“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?”
I love rollercoasters and I always have. And not only the literal sense of the word. My mother used to accuse me of being manic depressive. Although I think that pathologizing it may be taking it a little far, I certainly am a person who experiences highs euphorically and lows despondently and very little in between. I'm a woman of extremes: I work hard, I play hard, I love hard, I hate hard...I don't know how to 'kind of' think, feel or do anything. I've smoothed out the highs and lows a little bit as I've aged, but I'll always be who I am.
The other day I was having a conversation with someone who brought up the fact that she had heard from several sources that they were concerned about my level of commitment to running my company because I "am always posting my runs to twitter." Yes, I have become a little more than obsessed with running these days. It's about the only thing that keeps me sane and even-keeled enough to function on my little rollercoaster. I also don't have much of anything else going on. I live alone. I don't have a partner/boyfriend (yes, I've tried, but that is short-lived at best and I've decided I can't add that extra curricular stress to my life at this moment). I hardly have a social life (unless it involves my startup circle). My son is off and out in the world on his own. I have a dog, but he's a pug so he spends 23 hours a day sleeping. Running is my outlet.
I think I've mentioned this here before, but running has helped my lizard brain evolve quite a bit. I used to chew my nails. It was a disgusting, nervous habit. About 2 months into training I stopped and I haven't bit my nails once since then. Stress used to completely disable me. When faced with rejection, I would go into hiding for days. Since I've started running, my crisis coping skills have increased one hundred fold. I get over rejection in hours and even minutes. My thinking is clearer. My focus is stronger. My concentration levels have increased. I feel more creative. And I'm definitely more grounded in reality.
People talk about the runners high. I love it. It's that one moment of my day where my brain goes into absolute zen state. I recently told my training partner I couldn't talk during our sessions because that 'downtime' for my brain acts as a big recharge. It starts with a tingle, then a wave of something I can't quite describe sweeps through my entire body. At those moments all I think about is how perfectly in flow my body is. Foot after foot, I fly. I no longer feel the ground beneath them. Every muscle is in alignment like a perfect orchestra. Right after I finish my run, my brain comes back online and it is fired up. I get my best ideas and clearest thoughts in the hours right after I finish.
I don't feel that my running (and I run 3-5 times per week, not every day) interferes with my focus on running Shwowp. I feel that it helps me run Shwowp. I honestly don't know if, with my history of manic depressive like mood swings, I could have gotten this far without running. I certainly know that it's going to get me through everything else. Nothing seems impossible and no problem seems insurmountable when I finish a run.
Consequently, I look around me and see many CEO's and startup founders running. I've also worked with many executives in high pressure companies who ran almost every day. Now I understand why and I understand how they handled the kinds of pressure they were under in stride....so to speak.
So, if you are one of the people who question my commitment to my company because I post my runs to Twitter, I hope I've explained how beneficial it is that I run. Also, you should be more concerned when I don't get my runs in. Just recently as I was traveling in the cold and snow and couldn't run, I started to panic a little more and feel a little more anxious again. And if it's merely posting these runs to Twitter that poses the problem, I'd ask yourself, "What of the startup founders who don't post anything?" At least you know how I'm spending my time 24/7. You should feel secure in my level of radical transparency.
[photo from Flickr Commons]