Brad's Books and Organizations

Books

Books

Organizations

Organizations

Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

« swipe left for tags/categories

swipe right to go back »

Burning Out

Comments (11)

Andrew Hyde – the wonderful, fun, and friendly founder of StartupWeekend – wrote a great post recently On Burning Out.  He’s back – after taking a long break – which is great.  Last week I had dinner with another long time friend and entrepreneur who told me he "had the blues."  His company had a strong 2007 and is well positioned for 2008, but he’s been sick since the holidays, has been feeling down, and can’t seem to shake it.

Burning out is a chronic problem with entrepreneurs. In the early 1990′s – for a year before and after I sold my first company – I went through a tough period where I got very depressed.  I held it together and got through it, but the memory of how I felt is never far away.  I was completely burned out.  I’ll be forever grateful to Amy and my business partner Dave for putting up with me during this time period since they were the ones that had to deal with the brunt of my depression.

A week ago, while lying in bed, I told Amy that I felt inappropriately anxious.  Very little rattles me and whenever I feel anxious, I know something is up. I’d had a mild cold for a couple of weeks, had just come off three weeks of "chill out time" in Keystone at the end of the year (where I worked, but not that hard), and was off to a really intense start of the new year.  I’m also running a marathon in mid-February and even though I had been sick have been logging plenty of miles.

I woke up at 4am (an hour earlier than normal) – wide awake.  I got up, worked, and at breakfast with Amy a couple of hours later repeated that I felt weird.  She looked at me and wisely said "I bet you are just exhausted."  This didn’t really make sense since I’d just had three weeks of chill time, but I hadn’t slept much the first week of the year.

I fought through the day, got home early, and went to bed at 7pm.  I slept straight through to 8am the next morning, got up, and felt great.  The anxiety was gone and a week later I don’t really remember it very well.

I put in another 14 hours in bed on Friday night – sleeping well into the afternoon on Saturday.  I ran 16.33 miles on Sunday and felt great.  Whatever vestiges of my cold, fatigue, or anxiety were completely gone. 

I have simple advice for all entrepreneurs – listen to your body.  Remember the quote from Dune "Fear is the mindkiller" and remember that most fears and anxiety are born of fatigue.  Sometimes I forget, but I have this awesome life partner who reminds me on a regular basis.  Don’t worry about "pacing yourself" – that’s probably not possible – but when you see signs of burn out, take it easy for a little while.

  • Alex Iskold

    Da Vinci was right – no sense to fight the nap!

  • http://www.PersonalBoardofAdvisors.com David Sandusky

    Thanks for sharing. Entrepreneurs need to know they are not alone. Integration is a life-saver.

  • http://www.artifacting.com/blog hubs

    This is not just advice for entrepreneurs, but for anyone that works hard and plays hard. Hell, this is good advice for anyone, period.

  • http://blog.icontsi.com Neil

    I make it a point to sleep before mid-night every night and get up at the same time every morning. Rhythm is important to your body. Don't forget, even entrepreneurs need to sleep sometime.

  • Rick

    Related to burnout is letdown. Seems that every time I get through a period of high intensity that ends abruptly (with either success or not) there's a huge letdown that results in getting sick, fatigued and depressed. Lack of adrenaline or endorphines perhaps? And I find that exercise is the best treatment.

  • http://wanderingstan.com/ wanderingstan

    As an entrepreneur there is a temptation to sacrifice yourself. To redouble efforts through tough times when your body is clearly telling you to lay off. Perhaps it is too many scenes from Hollywood movies: the hero has to fight on, just one more intense surge of work and then…victory at last! I certainly have found myself falling into that lie–rarely is the situation as dire as in your fantasy–and falling into blues or worse.

    For myself, the basics of emotional health have always come down to: spending time with friends, regular exercise, new challenges. And yes @Alex, naps help too. :)

  • http://www.movingfrommetowe.com/ Kare Anderson

    Your advice might have helped a famous 28-year-old stay alive. For more proof of the need for sleep – for mood and for retaining memory, read book, Carved in Sand
    – Kare

  • Martin Edic

    One thing I found really useful is a book called The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh, which is a semi-business related book about mindfulness. Listening to yourself is sometimes a hard thing to do. He offers a simple means of reconnecting.

