Richard Branson goes on wild adventures. Mark Zuckerberg is an active philanthropist. Bill Gates is one of the richest people in the world.

Our capitalist economy and cultural values of independence have nurtured countless entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams. In the media, and in our own preconceptions, we imagine the leaders of these companies as ultra-rich playboys, living out their days in luxury. Even as heads of their respective businesses, we envision them cheerfully leading the team, dressing how they please, popping in and out of the office at their leisure, and basking in the glory that comes with building a successful company from scratch.

But is this really how it is?

We all know the expression that money doesn't buy happiness (which is backed by scientific evidence), but it's hard to accept that fact as a reality. The truth is, the pressures of such a position (of wealth, power, and even fame) can seem insurmountable. Today, I'd like to look specifically at the role marketing plays in creating and perpetuating these pressures, and how marketers and entrepreneurs can better cope with them once they arise.

The Pressures of Marketing

The recent news about Chef Benoit Violier's tragic suicide has reached countless entrepreneurs of the world, including myself, and has highlighted the persistent issue of professional pressure. At the world-class restaurant level, any mistake can ruin you, and there's never a shortage of challenges--but these harsh tenets are true for more than just the culinary community.

Even an amateur marketer knows the pressures of marketing a business:

  • Constant competition. Competitors lurk like predators in the forest, waiting to pounce.
  • The permanence of mistakes. One offensive tweet could haunt your brand forever.
  • The best or nothing. You can't market a business as second-best.
  • The obsolescence of strategy. Things change quickly in the marketing world, and you might fear one day becoming obsolete.
  • The proof of value. You have to prove yourself, as an agency or employee, constantly to justify your cost.
  • Countless hours. Hundred-hour weeks are common in this industry--painfully so.
  • Isolation. Anyone having trouble keeping up or moving forward is seen as weak, making them feel even more isolated and beyond help.

Facing these pressures, you need an outlet--otherwise, they'll eat you up from the inside, and you'll end up depressed, burned out, or worse.

How can you fight back?

Forgive Yourself

It might sound New Age-y, but learning to forgive yourself is an important skill in the workplace. The past is the past, and you have to let it go--so what if your last campaign lost money for the company? So what if you decided to call it quits after 12 hours of work when you still had tasks on your to-do list? No person, and no company is perfect. Stop expecting yourself to be.

Walk Away

Western culture values the workaholics who skip lunch breaks and never take vacation--but this does more harm than good. Don't be afraid to take breaks regularly (even if you feel like you can work through them), and take a vacation as an investment in your health, not as an indication that you can't handle the pressure. If breaks and vacations still aren't enough to remedy your career stress, quit. No job is worth the cost of your mental health.

Accept the Possibility of Defeat

Not everyone can be the best, yet we're all expected to be. The fear of a competitor besting us, or of our jobs becoming obsolete, is real--but don't look at this as the end. Look at these as new beginnings. It's very possible that you'll fail as a marketer, but failure shouldn't be a bad word. History is filled with people who overcame failure and went on to greatness.

Reach Out

You may feel alone, but you don't have to be. The marketing and entrepreneurial communities are filled with people who do what you do, every day, sometimes for much longer and in far harsher environments. We all know these pressures, and we all know this pain. If you feel it, don't try to bear it alone. There's an entire community of people willing to help you shoulder that burden, whether it's your friends, your family, your coworkers, or strangers you met in an online forum. Talk it out; I guarantee you it will help.

If you're suffering from depression or undue stress in a marketing position, an entrepreneurial position, or any professional environment, don't just grin and bear it. There are serious mental health consequences for doing so. No career is worth destroying yourself, so take whatever you need--even if it means reaching out for help, taking a vacation, or quitting and moving on to something new. You owe it to yourself.