You read the title of this article and you are surely thinking to yourself that, as a CEO, it is hard to believe that you can learn something truly valuable from someone who is suffering from mental illness. I have news for you. This is not the first or last time you'd be wrong.
Here are five important lessons you can and should learn from someone who has been through challenges with their mental health.
Resilience is key to survival.
One of the most challenging aspects of mental illness is that medication and therapy, the two things that can help someone, take time. Until they kick in, you don't even really know if they're working. Dealing with mental illness means being resilient and sticking it out.
Building a company is exactly the same. Until it is working, you have no idea if you're really on the right track. You need to believe in your vision and listen to the experts around you. Resilience is what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the unsuccessful ones.
The best things do indeed come to those who wait.
When the meds do finally kick in and the therapy starts to yield results, you feel like you hit the jackpot. Patience, however, is totally mandatory if you want to get there. When it comes to building a company and the brand that accompanies it, it takes time. Everything takes time. If you can continue the grind and stick to your goals, you will eventually accomplish your mission. Or maybe you won't, and that is where the pivot comes in, but we are getting ahead of ourselves here.
Forget thinking out of the box, just ignore the box completely.
Creativity is a very necessary component of treating mental illness. If you have suffered from depression or anxiety, you know what I am talking about. You need to keep yourself busy, focused on anything positive, and always thinking of the next thing that will bring you relief.
To build a sustainable business, there cannot be a box. All options need to be on the table and you need to explore them all because you never know what will stick and what won't.
Flexibility means there are other ways to do things.
We already talked about how long the medication takes to kick in, but that is assuming that the doctor even prescribed the right kind, which is a big assumption. There is a lot of flexibility needed to make sure you find the right treatment for your personal mental health challenge and there is no right way or magic solution.
Anyone who tells you they know how to build the next Facebook or Google is lying, and you should be very weary of working with that person. There is no right way, there are no magic strategies, and there is a whole lot of trial and error in building successful companies.
Pivoting is an art you need to master.
No one likes to admit that they've been doing it wrong, but if you are suffering from mental illness and your medication is not working even after a few months, it is time to pivot.
When building a company, consider yourself lucky if you only have to pivot once. The art of the pivot is a true skill that every entrepreneur needs to acquire if they want their company to achieve critical mass. All the successful companies we know and love--including Instagram, Slack, Facebook, and many more--pivoted in the early days. It is just part of the process, and you need to own it.
While mental illness is still sadly accompanied by stigmatization, the truth is, in many instances, those who suffer from it can teach us a whole lot about life and how to master it on several fronts, including, but not limited to, business.