Bill Kimberlin is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member and founder of the organization's Nashville chapter. A serial entrepreneur, Bill's latest start-up venture is 500below, the first peer-to-peer support network for drone pilots. As an admitted stressaholic, we asked Bill to share his insights on the role stress plays in entrepreneurial success. Here's what he had to say.
Stress can be a polarizing condition: It either overwhelms and shuts a person down, or energizes and revitalizes them to face the challenge at hand. I clearly fall into the latter of the two groups as I've always been capable of carrying a much larger load of stress than the average person.
That's probably why I'm repeatedly drawn to high-pressure career situations and projects that I know will be difficult to accomplish. I'm almost always in over my head, but if I'm not in over my head, I don't feel like I'm growing.
I discovered this aspect of myself in my early twenties; by my junior year in college, I was running three companies. I distinctly remember feeling far more stressed about school than I was about the challenge of starting a company.
But for anybody, including me, too much stress can be a bad thing. We all have our breaking point, and when we hit it, we just need to get away and decompress.
I asked some fellow Entrepreneurs' Organization members to share their perspectives on entrepreneurial stress and noted a surprising amount of uniformity in the answers. Although we come from a variety of backgrounds, our experiences as business owners aren't dissimilar. Here's what I learned:
1. Many entrepreneurs thrive on stress.
"I'm a D on the DiSC personality assessment," says Bethany Newman, founder of brand experience agency ST8MNT. "That means I tend to be competitive, results-oriented and direct, so I actually need a fair amount of stress to feel productive and allow my brain to do what it wants to do."
Joe Freedman, president of Music City Tents and Events, has similar feelings. "I'm energized by solving complex business issues, including acquisitions and exits," he says. "Good stress motivates you and gives you energy."
2. Leverage stress to confront challenges.
"In the creative industry, that conflict of stressors pushes us to think harder and drive innovation," Newman says. "The roadblocks, the 'boundaries' and the looming deadlines serve as fuel. It can often feel like a bit of beauty achieved through pain."
3. The uncontrollable aspects of business also tend to be the most stressful.
Daniel Brimer, founder and CEO of XCI Building Services, says he becomes the most anxious about the aspects of his business that he can't deal with every day. "Have I hired the right people? Are they able to represent my company the way I've tried to build it?" he wonders. And, "Are managers taking care of their employees the way they should?"
4. At some point, everybody needs a break.
"For me, it's spending time with others who are in your shoes and understand that we all face problems," Brimer says. "Share your struggles with your inner circle. It helps just to talk it out sometimes. Last but not least, there's always whiskey -- in moderation, of course."
"I make sure to hit 'reset' at the end of the day -- have a cocktail, enjoy a hobby or family time," Newman says.
For me personally, if there's something that I can't figure out in the office, I go outside. Stepping away from a problem helps me to address it.
I also thrive on adventure. I'm always looking for a new activity, from horseback riding to weightlifting to triathlons (I've done 10). I even took up golf, until I repeatedly proved that I could throw my driver further than I hit the ball.
One notable adventure unfurled spontaneously after hiking to the top of a mountain near my San Francisco home. While I was enjoying the incredible view, I heard faint music coming from somewhere below. On an impulse, I decided I would find out where the music was coming from. I climbed down the mountain and kept walking until I found the source -- salsa night at an out-of-the-way dance club. Eureka! I was rewarded with the kind of unique experience you don't easily forget.
I mention this because as an entrepreneur, I rarely back away from a good challenge, which is why it can be hard for me to take a break when I need it. But it's important to remember that taking time for discovery outside of work is not only good for the soul; it can also give us new focus and energy to pour back into our careers.