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Entrepreneurs sometimes do stupid things.
We can’t help it. That’s part of the reason that an entrepreneur is an entrepreneur. She is not afraid to make mistakes, take risks and maybe to look like a fool.
But sometimes those same tendencies backfire. I’ve noticed some of the things that tend to derail other entrepreneurs. When they face the issues I describe below, it’s a signal that they need to stop what they’re doing, evaluate their direction and take action based on what they see.
Are you experiencing any of these?
1. You constantly wonder why the heck you’re doing this.
We all have our moments where we doubt our sanity and question our existence. You’ve probably done it — a moment where you shake your head, snort-laugh and wonder what level of insanity has pushed you to this position.
However, if these thoughts are persistent, unanswerable and maybe tinged with bitterness, it could be a sign that you’re working in the wrong business.
These words were written by an entrepreneur:
I cannot take this anymore. [What I created] is a success of mine. But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it.
The entrepreneur then pulled the plug on his product, worth millions of dollars.
The entrepreneur’s name is Dong Nguyen. He created the viral 8-bit game, Flappy Bird, once the most popular free game for iPhone and Android. He got sick of it. And he decided it was time to shut it down.
That’s OK. If your role as an entrepreneur isn’t fulfilling, then you may need to do something different. It’s better to respect yourself and your work, then to keep doing something that you think is pointless and wasteful.
2. Your family or friends never see you.
Many entrepreneurs are characterized by a single-minded devotion to a goal. Unfortunately, that may eclipse other life issues — namely family and friends.
Nicholas Gremion, an entrepreneur and CEO of Paradise Publishers, explains how he knows he’s too busy: “This might sound corny, but for me, if I’m too tired to play with our dog for at least a few minutes when I get home from work, it’s not a good sign.”
If you’re not spending time with the people — or pets — in your life, then you’re probably spending too much time on your job. Such an obsession can be unhealthy not just for the simple relationship consequences, but also for the professional ones. Unplugging for a while is one of the best ways to keep your productivity high.
Patrick Pichette, Google’s CFO, recently announced his retirement. His epiphany came during a mountaintop experience with his wife. After summiting Kilimanjaro together, she asked him: “Hey, why don’t we just keep on going?” She wanted to explore the world. “So when is it going to be time? Our time? My time?”
That simple question led Pichette to resign from his role at Google, and pursue traveling, learning, and enjoying his life companion.
Maybe your business has had the time it deserves. Stand up from your desk. Walk out. Shut the door behind you. Go spend some time with the people you haven’t seen in a while.
3. You get ticked off. A lot.
Everyone’s going to get angry now and then. That’s OK. There are legitimate reasons to get a bit testy.
But persistent, irrational and uninhibited angry outbursts could signal some deeper problems. (Let’s set aside the obvious results of workplace fights and alienated colleagues.) Angry outbursts are linked to chronic depressive conditions. Too much anger too often can cause dangerous physical and mental problems.
Anger problems develop from a myopic focus on work to the exclusion of all else. Another cause of dangerous anger is the focus on yourself as the sole person who’s holding the company together. These factors, combined with stress as a fact of life can make us blow our top.
In retrospect, the things that make us angry are often inconsequential. They matter at the moment, but not long beyond that.
Often, the best way to reset your anger is to step back from work for a while. Delegate some tasks to alleviate yourself of the pressure. If you face a situation where you think you’re going to get angry, acknowledge your emotion, and then ask yourself, “Will this matter five months from now?’
4. You aren’t making a positive impact.
Not every entrepreneur needs to start a nonprofit, give to charity or create a relief fund. Sometimes, business itself is a positive impact — serving customers’ needs, contributing to a global economy and providing jobs for people.
But if you have a sinking disappointment at your direction in life, it could be an indication that you’re ready for a change.
The inventor of K-cups, John Sylvan, is an example of this sentiment. Sylvan realized that his massively popular invention wasn’t accomplishing his vision of doing good and giving back. Instead, he regretted the silly addictiveness of caffeine and the lack of sustainable design in K-cups. (K-cups are responsible for immense amounts of solid and non-recyclable waste.)
Sylvan decided “to atone for this.” He is now the leader of a solar power company. Instead of feeling culpable for global damage, Sylvan is “confident that we can change the world” for the better.
Sylvan is an entrepreneur who knew that he wanted to make an impact and changed course in order to do so.
It pays to be hard-headed. Entrepreneurs need to power through discouragement, hole up for days at a time, get angry at the right stuff and keep doing what they’re doing.
Some entrepreneurs, however, need to realize that they might be doing it wrong. If these four warning signs characterize your current mindset, you may need to take a break, reset your business or start again.