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Hackernoon logoHow I screwed up myself building my dream startup by@emna

How I screwed up myself building my dream startup

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Founder @, obsessed with communication & productivity.

I was looking at the doctor’s face, my heart beating super fast, scared of what will come out of his mouth:

“Surgery is the way to go as we need to determine if it is cancer or not.”

I can tell you that for a min there, my world fell apart and all the worst fears came to my mind. That’s how bad things have gotten. How did I let it get there?

Well let me back up here and tell you how it all started. The dream journey as it begins, following my own advice to every aspiring entrepreneur I ever met: 

“Follow your “why” , that’s the thing that matters the most. That will be the drive. If you don’t have a strong why, you will have nothing to survive on in the bad days”.

Little did I know how further it is from the reality. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I still believe that your passion is the number one ingredient for you to really start and grow a successful business. But there’s so much more you need to be prepared for before getting started.

I’ve been in the startup industry for so many years now, as a coach, accelerator director, program manager and finally a founder myself.

 I’ve heard it all, all the beautiful talks and all the challenges you might encounter, how hard it is…etc. And I always thought as long as I love what I do, I will pull through.


There are 3 things in particular nobody really told me about, or emphasized. 

Friends and Family

I have always been a people person. 

Birthday parties, dinners, get together, you name it, I was the one hosting them all. I love being around friends and family and most importantly I love bringing them joy by doing these things. 

So it is quite a shocker when one day I woke up and realized I had almost zero social life, no plans on the weekend or holidays…as the default plan was work, day after day, week after week. 

You become this workaholic person who’s always busy and that’s the only image your close ones have of you. So as you keep saying “No, I can’t, I’m working”, you bury yourself in this lonely world and people simply stop checking in. As they already know what you will say. “ I can’t.”

But what I soon came to realize is that I was pulling myself away. One of the biggest reasons for that is that I felt that nobody got me. So it became easier to be that way. 

Mental Health

That’s just the beginning of your mental breakdown. 

The taboo reality that no one likes to talk about is that almost every entrepreneur suffers from depression and anxiety. 

The sleepless nights, the heavy stress, the lost or exaggerated appetite, the simple feeling of constant distress. 

What’s worse, is that most of the time you feel you are the only one going through this as every time you run into a fellow entrepreneur, they are like “yeah everything is great!”, yet you know it isn’t. 

On the other hand, you feel guilt and shame to even admit it to yourself, as if you aren’t allowed to. That feeling grows bigger when you open your medicine cabinet and find a collection of Xanax & co that become tools to help you get through it. Terrible tools.

Your health sacrifice

Well all this stress is of course not good and it ends up making your body really fragile, open to any type of potential breakdown. 

As my sleep got terrible, my level of stress hitting the roof with all the speed effect the valley gives you to constantly deliver and my days averaging 18 hours (even when I was folding laundry, I was working), I started getting sick more and more often. 

Then one day , I realized that it has been six weeks since I was last sick and my voice was hoarse…which ended up with me staring at a screen zoomed on my vocal cords and a big red polyp on top of them.

What was I doing? How did I let it get this bad?

Well it all happened because I wouldn’t take a sick day when I simply had to rest. Instead, I found myself discussing a potential cancer prognosis. 

What was it that was do or die, that would lead me to be this stupid? Believe it or not: NOTHING.

That was a big enough scare, was it? Nope. I was still blinded, ignoring it all, even the smaller signals (the wrist aches, the back aches on top of everything else) and kept ongoing until I woke up paralyzed in my bed one day. 

Now that did it.

The good news in all this is that there are way better ways to go through this journey which will hopefully make you smarter than me about yourselves.

So here are the things I want you to do that I wish I did to prevent all of this:

1. Awareness

Take a min and deeply think and envision yourself in the situations I just shared with you. Really do. Being truly aware that this could be you is the first step to prevent it from happening. If that’s not enough, then do this. 

Interview 5 founders who have been at their journey for at least 2 to 3 years, before even getting started. Don’t ask them about their company. Ask them how did they sleep the past two years, did they gain or lose weight, how often did they get sick and how “happy” did they feel. That will give you the truth about what really happens when you make this jump.

2. Support system

Your friends and family are a super important piece of your startup journey. They are your support system. Don’t drift away, as without a support system, you are not gonna make it. You are human and we all need that. If they don’t get it , explain it better but don’t simply shutdown.

 Same goes for your loving partner. Don’t turn down things, be there for the important moments as everything else will still be waiting for you , believe me, and you will get it done.

3. Mental health is real

Our brain is our best asset yet can be our worst enemy. When you enter the realm of depression and anxiety, everything has different colors and you start wearing very biased glasses. 

This is not good for you, or for your business as you will start making bad decisions and you will stop serving everyone, starting by yourself. The minute you feel things are getting bad, address them, go to therapy, talk to fellow founders or advisors. Simply ask for help before it gets really dark.

4. Health

The whole Californian lifestyle isn’t just “a thing”. Taking care of yourself is the true secret of success, as you will be your best version. Eat well. Meditate. Workout. And when you are sick, take a freaking sick day or 5. It doesn’t matter as no success or money can give you that back. 

If you are like me, stuck with a weird body that doesn’t feel tiredness until it crashes, use your mind to put a line on how much you need to work and how much you need to rest. There’s no way you can be productive for 18 hours. You probably are for 6 tops. So give it a good 8 hours than stretched stressful 18 ones.

Remember, put the oxygen mask on yourself first

While all of this might have sounded quite dramatic, I still am in love with my dream, and fighting for it every day. I definitely learnt these lessons the hard way. They allowed me to create great new habits, to be super productive and more balanced. 

I hope this helps you somehow avoid those same mistakes and let you enjoy the unforgettable ride of building your dream company.

Thank you for checking this out. This experience allowed me to write a whole guide about living a healthy life with a clear mind and to launch the productivity insider. Feel free to check them out :)

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Founder @, obsessed with communication & productivity.


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