Creator’s Curse — the ‘me’ side of an entrepreneur

By Pankaj Bansal & Kamakshi Pant

21 April 2022
#Culture #Leadership

If you can’t remember the last time, you had time off over the weekend, if every day of the week, every week is filled with conflicting personal or professional priorities and if the only thing that you pray for are a few additional hours every day — I can safely assume that you are a fellow entrepreneur. And if you are, believe it or not, you like every other entrepreneur in this world are suffering from “The Creator’s Curse”.

No, this isn’t something coined in the Harry Potter series. It’s very real, and vivid. And for those of us, who do not know how to deal with it, is the cause of stress and burnout that has become part and parcel of an entrepreneur’s life. Did you know one of every three entrepreneurs is struggling with relationship issues? Divorces among entrepreneurs are said to be at 43–48%. And almost 75% of founders struggle with stress issues.

The process of creating something is anyways not easy. On top of that is an enterprise that has numerous stakeholders who depend on you — So work never stops. And the outcome is never-ending work hours. Which we all think is the only way to work for entrepreneurs. But is it?

Well, entrepreneurs are superhumans for sure ☺ but as someone who has gone through this journey for over one and a half-decade, believe me, it isn’t. It’s the creator’s curse that is driving you.

So, what exactly is it? And is there no way to skip this pain? Well, the bad news is, it’s a birth defect or a bug that you gain as soon as you conceive (or code) your start-ups BUT the good news is, with a few life hacks it can be managed and even an entrepreneur can lead a balanced life. But before we jump on to the hacks let me share some symptoms.

  1. Goals are your life’s obsession. All entrepreneurs have ambition in abundance. It’s what drives them. But when this pursuit of goals becomes an obsession, the problem starts. We become our goal, we make it our purpose of being and everything else takes a back seat.
  2. You are the only one who can do it well. Perfectionism is almost an epidemic amongst entrepreneurs. We can’t let go and often do all the work that our teams should be doing. That results in us having unempowered teams or no next-in-line leaders in the team at all. Almost 75% of entrepreneurs I know struggle to expand their leadership teams.
  3. Relationships (Friends, partners, family) seem like too much work. In the competing personal and professional priorities, the thing that we all tend to compromise on is our relationships.

If any of the above is happening in your life, the curse has touched you. You are constantly stressed and edging towards burnout. Whether it is your health, relationships, or work, nothing you do seems enough. Most of the time, we do not realise the core reason behind it. And the issue deepens.

For me, the realisation came in when I separated from one of my partners in business. It was a painful process and I wish I knew what the ailment was before living a life full of medicines that were not meant to treat it. But like everyone, my vision is also perfect in the hindsight ☺. And the life hacks I will be sharing, are lessons learnt over the last decade. Again, this is not a prescriptive essay on how many hours founders should spend working and how many hours without their phones. But rather few hacks, few suggestions that I have seen work for me and a few fellow entrepreneurs.

  1. Acceptance is the first step. Knowing that you have a situation, makes it simpler to deal with.
  2. Replace pleasures with pursuits: Often, what we describe as pleasure is an addiction. Typically, addictions give pleasure which is very momentous in nature and often disguised in short term happiness, but they are the breeding ground for future problems (like bad eating habits or sleeping patterns). So, if you have to move from ‘Pleasure to Joy’ then follow what was conveyed on the famous battlefield by the Charioteer to the Prince warrior in chapter 18 verse 37 of Bhagavad Gita:
        • Always chose “That which in the beginning maybe just like poison but at the end is just like nectar”. Remember getting up early or going for a run or doing what is ought to be done always appears hard to begin with but give a deep sense of joy and fulfilment if pursued over a long period of time.
        • Adding your source of joy every day in your life not only reduces stress but also increases positive energy that can enable you to do more.
  3. Multiply yourself: As a founder, it is of utmost importance to remind yourself that you are not the company. Hence, to scale ‘Devolution of Power’ is the rule and not just an option. For instance, if your organization is growing fifty percent a year then at least half of your decisions should be devolved a level below and like that all the levels down.
  4. Find your spiritual anchor: Lonely is the head that wears the crown. And hence it becomes even more important to find your anchor. The best anchor is inside us but till we find it….let it be a therapist, a friend, a teacher, or your partner but someone who understands your spirit and you. Don’t hesitate to pay for it, it will be your best investment hence go for a master who understands business and can guide you spiritually.
  5. Like anything worthwhile in life, Relationships need work: Founders are working harder than before, not only to survive or justify the valuation that has been placed on their companies but also to meet the ambitions they have set for themselves. And you need your ecosystem to weather through it. People mistake ecosystems for their professional network. Three signs that your eco-system is working for you are
      1. It makes you authentic
      2. It makes you healthy
      3. It takes you deepHence you must grow it, invest in it, and make it non-toxic. Connecting or celebrating outside or inside work often means partying (I am not saying that it is wrong), but I am not sure if that’s the path to fulfilment. Since we are not an accident, we must complete the universe by playing our role to our potential. We must consider newer ways to celebrate that take us and our ecosystem (Family, Team, Friends and if possible, customers too) deeper hence please consider the fab five:
        • ‘Purpose’ sheets
        • Common pursuits like serving the needy
        • Meditative and reflective processes every week
        • De-code the sub-conscious mind and be open to meeting healers
        • Demystify the Spiritual wisdom by reading together
          And all the above is done with fun and charm. Try and see how your relations, business, and life transform.
  6. Know yourself, better and better: Entrepreneurship is as much the journey to the self, as it is to external validation. Most people call it a success. You should know that you have arrived only when you can claim that you have achieved the state of ‘Sthitpragya’ OR ‘Equanimity’ OR ‘Centeredness’. If these terms are heavy, then recall the beautiful lines from Sahir Ludhanvi which convey the same meaning:

‘Gham aur khushi mein farq na mehsoos ho jaha, Mai zindagi ko us makaam pe laata chala gaya’
(I brought life to a point where there is no difference between sadness and happiness)

Finally, remember the most underrated yet most impactful element of the life hacks. Figure out what will you allow to go into your body, I mean we cannot always choose the air we breathe in, but we can always choose what we eat… so let your body be the temple your soul resides in as that gives you the energy to realise your truth.

Entrepreneurship has never been for the faint-hearted, but even the Brave hearts need to keep themselves at their best. I conclude by reminding you that ‘work is the reward’ and anyway you’re not the doer so why to live in that false sense of ‘Me or I’. Find the real YouInYou! As Mirza Ghalib said:

जब कि तुझ बिन नहीं कोइ मौजूद

फिर ये हंगामा ए खुदा क्या है!

(No one but only you are around,

Oh god! Then what is this chaos.)

Afterthought: probably ‘I’ am the chaos…!