, that's the other side of it, right? Like just even even the step you were talking about about writing it down allows you to take it out of active active memory, right? Like if you don't need to keep it there and you know, I've written it down, I've identified it. It's good. Now. I can, I can kind of park it for the moment. Um, but yeah, getting down to those actionable steps and being able to channel it into something that, you know, you can actually do because like we said, like if you're going back to the payroll example, I can't worry my way into making payroll, right? I can't, I can't stress my way into making payroll payroll isn't the problem. It's, it's the, it's the symptom right of correct. A whole host of other issues, um, that are solvable at least in theory. Right? And you know, I think the, the other side of that was to look like after, you know, I stressed about

Wil Schroter: that, you know,

Ryan Rutan: Month after month after month for the 1st 12 months, never missed payroll. So

Wil Schroter: at some point I'm like,

Ryan Rutan: why in the hell am I still getting so worked up about this when we've always found a way to make it work. And then from like the 12 month period forward, I, I found a great soul for that, right I actually, I reduced when I was paying myself just a bit, Um, and banked a little bit of cash in the company and built up a one month cushion for specifically for payroll cause it was the only thing I was worried about not being able to write because I'm facing those people, they're sitting here next to me on a daily basis and, and they're relying on this money and I want to make sure that it's there. And so from that .4 then I took that one off the table. Never ended up having to use that rainy day fund. And so at that point it was like, all right, let's, let's find a way to not just to not be stressed about this, but to take it off the table completely. Alright. It's not always possible, but when it is, boy, did that feel good? Right Boy. Was that a great, great benefit. Um, that I gave myself by just simply cutting back for a month or two and, and banking that cash and like all right, we're good now.

Wil Schroter: Okay, so let's build on that. So I always kind of look at this as, as um three different buckets to all of this. I think one is identifying that the stress exists. Now. My point there is even if you do decide to take it home just identifying it, isolating it kind of for what it is and channeling the energy is healthy no matter what you do. The second thing that I find is that isolating in attacking the problem. Uh, it's important because if we don't recognize that this, that, that our stress has a cost, we'll just keep internalizing, we just assume it's part of the business, but I think when we step back and we say, hey, if I keep getting stressed and distracted about all of this stuff versus being fully action, um I'm less effective, ergo, I'm actually gonna be less likely to even solve these problems now, that's a tough one. But what I found is that if I zoom out and I start to take a look at my stress levels as a problem that needs to be solved, remember, you know, we're decoupling here, I'm not talking about the the stresses that this stressful problems, I'm talking about my inability to deal with stress. If I decouple that and I say, look, um if I continue to be shitty at this, which frankly, historically I have been uh if I continue to be shitty at this, I'm going to be less effective. Conversely, if I can actually figure out how to conquer this or at least manage it better, I might have some, you know, some uh extra turbo that I haven't been using.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, it's absolutely a superpower

Wil Schroter: and turns out that's very much the case 100%. And so for me this, this wasn't just about, you know, well being and all those things are super important, It was, I want to be more effective, I want to be more good at being able to attack these problems and it turned out that the answer was I had to treat having problems as a problem to solve and I thought that that wound up being very powerful because when I isolate stuff, I'm really good at solving the problem and this was certainly one of them.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, I mean like you said before, if you can't define the problem, you've already lost right the minute you start to break that down into its constituent parts, you can take some action and when you start to take some action, then good things start to happen in the same way that that stress unaddressed is a very rapidly compounding downward spiral, so is decoupling and and relieving stress right to you to what you were just talking about at the point at which you can start to unwind some of that and and not suffer from the stress you get back extra hit points, you get back extra energy, you get more productivity, um you know, more creativity. A lot of things start to change um which by the way also will help to keep you from getting re stressed right? It's it's a very, you know, it's a very interesting problem that once you start to and to turn the corner on it, I'm not going to say that it's a self weeding garden, it's certainly not, it still takes effort and attention. Um but I think once you kind of cross that midway point of how I've actually eliminated some of my stress, getting further up, that curve becomes a lot easier and I think then it kind of gets exponential at some point, in the same way that the downward spiral spiral gets exponential really quick to um when you become more stressed to your point, you become less capable of dealing with the stress, which adds more stress and less activity, more stress rates. So the good news is the, the the inverse is certainly true as well, and that when you do start to solve those problems, it becomes easier and easier to solve more of them.

