Optimistically Depressed – Start-up Life and Roller Coaster Rides

In mid 2007 Infinity Softworks was falling apart. The project we spent two years working on was ending with a big thud, I had already laid off most of the team and was about to let go of the remaining two. I was tired and worn out. A friend looked at me and said it was the first time in the eight years he had known me that I ran into a brick wall and stopped.

At that point in 2007 I was clearly depressed: depressed with my situation, depressed with the state of the company, depressed with my failure, nervous about fatherhood and the new pressures that brought on me. Brad Feld had a great post on depression last October.  As Brad said:

For some reason we’ve embraced failure as an entrepreneurial trait that is ok, but we still struggle with acknowledging and talking about depression. Entrepreneurs function with a wide range of stresses and emotions that often have overwhelming intensity. In many cases, we are afraid of admitting depression, and are often highly functional when we are depressed. But that doesn’t deny the fact that entrepreneurs get depressed. To deny this, is to deny reality, and that’s against my value system.

But by late 2007 a plan was in place and we kept it together by doing contract work. We survived to fight another day. I wasn’t blinded by the realities but I still believed in what we could do. We’ve battled for over five years now, learning a ton along the way.

Which leads me to the recent post in The Atlantic about optimism:

This questions turns out to matter a great deal if you are trying to figure out who grows after trauma and who gets swallowed up by it, a question that each movie [Life of Pi and Silver Lining’s Playbook] addresses and that psychologists have been grappling with for years. Think back to the last time you experienced a loss, setback, or hardship. Did you respond by venting, ruminating, and dwelling on the disappointment, or did you look for a faint flash of meaning through all of the darkness — a silver lining of some sort? How quickly did you bounce back — how resilient are you?

The roller coaster of start-up life never really fades away. Optimism, depression, it all turns on a dime. Keeping a positive outlook, though, that’s the key.

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