As Founders, it's really hard for us to separate "startup peril” with a feeling of personal safety.
So often our apocalyptic version of what will happen with our startup gets exponentially grafted onto this nightmare scenario of our future selves.
When things are going rough at our startup, the first step we need to take is to isolate the startup's outcome from our own.
Our startup could end horribly. We will lose any income we had. We may lose a substantial amount of our savings or net worth.
But that doesn't mean we're unsafe personally.
We're capable of creating more income (yeah, a "job"), and we won't be hungry on the side of the road. Given a single year, we can come back fighting. At the moment it may feel awful.
But upon reflection, we have to understand personal "safety" is rarely at risk.
Recognizing personal safety is critical to resetting our approach.
It's like playing a video game. We know that if our character "dies" in the game, our game may be over. But we don't die — we live to fight again (unless we're in the Matrix, in which case the body cannot live without the mind).
By separating our personal safety, we can start to say, "Look, I'm going to do everything I can to make this startup work, but I'm also going to recognize that I will survive even if the startup doesn't — we're not the same."
For startup Founders, it's rare that our personal safety is in actual jeopardy, so the more we can reassure ourselves that we'll be fine, the better we can navigate our startups (regardless of the outcome) with a clear mind.
That clear mind may be in fact what brings our startups back from the brink to begin with.
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Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes Bizplan, Clarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.