Wil Schroter: I used to believe that um I really just want to, you know, decouple stress, I want to manage stress just because it's better for my well being. And the truth is I've never, I'm not that concerned about my well being should be as I get older, like I really should be, but but I being I'd be disingenuous if I were to say that that was my motivator motivator, was this simple, I want to be more effective at work. So how can I be less stressed at work so I can essentially do more work right now. Again, actually, I bet a lot of our audience will, will be able to relate to that, but um it wasn't as altruistic as I'd love it to be. However, it was also really effective. It also came to me as far as my realization, um almost by mistake Because in Ryan, we've talked about this before, the first time that I had to go home at 6:00 to have dinner with my family for some, you know, I had a family or a daughter, etc. It was the first time I realized what, taking a break and being forced to leave my work at home would do and it was, I'll never forget it in the first week. Uh you know, I'm sitting at the dinner table and you know, dinner's chaotic cause I've got, you know, got a newborn, you know, how this goes. Um, but but I'm, I'm really focused on what's happening there, right? And for the first time in my life, like typically six o'clock was like second lunch for me, like I wasn't even remotely close to dinner at that point, I didn't even, I wouldn't be leaving to go home for like six or seven more hours, six o'clock or as I

Ryan Rutan: call it noon.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, yeah, I mean, I think again, and I'm, and I'm not like trying to pound my chest about just kind of the way it was, I frankly kind of regret it, but the point being, all of a sudden, because I had to, because of my commitment to my family, I had to force myself to kind of just take a moment and leave work at home in this magical thing happened All of a sudden, it's 7:00, I had just like a slightly clearer head now I just, you know, turned stress back on and went back to what I was doing stress wise. But then like over time in this game with having a family, seven o'clock turned at eight o'clock at eight o'clock turned in 99 o'clock as far as you know, kind of, you know where my head was at and what I was focused on and all of a sudden for the first time I went to bed, we're from six o'clock till like 9 30 I go to bed like an old man. Um I didn't stress about anything. I was just focused on other stuff. The moment I woke up, like, you know, even that moment before you actually wake up full stress, like exactly what you think it is, right? You know, back to full anxiety. But this weird thing started to happen where I started to cool off every single day and in a way I've never done before and again for a lot of people that sounds obvious like what kind of weirdo were you? But the truth is again, I kind of fell into it by accident, but I started finding myself getting up the next day with a hell of a lot more energy than I ever had before lo and behold. I was refilling the tank without even realizing it and I started to realize this is the key.

Ryan Rutan: The power of distraction.

Wil Schroter: Power of distraction.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, I mean, so and at that point, you know, whether you realize it or not, you were you were using a great technique for stress reduction, which you're actively distracting yourself from the things that we're stressing you out, right, the way it happened sort of accidentally because the family um you know, there there were demands, their uh you know, implied demands that you needed to be, there need to be home and you need to be paying attention to the kids and then all of a sudden you find yourself in this blissfully different state of mind maybe. I mean like I remember like it was like the first time that I wasn't solely occupied by by work or some sort of work related pursuit in like a decade, I was like, wow, literally, like the first time I've not, I've been, yeah, it was it was a weird feeling and I'm sure that you went through something similar. It's like, wow, I don't always have to be thinking about work, it doesn't always have to be in the back of my mind to the front of my mind or both? Um yeah, it was an interesting realization for me. But so from that point from that point did you did you then, and I sort of know the answer to this, but for everybody who's listening is benefit, did you then start to actively seek out distraction?

Wil Schroter: We're using active distraction and we're not using rest. Right? I really want to explain the difference because rest didn't do me any good. That sounds kind of antithetical to a lot of people like, you know, isn't this really about rest? You know, leave stress at home and rest and relax and look at it. And if that works for you and wonderful, by all means, you know, rest

Ryan Rutan: does not work for me.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, right. But with an active mind, it's just, you know, everybody's different. But like for me it didn't at all. I would try to take a week off and sit on a beach or something and stare at the sun and I came back more stress. I came back more anxious and it turned out again with this this active distraction that what I really needed. I needed my mind to be so in engrossed in something. But in order for it to not, that's something to not be work. I had to deliberately make it something else in the light bulb went off after a while, It was a dim, slowly lighting. Um and I realized that what I've been missing all along was something to occupy my brain in a forcible, way more so to overpower what was already kind of going through my head prior. And I gave an example of where it didn't work. And it's just there are two examples where it didn't work yoga and meditation turns out two of the absolute worst things for me. There's nothing worse for me from from a reset in and recharge than to sit in a quiet room and be alone with my thoughts that those are somebody, I do not want to be alone with it

Ryan Rutan: whatsoever. Alone with

Wil Schroter: myself. God, no, it's terrible. It's terrible. Uh, and so I started to realize that the only way I was going to get your respite and it will be able to decouple myself from stress is I have to go find something that actually physically and mentally overpowers my stress to the point where I just can't think about two things at the same time. And, you know, Ryan, you and I have have wonderfully found multiple things that have kind of helped get us there. What would you say right now is top of your list, that's, you know, keeping your mind in a safe space.

