Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I'm a founder, and I'm feeling down. What should I do?

As a founder, your own emotional health is another key metric you need to manage, and you need to treat it as such.

I rely on three simple interventions:

1) Get a good night's rest.  Failing that, take a nap.

On days when I haven't had enough sleep, every problem seems like a mountain, and every setback makes me want to curl up into a ball.

On days when I've slept well, every problem seems surmountable, and every setback is just another opportunity to overcome.

Get sleep.

2) Eat healthy and regularly.

Your body is a machine.  You wouldn't expect your laptop to perform well if you stopped charging the battery and repeatedly dropped it on the ground, so why do you treat your body that way?

A study of Israeli parole boards showed that these very tough customers (Israeli, remember?) granted parole to less than 10% of prisoners who appeared right before lunch, and over 60% of those who appeared right after lunch.

Saving a few minutes by not eating is insane.  Keep the machine fueled.

3) Talk with friends who energize you.

We all have friends who make us feel happier and more energetic.  Taking the time to enjoy those relationships and their company isn't selfish--it's the cheapest form of therapy the company could buy for you.  Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem is to set it aside to rejuvenate yourself.

TL;DR: Sleep, eat, and spend time with the friends who energize you.

P.S. If you are experiencing actual clinical depression, for goodness sake, seek professional help.  Nothing is worth risking your health or your life.  I wish my friend Jody Sherman had done so.

P.P.S. A version of this post first appeared as a Quora answer.

Monopolies Are A Consequence, Not A Benefit

My friend Peter Sims recently wrote about how he disagrees with Peter Thiel's "Competition is for Losers" editorial.  Thiel argues that monopolies are good for society, and Peter respectfully disagrees.

My own take is fairly nuanced--monopolies are a sign of a healthy market, because they tend to result from innovation in "winner-take-most" markets, but they shouldn't be viewed as a positive.

Even some of the famous monopolies of the past, such as J.D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Trust resulted from innovation in a new industry.  Yet as the case of Standard Oil illustrates, Lord Acton's axiom that "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," applies to corporations as well as people (after all, corporations are people too!).  Counting on the benevolence of a Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Larry Page is a risk I'd rather not take.

Yet we can't simply say, "monopolies bad, Hulk SMASH!"  It's a delicate balance.  Regardless of how much we like to pretend that entrepreneurship isn't about the money, it plays a significant role. The returns of winning a "winner-take-most" market help convince many others to start their own companies.

On the other hand, competition is what keeps people honest. Apple innovates because of Google, and vice versa. Microsoft was able to avoid innovation because it lacked real competition in the desktop OS market.

Bottom line: Monopolies are a sometimes unavoidable consequence of healthy market structures and innovation, but ironically enough, they aren't good for innovation (or the consumer).