• DATE August 29, 2013
  • URL oneinstitute.com/tile/crazy-successful/

Crazy Successful

What psychological studies teach us about the keys to entrepreneurial successes and failures

Many of the challenges facing entrepreneurs are self-evident – lots of risk, uncertain reward, long hours, and burdensome regulation to name a few. But often overlooked is the psychological, emotional, and physical toll creating a company takes on its founder.

And this is just as true for the mega-successful as for those who achieve only limited success. Before Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk became all-American heroes, writes Jessica Bruder in Inc., even they “struggled through moments of near-debilitating anxiety and despair – times when it seemed everything might crumble.”

This kind of thing, it would seem, simply comes with the entrepreneurial territory. But there may be more to it than meets the eye. “People who are on the energetic, motivated, and creative side are both more likely to be entrepreneurial and more likely to have strong emotional states,” argues entrepreneur-turned-psychiatrist Michael A. Freeman, who researches mental health and entrepreneurship. These strong emotional states can include anxiety, depression, and obsession.

Meanwhile, John D. Gartner, the author of The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (a Little) Craziness and (a Lot of) Success in America, identifies hypomania as a way of explaining the phenomenal strengths and the sometimes debilitating weaknesses of entrepreneurs. “If you’re manic, you think you’re Jesus,” he says. “If you’re hypomanic, you think you’re God’s gift to technology investing.”

Entrepreneurs who manage to cultivate relationships of trust within an entrepreneurial ecosystem will invariably fare much better than those who suffer silently, unable or unwilling to show their vulnerability. And entrepreneurs must find ways to balance workplace demands with responsibilities in other areas of life.

Our communities need entrepreneurs in order to flourish. So for your own sake – and for the common good – don’t try to be a savior.