Ryan Rutan: Top of my list right now is we're building this garden next to our house, we have a very small yard in the main house. And so we've got this secondary plot of land next to us and it's been fantastic. I mean, I wake up in the morning thinking about it, I go to sleep at night, kind of planning what we're gonna do, you know, this, this coming weekend, I'm working now, you know, so this is going to cross over into some of the stuff you're doing. But um, I'm, I'm building our chicken coop now because we're going to start, well we actually already have the chickens, they're just running loose in the yard right now. Um so building a chicken coop, you know, I'm doing these things that, that require active thought. But before I go into this, I want to back up for a second because I want to go through, kind of the process, I went through to get to where I am now in terms of my ability to do this and coming into, it's in my late twenties, maybe right into my early thirties. Before I caught this, I had written myself off as an insomniac, I thought I was the kind of person who just had insomnia and there was nothing I could do about that and it would just always be be kind of part of who I was um that I would just have trouble sleeping. Well, it turned out the reason I had trouble sleeping was because I had stress and anxiety. Um and when I would go to sleep, it would, it would exacerbate, right? So in those moments as I was going to sleep where I would wake up with it, right, and I would just wake up with these like, you know, cold sweats and just feeling really anxious and really awful. And what I, what I realized was that I wasn't doing anything to transition and I think this is for me, this was the big one and I'm going to say something about your, your meditation and and yoga here in a second, I have a hard time with those kind of things to, if I don't first transition, I need something more strongly distracting to get me out of work and analytical mode before I can do that. We've talked about this in a couple other contexts, Ellie and I L E. And I spent a lot of time talking about this one, which was how do you transition, you know, we spend our whole day adult ng at a professional level, right? Like we are, we are pro athlete, adulterers, um we spend all day doing this and and you know, high level thought, high level discourse, you know, working on really important things And then we have to transition immediately into, I want you to read me this coloring book upside down and backwards dad, it's hard, right? It's hard. And I realized that what I needed to be a great dad, what I needed was 20 minutes to transition out of work mode and to come down a bit to be able to be the best father that I could be to my kids um that if I tried to do that instantaneously, I didn't really get to work mode and I wasn't really fully present, right? And so it was the same kind of realization I had with sleep was that I needed something strongly distracting to pull me out of that mode and to allow me to change that pattern of thought and and then I became, I'm actually a great sleeper now, I'm so good at it. Game changer. Yeah, and it is, it's a huge, huge game changing element. Like I don't wake up tired anymore, wake up excited. Um, but again, like I, there there are certain things that I can just easily fall into right. Like if you tell me Ryan, go fishing right now, I need no transition, I just need water and a boat, well not even a boat, kayak will be fine, we're sure, you know, what have you other things like meditation was a great example. I cannot just, I know people who can do it and they're like, man, when I get stressed out at work, I just take 15 minutes I go, I meditate. Um that would just be me sitting with a screaming voice inside my head in silence, like that's what that would be for me. I have to have a little bit of a transition between those things. Um, so for me, I think transition is probably one of the biggest keys to decoupling, um stress and, and being able to kind of park it and leave it where it belongs.

Wil Schroter: I agree. And look again, everyone's mileage varies, everybody's mind works differently for sure, but I get the sense for a lot of folks, they've tried meditation, they've tried yoga, they've tried all these things and it works to some extent. I mean, again, I love it in concept and somewhat in practice, it just doesn't work that well for me is the problem. Um and you know, somewhere to you, I got into carpentry, I decided I wanted to learn how to build stuff for no particular reason really. I just kind of, I wanted something that was creative, I wanted something that had a somewhat endless learning curve, you know, that I could always kind of be picking up new things because I get bored easily. Um and I had some stuff I need to build around the house, so

Ryan Rutan: together killed a whole flock with one stone there, didn't

Wil Schroter: you? Yeah, yeah, yeah, we're that great. And so uh you said something that, that really resonated with me, you said you're going to bed at night and you're thinking about how you're gonna build this chicken coop, right? And what I love about that, because I'm doing the same thing, I'm building an outdoor kitchen right now. And so I'm thinking about, you know, Joyce hangers and trusses and you know, all these different things that, that you need to be connected.

Ryan Rutan: All right, hang on a second, you're not building an outdoor kitchen right now, You're building the outdoor kitchen. I'm thinking about like asking if I can just pitch a tent on that on that balcony and just like live out there at this point.