  • Brad Bernthal

    Johns Hopkins Med School's John Gartner has a book, The Hypomanic Edge, which makes the case that one of the engines of America's entrepreneurial success is a high % of hypomaniacs among its population. While this larger thesis is hard to prove, I'm fairly convinced that Gartner is right that many in the entrepreneurial world are hypomanic, prone to the types of personal boom-bust cycles discussed above, and that recognizing this phenomena may actually be a good thing.

    In some respects, hypomania can be seen as the “good kind of crazy.” Hypomania is related to mania but is not itself an illness — indeed, it is a “temperment characterized by an elevated mood state that feels highly intoxicating, powerful, productive and desirable” to the hypomanic. Hypomanics tend to be filled with energy, flooded with ideas, wildly ambitiouss, able to work on little sleep, filled with feeeling that s/he is brilliant and chosen for greatness, risk takers, overspending in personal and business life, fast talking and gregaroius, and highly charismatic. Not surprisingly, with the boom of furious individual productivity often comes cycles of necessary down time. The book provides an interesting study of the mind set and cycles of innovative people.

    Brad

  • http://www.worldwidelexicon.org Brian McConnell

    Sleep is the most important thing. I don't have an alarm clock. Go to bed when you tired. Get up when you are awake. Simple advice, but it makes a big difference. You can cut some corners, but lack of sleep catches up with you quickly.

  • Alex Iskold

    Da Vinci was right – no sense to fight the nap!

  • David Sandusky

    Thanks for sharing. Entrepreneurs need to know they are not alone. Integration is a life-saver.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/hubs164 hubs164

    This is not just advice for entrepreneurs, but for anyone that works hard and plays hard. Hell, this is good advice for anyone, period.

  • Neil

    I make it a point to sleep before mid-night every night and get up at the same time every morning. Rhythm is important to your body. Don't forget, even entrepreneurs need to sleep sometime.

  • Kare Anderson

    Your advice might have helped a famous 28-year-old stay alive. For more proof of the need for sleep – for mood and for retaining memory, read book, Carved in Sand
    – Kare

  • Rick

    Related to burnout is letdown. Seems that every time I get through a period of high intensity that ends abruptly (with either success or not) there's a huge letdown that results in getting sick, fatigued and depressed. Lack of adrenaline or endorphines perhaps? And I find that exercise is the best treatment.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/wanderingstan82 wanderingstan82

    As an entrepreneur there is a temptation to sacrifice yourself. To redouble efforts through tough times when your body is clearly telling you to lay off. Perhaps it is too many scenes from Hollywood movies: the hero has to fight on, just one more intense surge of work and then…victory at last! I certainly have found myself falling into that lie–rarely is the situation as dire as in your fantasy–and falling into blues or worse.

    For myself, the basics of emotional health have always come down to: spending time with friends, regular exercise, new challenges. And yes @Alex, naps help too. :)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/martin_edic2261 martin_edic2261

    One thing I found really useful is a book called The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh, which is a semi-business related book about mindfulness. Listening to yourself is sometimes a hard thing to do. He offers a simple means of reconnecting.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/brad_bernth4780 brad_bernth4780

    Johns Hopkins Med School's John Gartner has a book, The Hypomanic Edge, which makes the case that one of the engines of America's entrepreneurial success is a high % of hypomaniacs among its population. While this larger thesis is hard to prove, I'm fairly convinced that Gartner is right that many in the entrepreneurial world are hypomanic, prone to the types of personal boom-bust cycles discussed above, and that recognizing this phenomena may actually be a good thing.

    In some respects, hypomania can be seen as the "good kind of crazy." Hypomania is related to mania but is not itself an illness — indeed, it is a "temperment characterized by an elevated mood state that feels highly intoxicating, powerful, productive and desirable" to the hypomanic. Hypomanics tend to be filled with energy, flooded with ideas, wildly ambitiouss, able to work on little sleep, filled with feeeling that s/he is brilliant and chosen for greatness, risk takers, overspending in personal and business life, fast talking and gregaroius, and highly charismatic. Not surprisingly, with the boom of furious individual productivity often comes cycles of necessary down time. The book provides an interesting study of the mind set and cycles of innovative people.

    Brad

  • Brian McConnell

    Sleep is the most important thing. I don't have an alarm clock. Go to bed when you tired. Get up when you are awake. Simple advice, but it makes a big difference. You can cut some corners, but lack of sleep catches up with you quickly.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCaaagxbYt4 Cialis

    V7IrZU Excellent article, I will take note. Many thanks for the story!

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCaaagxbYt4 Cialis

    V7IrZU Excellent article, I will take note. Many thanks for the story!

Build something great with me