One of the most challenging things to manage in a startup is your own mental state. Since startups are by their very nature contrarian and uncertain, the entrepreneurial team often needs to be a bit schizophrenic - holding multiple contradicting ideas simultaneously.
There are plenty of examples: Founders need to be visionaries convinced that their idea will change the world. And yet, history clearly shows that ideas change - often dramatically - before achieving true product/market fit. Founders need to act with authority in order to motivate and inspire their team, investors, and customers. And yet learning and flexibility are key in a highly uncertain environment. Founders need to persist in order to make their idea a reality. And yet they need to quit or pivot if going down a dead end. I could go on but I think my point is clear: startups can be extremely taxing mentally because often it is really hard to tell what the right decision is!
While I don't have a magic silver bullet to resolve this issue, I will offer 3 tips that can help manage the entrepreneurial team's mental well-being:
- Accept the rollercoaster - there is not much you can do to change the fact that you will naturally oscillate between incredible confidence and soul-crushing doubt - often several times per day. However, you can accept the rollercoaster as a natural part of the process and employ various techniques to gain perspective - for example, what works for me is writing things down, which helps clarify the assumptions I am making and how I plan on testing them.
- Understand your brain - people are natural born lawyers, not scientists.  In other words, we pick evidence that supports our thesis and disregard contradictory facts, even when they are staring us in the face. That is an even easier trap to fall into in highly uncertain environments. That's why it is crucial to have a clear understanding of key assumptions and work towards explicitly testing and validating them.
- Surround yourself with experienced advisors - creating a support group of people who have "done this before" is incredibly valuable because they are familiar with the constant ups and downs and can help you regain perspective and focus on what matters.
Next, I discuss other issues that the entrepreneurial team needs to spend time on while building the startup.