Intrinsic

We all have bad days. When they string together, the stress gets heavy. This mental weight becomes especially unwieldy when the cause is unclear. After a couple down days, I went searching for the origin of my cloudy mood.

Along with insight on entrepreneurship, venture capital, and community building, Brad Feld talks a lot about mental fitness. The entrepreneurial lifestyle is a lonely roller coaster and I’m thankful for leaders like Brad (and many others), who have helped destigmatize the complex circuitry between leadership and mental health.

I found this entrepreneurship & mental health series from Techstars helpful, then wove in this 2015 interview to translate my temporary despair. Brad talked about how he’s gone through serious bouts with depression and through those challenging times, he’s been able to identify one of his intrinsic motivations to be perpetual learning. He went on to describe how even when he was busy and perceived to be successful, if boredom began to set in, an isolating absent of joy may soon follow.

This gave me clarity. I realized that one layer of my own intrinsic motivation is also learning. I like being in situations where I’m exposed to new things, thinking about fresh ideas, solving interesting problems, hearing stories from different people, and building into things I really care about. When there’s a lull in the action, it’s easy to think the ride is over. While this thought is misguided and untrue, it’s still disheartening. Mental fitness means something different for everyone, but here are a few exercises I plan to maintain within my practice.

  • Link learning with teaching.
  • Recognize that the storm will pass.
  • Find trusted peers to release tension.
  • Use this stimuli of stress to focus.

Adam Grant reminds us that strength does not come from ignoring pain. It stems from knowing that your past self has hurt and your future self will heal. Within the crucible of entrepreneurship, hardship is inevitable. Radical self inquiry keeps leaders aware of their mental fortitude. Such awareness then helps us maintain and uncover new stepping stones that illuminate our own path to thrive beyond momentary setbacks.

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Calm is one of my favorite apps. The guided meditations and sleep stories are a healthy aspect of my daily routine. Here are 10 ways to boost your mental fitness, a mental fitness training guide, and free mindfulness resources from these focused friends.

Reluctance

There’s an art to keeping the right people engaged, for the right amount of time. When things feel stale, it’s often a signal of disinclination. One way to infuse new energy into a group, is to create space by releasing the reluctant.

Life happens, so it’s natural for interest and commitment levels to change over time. While engagement may expand, anyone’s ability to contribute can just as easily be reduced as a mission evolves and roles transform.

The spiral of someone’s reluctance will soon create stress between others who are still devoted. The longer this misalignment lingers, the more tension it creates. Even so, people hold on too long and the group fears confrontation. This extends the pain for everyone. The reluctant feel guilty for not contributing, while the zealous begin to resent the perceived lack of integrity. Along with internal toxicity, those being served experience less dependably, which devolves into reduced trust, enthusiasm, and engagement.

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“Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.” -Seth Godin

Keeping an eye on our personal bandwidth adds clarity for what and when to quit. This self awareness helps us stay centered and motivated by the way we spend our time. It also helps maintain good relationships by avoiding the unnecessary roughness of dramatic encounters, even when it’s time to explore a new direction. When bridges don’t get burned, we can make a ruckus, move on, and actually expand our impact while still staying connected.

For leaders dealing with lingering reluctance, let’s finish with a few friendly tactics to keep the group vibrant, while maintaining lasting loyalty from the departed.

An easy way to start, is by respectfully inviting individuals who have written their story, to graduate gracefully. Sometimes, good people simply don’t want to quit on the people/program they care about. When given a polite opportunity to exit with elegance, appreciation leads to a smooth transition. Another approach is to invite everyone to do more. Inviting initiative often provokes less committed members to bail. Lastly, know the end will always come. Be clear with expectations, transparent as things evolve, and keep succession apart of ongoing planning. Compliment the internal clarity with external celebration. Make a habit of recognizing individuals who made a difference in the past and praising those who are being generous now. This nurtures an environment where people are inspired to do their best when they’re involved, without feeling a sense of loss when it’s time to let go.

Replicants

A friendly futurist and DAO developer within our web3dsm community shared this Ray Kurzweil interview that triggered my continued curiosity toward our neon future.

One tangent they take is interacting with replicants. There’s no single definition for what a replicant might be, but I imagine my replicant to be an artificially intelligent, bioengineered entity that has consciousness rooted in the human (or machine) it originated from. This humanoid would index everything I ever created, map the complexity of my network, understand the difference between internalized vs. externalized thoughts, have empathy for how I matured over time, and gain contextual insight from storytelling to form a foundational identity. This identity would support an operating system with core characteristics, essential rules, and different permission levels to guide autonomous growth.

