Andrew Thomas is the co-founder of SkyBell Video Doorbell, a smart home security company that is making homes and neighborhoods safer with a video doorbell that lets users answer their door from a smartphone. SkyBell has raised millions in funding to date, was named a 2014 CES Innovations Award Nominee, and works with Amazon, Best Buy, Nest, Comcast and Apple Homekit. Andrew directs SkyBells' strategy, partnerships and product marketing.
What is the hardest part about being a founder? If you're like me, that answer has changed over time.
When I'm being honest, I know the real answer goes deeper than obtaining funding or making a product. The real answer is the psychological demands of creating something from nothing -- all in the face of uncertainty.
This is the second in a two-part discussion (you can read part one here) about the tools that helped me thrive as the co-founder of SkyBell. I've learned that maintaining your mental health is as important as any other part of your startup. This process isn't about admitting you're weak; it's about building strength. You can't achieve the success you desire without being mentally strong.
Here are six more techniques I've used to create and maintain a healthy mental state while founding a company.
Challenge Your Expectations
Most of us feel frustrated when our startups aren't progressing as quickly as we'd like. The problem with lofty expectations is that we can miss them, and then panic as a result. Even when we do reach a milestone, we quickly dismiss it and set even higher expectations, thus perpetuating the problem.
To help combat this, I've changed how I react to unmet expectations by shifting from short- to long-term thinking. By considering how an experience fits into my larger life and career timeline, I gained the patience needed to allow events to unfold, and the perspective to view short-term setbacks as lessons for the future. You can do this too: start by listing the ways in which outcomes or events can serve you in the big picture, and focus on the positive. Shawn Achor's TED talk on happiness has some great advice.
Talk to Other Founders
We want to appear invincible. As founders, we don't want to admit when we're overwhelmed. This is a symptom of our industry -- and our society in general -- and it doesn't serve us.
Connecting with other founders and speaking honestly about your experiences can improve your mental state. This helped me understand that my worries were shared by pretty much every other founder. It freed me from the judgments I put on myself. Watch Brene Brown's TED talk on vulnerability for more insight into why sharing is so helpful.
Turn Negative Emotions Into Positive Outcomes
Society conditions us to believe that we should always be happy, and we've learned to fight and deflect negative emotions in a misguided attempt to avoid feeling pain. Yet by doing this, we only bury those emotions until they come back to the surface stronger than ever.
Negative emotions are actually good sometimes. For example, doubt helps us slow down and evaluate our path. Times of contraction provide an opportunity to regroup before you slingshot forward into expansion. Instead of falling victim to feelings of doubt, learn to ask how negative emotions can serve you. Meditating is a great way to "sit" with your negative thoughts and find the truths behind them. Here's a list of tips to get started with meditation.
Spend Time Away From Work
While starting SkyBell, I rarely stepped away from work. It was as if the company would stop breathing if I turned my back, even for a minute. What's worse, I thought this constant work focus was a badge of honor -- of course you need to work your tail off. But there's a big difference between investing time in a healthy way and completely losing yourself in work.
Give yourself permission to have fun. Meet people from different walks of life who can introduce you to new ideas and experiences. Spend time with friends and family. Enjoy the benefits of spending time in nature.
By mentally and physically detaching from work, I renewed my energy, positivity and purpose. I returned to work focused on my mission, rather than getting stuck on the hamster wheel. If that's not enough for you, taking time off can even boost your productivity, not reduce it.
Exercise is a proven hack for boosting mental health, and the list of health benefits from the CDC could take up this whole article. Personally, I started boxing. The high-intensity workouts increased my physical power, mental acuity and coordination. Learning a new craft increased my creativity and helped me get into a state of flow, free of the worries that normally occupied my mind.
If you don't exercise now, start by walking or hiking. Even 15 minutes a day is a great start. If you already work out, make it a bigger part of your weekly routine and shoot for a high-intensity workout three times a week. Yoga is also great for developing flexibility and creating mental space. Find what you like, and stick with it.
Accept Where You Are in Your Journey
As you consider these ideas and how they fit into your life, accept that it's okay to be where you are right now. Instead of focusing on how far you are from your goal, be patient and compassionate with yourself. As a Taoism expert Dr. Wayne Dyer said, "You can go anywhere from here, as long as you are here." When you stay in the moment, the desire to reach your goal will come from a feeling of creation, abundance and possibility -- not fear.
The time you invest in your mental health will pay dividends in your professional life. As a founder, your success hinges on you -- so make investing in yourself a top priority.