From The Atlantic, something that sounds like a serious First World Problem, except it’s a human problem: depression among startup founders.
In tech circles, depression is “more prevalent than anyone really talks about,” Brad Feld, managing director of the venture capital firm Foundry Group, and co founder of TechStars told me. Building a company involves long hours, late nights and an enormous amount of stress. The competitive nature of the startup industry—less than 10 percent of ventures succeed—discourages people from talking about their problems and feeds into the myth that successful founders are confident and in charge at all times…
Stress, uncertainty, youth and isolation—the virtual cornerstones of today’s startup—have all been shown to increase likelihood of developing the disorder. Irregular work hours and constant high stress levels can lead to both social isolation and sleep disturbances, which can aggravate depression and make people even more volatile. It’s almost a perfect storm, says Maurice Ohayon, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine. “Any psychiatrist can tell you that this population is particularly exposed,” he told me.
Of course, as the article continues, it’s okay to have been through a dark episode, so long as you can represent it as a wandering-in-the-wilderness, it’s-made-me-stronger (and “you-investors-didn’t-lose-money-because-of-it”) story.
But while our first impulse might be to dismiss this as the ultimate Poor Little Rich Kid phenomenon (especially because there are lots of badly-behaved founders who don’t seem to suffer from depressions, but rather from the condition known as “being a jerk“), it’s only a more extreme version of a problem many of us have: the sense that we can never unplug from our jobs, that the work is never really done, that if we take any time off the world will run past us, and that we’re ultimately trapped by whatever measure of success we “enjoy.” The urge to busyness defines modern life.
If there was any group that needed to learn the principles of deliberate rest, it’s this crew. Maybe I should pitch a workshop on it to some accelerators.