With seemingly limitless advances in technology, interactions with different versions of our past and future self seem inevitable. We’re already speaking to holocaust surviving holograms, watching monkeys play video games with their brain, growing synthetic realities, and experimenting with nanorobotics. As the bandwidth of technology reaches escape velocity, what’s stopping us from pressing the record button to store every angle from every moment? At that speed, how can the linear evolution of humanity’s intelligence fuse with the exponential trajectory of machine learning? Even when it’s possible, do humans want to extend our lifespan?

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Days feel long, but years fly by.

There are more questions to ask and variables to consider, but as we think about futuristic interactions, how might we reconsider the way we spend our time? Would you live your life differently knowing future generations may interact with your own replicant? I have to think our thoughts and actions would be less careless with such a forward-focused mindset. It would also seem that staying in the moment would be more natural when every byte counts.

With a future that gives humans an opportunity to merge with machines, let’s avoid the numbness of endless distractions as we collectively consider ways to transcend time with purpose.

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“…if tomorrow I wake up and I’m sixty years old,I hope when I look in the mirror and ask have you lived,I look right back and say, “shiiit, you tell me!” -Machine Gun Kelly

Tenured

Recognize, connect, and support those who consistently delight those they serve over a prolonged period of time. Rewarding such an initiative makes sense, but at what point does the comfort of a rewarded role devolve into a willingness to sail into the sunset?

When starters run into the aloof, misaligned energy can lead to a standoff. Time is the ultimate release, but what if progress is needed now? Every situation is different because of the complexity of an environment and the people/organizations involved, but here are tactics that seem to work no matter the circumstance.

The first uses social currency. It requires a change maker to set their ego aside, and instead, celebrate all that’s been achieved by the accomplished, yet tired gatekeeper. Use respect, kindness, and appreciation to form a bond. Relationships that feel less transactional often create leniency toward new ideas. When a crack in the wall of inactivity is created, be glue that maintains the integrity of the existing system. For example, “I’m too busy” is a common qualm, so lean into that pain by offering to execute on the idea that has sparked mutual interest. It’s important to be realistic in these moments, because when promises are made, credibility is on the line. As you not only light a path toward progress, but also champion change by evolving ideas into reality, trust is gained and your ability to continue making a ruckus increases. Want to extend your leash further? Take responsibility for failures, but give all the credit away when success is achieved.

If a larger organization is involved, another interesting tactic invites the tenured leader to level up the team by activating a colleague. This provides a new hire the chance to get involved within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, while the organization is seen as engaged within their community. It’s hard for some to understand that time spent in the wild is often more valuable than clocking time in the office, but if the organization allows this person to show up without limitation, everyone wins. The new community member feels the innovative energy and brings more intrapreneurial vibes into the organization, while the community benefits by having another trusted organization in the mix.

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“The way we make things better is by caring enough about those we serve to imagine the story that they need to hear.” -Seth Godin

If you’re reading this, you may be tenured, but it’s unlikely you’re tired. That said, we’ve all found ourselves in a motivational rut or lacking a clear sense of purpose. Along with a few solid sleeps, when I feel the urge to settle, it helps to have fun, build into other areas of your career portfolio, take a few days to rest if necessary, and then get back into the startup community. This creates opportunities to #GiveFirst, ask for help, or get extra curious about the creative work of others. Soon you’ll find new opportunities to collaborate.

New connections that emerge can bring you out of the motivational rut. They can boost your care meter and will add fresh personality to your work. Along with sparking fresh direction(s), you’ll be motivated by others and soon find new ways to be generous with your art. If you’re still thirsty for motivation after tapping into the entrepreneurial ecosystem, I’m here for you as well. Together, we can refuel the idea machine to avoid wasting any more time with being tenured, but tired. Sleep when you’re dead, my friends. Let’s keep building.

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“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.” -Louis L’Amour

Celebrate

Celebrate small wins, mini moments, and game-changing achievements. This reminds everyone how fun it is to be successful. Celebrating also recharges the intoxication that comes with building things that matter. This makes people more eager to tackle new challenges, so do it often. With a connected collection of diversified milestones to keep everyone united, accountable, and motivated, here are a few easy things to celebrate.

– New Hires
– Work Anniversaries
– Product Releases
– Fresh Features
– Customer Testimonials
– Record-Breaking Activities
– Community Gatherings
– Media Spotlights
– Industry Awards
– Event Highlights
– Holidays
– Failures

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Working to establish a few cool milestones and creative ways to celebrate them? Here’s an NFT to unlock some time together!

Most companies love to celebrate together, but too much of a good thing can lead to unnecessary drama. In contrast, when there aren’t enough good times, the team forgets how to have fun as a team. To stay equitable, listen and learn how different people respond to business breakthroughs. As you consider what and ways to celebrate, invite everyone into the activity planning process. Milestones may not change, but the way you celebrate them sure can. Connecting achievements with inclusive celebrations will motivate everyone, while also infusing a freshness into the mix.

As we celebrate in style, the entire team is supported by a performance-based culture where everyone feels included and has fun building as one.