This post is by Jeff Carter from Points and Figures
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One of the things that has happened since the advent of social media is that the hype cycle has gotten more volume, and different sorts of peer pressure are happening that are causing outcomes and behaviors we never thought would happen. Let me compare and contrast the two.
One thing about entrepreneurs and athletes that want to perform at a high level, they are competitive. Not just competitve, but they have an inner drive and zeal that drives them. This carried over for me when I went on the trading floor. That was the most competitive place I ever saw. If you think pro sports, pro poker, or entrepreneurship is intense you should have had the opportunity to spend a few hours in a trading pit trading your own money where if you lost you couldn’t pay your mortgage.
I was reading this article about AAU basketball is causing young players to have a lot of injuries. A good friend of mine, Mike Mullins, runs one of the top AAU programs in the country. He started the Illinois Wolves a long time ago and has put several people in the NBA. I have been around sports and especially basketball my whole life. My father played in college and was a coach. We always had balls around the house. There was always a basket in my driveway and I would spend hours upon hours shooting at it. When I could drive, I would go to playgrounds and play. The playgrounds I’d go to had a lot of D1 players and future pros. You’d know some of them since a couple of them are in the Hall of Fame. We had plenty of competition if you knew where to find it.
Parents get wrapped up with their kids and live through them. That’s wrong. They push them into these programs. They see the bright lights and want their kids to have it. Unfortunately for them, the kid has to want it. It’s the child’s journey, not theirs. By the way, if neither parent was a D1 or pro athlete, and no one in the family was it is likely that the gene pool won’t be conducive to being a D1 athlete.
Today, lots of kids specialize in one sport at an early age. I didn’t specialize until I was a sophomore in high school. I did run track every year and in the fall was on the golf team and cross country team (different years) just to stay out of gym class. The year I was on the golf team (sophomore) I’d sometimes go to golf practice but most days I played one on one with Tom Rowley who was playing at a local community college.
However, I truly loved the journey. I loved practice. I loved messing around on a court. I loved the process. It was not a means to get into college; although it certainly was a benefit. I wouldn’t have gotten some of the looks I received from the colleges that recruited me without a good jump shot. I was academically strong but not elite.
As an athlete, you learn about failure a lot. You get rejected. Maybe you don’t make the team (see Michael Jordan). It screws with you mentally. Trading was like that too. You might live and die by your profit and loss. Lose money, feel like shit. Make money, top of the world. Plus, in both you are in a “club”. You get to wear a uniform. You have a place to go and ritual. What happens to your identity when they turn the lights off or worse, tell you that you aren’t a member of the club anymore?
I struggled mightily with that myself.
Physically, it seems like players are not as durable as they once were. However, there is no academic double-blind study to back it up. All of this is purely anecdotal. It would be interesting to see but it’s awfully hard to compare generations when you don’t have any data on the prior one.
especially injuries to young players — would impact the NBA the very next season. In 2017-18, the number of NBA games lost to injury or illness surpassed the 5,000 mark for the first time since the league stopped using the injured reserve list prior to the 2005-06 campaign, per certified athletic trainer Jeff Stotts, who has cataloged the careers of more than 1,100 players since that point and is considered the most authoritative public resource for tracking injuries in the NBA. This past season, in 2018-19, the league topped the 5,000 mark again.
Parents are putting kids in programs at really early ages. They mean well, but they might be doing kids a lot of harm. The people that play in the pro games are freaks of nature. They have either a body, or a skill that is outside the normal standard deviation of human performance and most people can’t get there. But, people don’t understand that and everyone thinks their kid can be a pro because they don’t want to tell them not to dream.
Entrepreneurs are in a different lane. Instead of physical, their plight is mental. The thing they share with athletes is that they are insanely driven and competitive. They are high energy. The will to win and perform is high. Being bombarded with social media and all kinds of advice posts on how hard to work, how to build a blowout company, how to become a unicorn aren’t helpful. It’s all over every social media site no matter if it’s just a photo site or a blog site. I read this in the Wall Street Journal but it didn’t surprise me.
Entrepreneurs were 50% more likely to report having a lifetime mental-health condition and reported significantly higher rates of depression, attention-deficit disorder, substance abuse and bipolar disorder than a control group, according to a 2016 paper by researchers at the University of California San Francisco, UC Berkeley, and Stanford University, who surveyed more than 200 founder s.
People talk about “work-life” balance. For me, there never was any. When I wasn’t in the pit trading, I thought about trading. Although, it was easier to check out. Back then, the market sort of shut down and now it is 24/7 just like everything else. You can check your phone and there it is. Business is no different. Email streams in a mile a minute and everyone is always in touch.
Entrepreneurs face a lot of rejection. Their ideas sometimes are so radical, customers are slow to adopt. When they go out to raise money, every VC tells them their idea sucks. Because they created it, it’s personal. Like telling them their baby is ugly. It can be offensive to them depending on how the message is relayed-or depending on their frame of mind.
If you are successful in entrepreneurship, you either sell your company or IPO. Then what?
It is critically important to create some space for yourself, daily. It might be meditating. Steve Jobs used to go outside and walk. It doesn’t matter what it is but it has to be time where you are unplugged and not in your office. Exercise is a good way to go. The physical exertion actually helps your brain declutter. I wouldn’t measure anything. Just run. Just walk. Lift weights until you are tired. Do yoga. With all the devices adding up to a quantified self, quantifying yourself is just something else to obsess over and if there is anything a high performing entrepreneur doesn’t need it’s another obsession.
You have to enjoy the process of building the company. The journey. Never focus on the end. Focus on doing small things each day that delight your customers or employees. It will make you feel good inside. When small good things happen verbally celebrate them.
Brad Feld of Foundry Group was one of the first to open up Pandora’s Box when it came to entrepreneurship and mental health. You might check out his blog to see what he is writing about and some of the resources he posts for entrepreneurs. Talking about it and taking on the issue head on is the way to deal with it.
It is very hard to do and a lot easier to type the advice than activate on it. Ignore the hype cycle. Don’t get caught up in it.
Yesterday, went for a walk on the Cascade River. Here is a waterfall we saw.
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