A few days ago I was thinking about how entrepreneurship often manifests as a mental health condition and how the businesses we build will never be enough to make us happy. You can never sell a big enough deal, raise a big enough round, or have a big enough bank account to ever fill the hole in your gut that reminds you you’ve always been, and will always be, an imposter.
Taking this a step further, I was recently doing some high flame coaching with a founder who recently closed their first exist. They worked their ass off and made some great money. For many founders, this sounds like nirvana. But what was interesting about this particular session was how miserable the founder was after GETTING EXACTLY WHAT THEY HAD ALWAYS DREAMED OF.
I call this Post Traumatic Exit Disorder. The giant hole in your heart you’ve been filling with a blossoming ACV and above-average EBITDA was just excised like the 10-pound tumor on season 6 of Grey’s Anatomy. Now you’re left with a gaping chest wound with nothing to fill it with.
Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe in entrepreneurship and capitalism. Those SYSTEMS are not inherently bad or broken. But not unlike what Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, but not your Christianity,” many of the people in those systems are really struggling to find contentment so their only reasonable solution is to make more money. Why? Because many without money fawn all over them. Who wouldn’t want a screaming audience of fawners? The systems themselves are not broken; it’s the intention we bring into the system that shapes how they operate.
I recently read that Peter Thiel turned $2k into $5B in a non-taxable Roth IRA. Do I think the government should take that money and redistribute it? No! Do I think we should unfairly raise taxes on certain individuals because they make shit-loads of money? No! BUT WHO IN THE NAME OF MIDAS NEEDS $5 BILLION DOLLARS TO LIVE? What if – WHAT IF – Peter Thiel was emotionally stable enough to say, “This money isn’t going to make me happy so I’m going to give all my employees a raise.” (for anyone about to lecture me on tax law please focus).
Everything we see, touch, taste, smell, or experience in this world is impermanent. Just like the feeling of putting $5B in your bank account. For a moment it’s probably exhilarating and pleasurable to say, “YAY I DID THAT,” but then the gnawing feeling that I’m a resentful, miserable human being resurfaces, and I go back to my life wondering what I’ll need to do next to stay “happy.”
When we can focus on the things that don’t change and shift our self-worth to intrinsic rather than extrinsic (i.e. relationships, career, financial, social & environmental factors) factors we start to uncover a level of purpose, happiness, and fulfillment that don’t require as much to survive and thrive.