Losing Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade is tragic. Both were icons in their own field. Understanding ‘why?’ is difficult, if not impossible to answer. Bourdain’s prose and connecting of cultures was genius. Writers and chefs idolize his talents and achievements. Spade’s massive empire, starting with handbags, is the definition of a successful outcome for many entrepreneurs. Her life’s accomplishments are today’s checklists for designers and founders everywhere.
Both losses refocus the attention on mental health.
The entrepreneurial journey has many highs and lows. Late nights and long years are very lonely as Brad Feld has courageously espoused. Often times the lows come when people least expect them, for example, after an exit. The ups and downs are real. One minute you believe your company is going to be the next big thing, the next day you’re wondering “how anyone could buy your product?”
I remember in college I asked a professor who was a sports psychologist “what is the secret to getting out of a slump?” This could apply to any sport but I was talking about golf in particular. His response is one I think about often. He said, “find one small positive piece of momentum. It could be a well struck iron shot in golf or a smoother jumper from the corner in basketball and take that ounce of positive momentum and build off of it.”
In software, getting one small piece of momentum is key. For me it was always customer testimonials — one in specific. Customer testimonials are great because they are a fixed piece of time representing positive momentum. If one person believes in your product or service, then another can and will. A true and honest testimonial is a strong light during dark times. It proves belief at some point. Another way to gain positive momentum is to understand how people are using your product. FullStory is a good way to achieve this understanding. Watching users gain value from your product is a great remedy against a day of “no’s” on the sales side.
Signing up to start a company means you’re going to have emotional highs and dipping lows — this is part of the process. Maintain belief in yourself and your work by building on momentum from your past work, no matter how trivial. It can even be a few sentences from a testimonial written 6 months ago. The power of those words convey belief. That belief is very real for entrepreneurs.
In my work at Atlanta Ventures, I always want to let the entrepreneur know I believe in them as a person. Anyone courageous enough to start a company has earned a degree of respect from me.
That is important to communicate with regularity.