Wil Schroter: It's yeah, it's way over engineered. Ah and what's interesting about it though is because I'm doing all the work myself, you know, I'm doing everything from the decking, electrical, you know, really literally everything. Um uh I've got to think about it extra hard because a lot of stuff I've never done before, but here's what's important and, and again you touch this and I don't want to let this go at the end of the night before you fell asleep. You were thinking about the chicken coop. What you weren't thinking about were a whole bunch of bullshit problems that you would be far better suited to solve tomorrow, right? That no matter how much you, you dwelled on them at that very moment. Incidentally, by the way I bring this up because at that moment where you need to get to sleep the most in order to solve these problems and kind of be your best you and and and I'm in the same boat, we found a way to put that energy, that nervous kind of anxious problem solving energy into something so dumb, right? And I mean dumb in a good way, by the way, uh, something so dumb. Like all I'm thinking about is whether my ledger board is going to be 3.5 inches at apex off of where I'm gonna end this deck, right? That's it. That is not um it's such a solvable problem, right? All I have to do is move that porter and screw it in and I'm golden, right? So dramatically different then what used to not only be my last thought, but my last thought that kept me up for hours ruined my sleep, made my next day that much harder and just kind of put me into more stressful cycle. This active distraction isn't just about what we did for a couple hours, you know, in any given day. This active distraction is something that can start to pick us up. It actually be the thing that breaks us from the stress, right? That that has a stressing about dumb stuff. And again, I mean dumb and kind of a good way. That is actually a healthy stress, right? It's okay if you think about stuff before you go to bed and you're kind of little stressed about it so long as it's stuff that you kind of know in your back your head, you know, be okay?

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, there there wasn't any stress around having to solve it, right? It was the kind of thing where like there's a problem there, let me think about it, let me unwind it, let me analyze it. But if I came up with a solution or I didn't, the outcome was essentially the same. The world wasn't going to end because I didn't figure out, you know which side of the chicken coop, I really wanted to put the the the laying box right? Didn't matter, right? Worth thinking about, need to make the decision. Um but the world wasn't gonna stop spinning if I didn't figure it out.

Wil Schroter: And and so so building that we have a certain amount of real estate that we can apply for stress, right? I mean there's, there's so much room that we can put, we choose what to put there. I think, you know, however we landed there, Ryan, you and I, we both figured out how to basically replace some of that real estate with the kind of stress that we'd rather be thinking about right And a lot of people, I hate to say this, but a lot of people keep trying to think of how do I get rid of stress and I'm going to argue for many of us, you don't, there's a certain amount of stress. You're always going to have, all you can do is try to shoehorn some new dumb stress into the problem in order to take up some of that real estate.

Ryan Rutan: Delete the stress with some other stress. Yeah, it works though. It's

Wil Schroter: pretty effective actually. Yeah, and in healthy um and so for a lot of folks listening, you guys, you're kinda thinking, well that's kind of interesting. Maybe like, you know, maybe I'm taking the stress and, and I should try something, you know, something else they put in there. It doesn't even matter what it is, right? The truth is you kind of need to be able to at least oscillate out of the stress that, you know, that is work into literally anything else. And you know, it's funny cause a lot of people will say, dude, that is not my problem, right? Like I'm home, I've got just as much stress at home as I had at work right in and this and this and so then there needs to be a third outlet, right? The point is the same, you know, no matter how many buckets of stress you have, you're looking to kind of wedge another one in there of something that can just kind of clear your mind and get it out of there,

Ryan Rutan: keep distracting yourself until it feels good, right? My, my dad used to come home stressed from the office and, and my mom had good radar for this and she would go to the closet, she would come back with the basketball and she just hit him in the stomach with it and tell him to go outside and he would go outside and that was the thing like, and it worked for him, right? He's a guy and so it gave him something else to worry about, right, he would go worry about hitting his jump shot or whatever and, and that worked for him, right? He seemed to go pound the ball and get rid of some of the stress and, and really just to distract himself, right? You know, I always thought of it as more of the physical aspect of what he was doing, um back then, right back when I would watch him do this and he got kind of just like work out his stress. Um but what was really going on there was he was just spending enough time fully distracted from the stressors that they cease to matter, right? He got out of the pattern of of worrying about

Wil Schroter: them. Yeah, I mean from my standpoint when I'm I've got this workshop that I've got set up and when I'm on the workshop, the only thing on my mind is don't cut your fingers off for one focus, which is a good focus to have, by the way, if you're around a bunch of spinning blades, but yes, uh but that's so powerful, right? Um and I think for a lot of folks who have tried to like take time off for, you know, I try to kind of hang out and watch netflix and try to play video games or something, man, I've done all of those things and you know, I love video games, I can play video games forever. What I found incidentally, actually don't take my stress away um at all, they're a bit of a distraction, but they actually don't reduce stress for me. Um Again, tried yoga, didn't work, tried working out, it didn't work. Um I just, I had to keep searching until I found something that could, could really, you know, wedge the other stressful real estate

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

Wil Schroter: slash podcast.

Ryan Rutan: 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

Wil Schroter: a founder needs

Ryan Rutan: 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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