Surviving the first few months of a startup

Four months into LabDoor, I came home one night especially worn out following another 16+ hour work day. My girlfriend Shoua sat me down and asked me about my day. I said it was fine, and tried to change the subject. She then asked me how it really went. I decided to unravel all the things that were going wrong, from product development problems and troubles validating a business model, to our dwindling cash reserve. As my internal vent broke open and startup issues spilled out, I suddenly stopped in my tracks. Tears were running down Shoua’s face.

That’s when I realized how tough my recent startup journey had been. Shoua had been with me through the entire lifecycle of my last startup, Avomeen. She was used to my long work schedules and knew how much pressure I put on myself to succeed. In LabDoor, I had bitten off an entirely different challenge. We were taking on a $36B industry filled with fakes and frauds, and attempting to fill a regulatory role previously only performed by government agencies with billion-dollar budgets. After months of fighting a strong current, it felt like we were exactly where we started, minus all of our energy.

There are many signs that your startup is taking a toll on you. Are you a 25-year-old with permanent dark circles or bags under your eyes? Experiencing unhealthy weight gain (or stress-induced weight loss, which may be even worse)? When you walk home at night, do you shuffle your feet, too exhausted to even pick up one foot at a time?

Startups are never easy. Here are six key tips to lessen the personal stress on your system:

  1. Remember why you’re here. Any startup founder worth their title knows exactly why they’re here. And it’s not the life-long dream to own the supercar that sat on your wall in your middle-school days. The great majority of startups don’t have an opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange in their future. Instead, focus on the big vision that launched this ship, and the tangible achievements that you can earn along the way. Savor the small wins, and keep your eyes on that audacious goal.
  2. Join an entrepreneur club. It doesn’t matter what form you choose – from a formal startup incubator program to late-night bar crawls – but it’s essential to share your experiences with other crazy startup folks like yourself. It always helps to know you’re not alone. And, if you’re lucky, you may even find a solution to your problems from an entrepreneur who recently tackled the same challenge.
  3. Hit the gym. The first thing that every new startup entrepreneur drops when work gets hard is their health. Don’t think you have time? I guarantee that you will be more productive in 14.5 hours/day of work after hitting the gym than you will with 16 hours/day of sedentary desk time.
  4. Take a day off. I promise your startup will survive 24 hours without your presence. Now whenever I feel like I’m in a serious startup rut, I make a point to stop spinning my wheels, stow away the laptop for a day, archive the unimportant emails, and take a personal day. When I return to work the next day, I can see the ruts, side-step them, and get on with my projects. (Note: This lesson took me until my third startup to figure out. Be smarter than me.)
  5. Regularly vent your pressure. We’ll call this the pressure cooker rule. This one is obvious. Don’t let it all explode.
  6. Loved ones are everything. Whether it’s a parent, sibling, spouse, roommate, or friend, the people who stick with you through these hard times are your true family. Be real with them, and accept their support with open arms. Just try not to make them cry.

Note: This story was initially published on Medium.com.