Let’s face it, if you’re an entrepreneur it’s inevitable that you’re going to go through a serious roller coaster of emotions. One day you’re on top of the world and the next you feel like you’re about to crash and burn! It’s an occupational hazard of being an entrepreneur, and you just can’t get around it.

As Marc Andreessen puts it:

“First and foremost, a start-up puts you on an emotional rollercoaster unlike anything you have ever experienced. You flip rapidly from day-to-day – one where you are euphorically convinced you are going to own the world, to a day in which doom seems only weeks away and you feel completely ruined, and back again. Over and over and over. And I’m talking about what happens to stable entrepreneurs. There is so much uncertainty and so much risk around practically everything you are doing. The level of stress that you’re under generally will magnify things incredible highs and unbelievable lows at whiplash speed and huge magnitude. Sound like fun?”

In fact, there are four distinct emotional “Stages” on “The Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster” (according to Cameron Herold, founder of Backpocket COO and former COO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?), and you’ll go through all of them — repeatedly.  Traversing the emotional spectrum from optimism to pessimism to hopelessness and back to optimism — is all completely normal in the life of the entrepreneur.  The question isn’t how to avoid these stages (you can’t), but rather how you can recognize and harness them! See how many of these ‘fit’ you?

  • Does your mind get flooded with ideas?
  • Are you filled with energy?
  • Are you driven, restless, and unable to keep still?
  • Do you often work on little sleep?
  • Can you be euphoric?
  • Do you easily get irritated by minor obstacles?
  • Can you burnout periodically?
  • Do you feel persecuted by those who do not accept your vision?

I can share with you that I am often climbing up or racing down.  Sometimes I think my stomach is going to turn.  So what is there to do?

Well, I have three tips for you today.

  1. Learn to Love Lists. This is a tough one for me, as I tend to be very compulsive.  A list surely will cramp my style and stifle my creativity.  I am surprised to find that this is NOT the case.  The very fact that I write a list helps me to focus on short, mid and long term goals.  And these lists give me comfort when the roller-coaster is plummeting at break-neck speed and help me to get right back on track when my knees are still wobbly.  Prioritize your business plan with a series of lists, noting your daily goals, weekly, monthly and quarterly as well as long term goals.  Believe me, this helps a lot.
  2. Find a Sounding Board apart from yourself, your business and your private life.  I have a great confidant and cheerleader in Javamom over at Javaline.  She lives on a different continent and is for various reasons so “other” than I am  that her words are often a welcome fresh perspective on my situation.  I also appreciate her guts to say things which others may shy away from saying (she tells the truth as she sees it), which is indispensible if you really want to push yourself forward.  If you have not got a listening, critical ear, you are missing out on a very valuable asset.  Javamom also helps me to put my own issues aside as it is a reciprocal relationship:  hearing and reading about her struggles often helps me to put my own challenges back into the right perspective.  Finding yourself a valuable sounding board will help you in the ups and downs of online life.
  3. Learn to Enjoy the Ride. If you can’t learn to enjoy the suspense of the climb and the thrill of the fall, you are not going to be an entrepreneur for long.  Keeping sight of the lighter side of it all will allow you to remain creative, stick through the narrow and dreary days and ride on the wave of the excitement.  Lay back and enjoy the ride, it is why you got in line to begin with.

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Would you like to read more?  Cameron wrote up a detailed report over at Tim Ferriss’ place entitled “Harnessing Entrepreneurial Manic-Depression: Making the Rollercoaster Work for You“.  Here is a small excerpt, however I encourage you to go and read the full description of the four stages.

* Stage 1: The first stage of the concept is called “Uninformed Optimism”. At this stage on a rollercoaster, just getting to the top of the rollercoaster, you experience feelings of an adrenalin rush, characterized by excitement and nervous energy.

* Stage 2: The second stage is called “Informed Pessimism”. As you ride over the top of the curve you now have a bit more information. Feelings of fear, nervousness, and frustration begin to set in. Perhaps you even want to get off of it.

* Stage 3 – The third stage is called “Crisis of Meaning”. You’re past scared. You feel despair. It’s as if you’re standing on the edge of a cliff ready to jump, and you begin to think “Today the rollercoaster’s going off the bottom of the track for the very first time.” You feel helpless and you’re both terrified and frozen.

* At this point, you face a critical juncture. You can come off the bottom of the curve and crash and burn, which is when your business goes bankrupt, you lose your marriage, you start drinking, or you end up in a doctor’s office because of stress. Or you can come around the corner because you’re getting support at “Crisis of Meaning” and you can enter an upward swing call “Informed Optimism”.

* Stage 4 – Informed Optimism.
You’re calm. You’re informed. You might even say you are cautiously optimistic.