Elon Musk’s most recent interview with the New York Times was not a “breakdown”. It was a rare, brave public discussion of something most entrepreneurs would rather not talk about. Nothing can protect us from it — not money, fame, or intelligence. But, after Elon’s interview, all entrepreneurs should now be more willing to say: “I struggle too, and it’s nearly killing me.”
Like most emotions, passion can be a great contributor to success, but it can also easily lead to exhaustion and burnout, eroding your well-being and erasing years of hard work. The problem is that we are not born with the ability to manage our own minds, nor the insight to know when we should. Instead, we often we don’t see problems until they’ve become raging fires that we struggle to put out.
To build insight and skills, you need to incorporate feedback from trusted advisors, and work with a professional to identify and practice using mind-management skills until they become habit. This is time-consuming and difficult. As entrepreneurs, we barely have time to eat, let alone spend hours “working on ourselves”. But, Elon’s tearful description of his past year shows how important insight and mind-management skills are. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll soon find yourself unable to take care of your company.
To get started building insight, think about these three questions:
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
- When do I help the company, and when do I hurt it?
- What tasks can I offload to someone else? Why do I have trouble with this?
If you have an advisor or mentor who you trust to give you the hard truth, then you should run these questions by them too.
To begin building skills to manage your mind, consider trying the following:
- Go to bed. Science shows your brain functions horribly the less sleep you get. So your hours awake won’t be as productive as you think they are
- Take a break. You can start by doing this for a short amount of time, working your way up to a vacation or a hobby. You can turn off your phone for five minutes. You need to trust that taking a rest will not cause a disaster, and will increase your productivity, patience, and creativity.
- Make a connection. We are social species are rely on the connections of others to survive and thrive. Call a friend, talk to the barista at the coffee shop, meet your partner for lunch.
While none of these insights and skills will make entrepreneurship any easier, they will help with your self-preservation throughout the journey. Your company needs you in top shape to make good decisions and execute on your vision — and you can’t do that if you’re not able to manage your own genius.