How to better handle stress in a startup?

08 February 2024

Hey Vadim,

Thanks a lot for the articles, they help a lot.

I've been on a pretty wild journey these past few years, and I find myself at a crossroads, looking for some guidance. A few years back, I managed to secure a spot in the top university of my country in Software Engineering, (not in the US though). This was a significant achievement in itself. I was really happy at the time, I thought I'm on the right path, I can finally start making good money. However, in pursuit of a dream, I made a decision that many might question โ€” I dropped out of highly prestigious university to join a startup as one of the first employees with options, and they even offered me to be named co-founder. This wasn't a decision made lightly; I always wanted to build something from the ground up. Startups seem so cool to me, they called to me, and I answered, leaving the traditional path of education behind.

I pride myself on my ability to build habits, maintain consistency, and uphold discipline. These traits have served me well before, but now I've identified a significant bottleneck in my journey: my resilience, or as some might call it, my grit. When faced with problems, I tend to procrastinate, I'm afraid of solving problems, I shy away from the challenge rather than confront it head-on. My pain threshold, it seems, is relatively low.

Despite this, returning to university is not an option I'm willing to consider. I've set my sights on the startup path, and there's no turning back. The question now is, how do I learn how to handle stress? to solve problems instead of leaving them for the last moment. I'm reaching out to you for advice. Are there any books, podcasts, or influential figures you'd recommend that focus on building determination and resilience? Have you had similar challenges?

Thank you for taking the time to read my story and for any guidance you can provide.


Dear Reader,

First off, let me commend you on the courage and determination you’ve already shown on your journey. The achievements you’ve shared, from your academic success to joining a startup as a software developer โ€” speak volumes about your potential. You’re doing great so far. Also, I wouldn’t say you shy away from problems, your decision to leave university for the startup path is a very bold one, and it’s clear you’re someone who doesn’t hide from making tough decisions.

I can say I walked a similar path, I wanted to drop out of the university multiple times, though not for the same reasons as you, I just thought that I don’t have anything to learn there (I was wrong though!).

Even though I didn’t drop out of the university, I did learn how to handle stress better. My journey was filled with its own set of challenges. Based on my experiences, I’d like to share some thoughts that might help you understand yourself better.

Getting shit done is a skill that can be improved.

The first and perhaps most crucial lesson I’ve learned is the value of embracing suffering, hardship, and failure. You will fail. Again, you will fail. Eventually. At something. And failing is not just inevitable aspect of life but is, in fact, our greatest teachers. I encourage you to take risks, knowing well that not all will lead to success. Solving every problem is taking some risk that you will solve it wrongly. It’s through these failures that you’ll learn resilience and discover what it truly takes to succeed.

More mistakes = easier to overcome fear of your startup failing.

Traveling, especially to places vastly different from your own, can also offer invaluable lessons. It exposes you to new perspectives, challenges your assumptions, and teaches you about resilience in ways you might not expect. Spending time in third-world countries, for instance, can provide a profound understanding of what it means to survive and find happiness in the most challenging circumstances. Once you see how people live all over the world, you wont be scared of loosing it all. These experiences can significantly impact your startup journey, offering insights into resilience.

At the heart of every successful entrepreneur is a strong ‘why.’ This goes beyond the desire for financial success or recognition. It’s finding a purpose that drives you, something that gives meaning to your efforts and sustains you through the toughest times. Whenever I get up to solve problems for my company, I don’t really think about the problems themselves โ€” I have in my mind the WHY I need to do what needs to be done. There are employees who depend on me, there are families who rely on financial stability of the company, and there’s also a dream that I want to realize. This purpose is a beacon, guiding you when the path ahead seems unclear. Reflect on what truly motivates you, and let this understanding shape your journey.

A good suggestion to handle stress better is finding a mentor who can provide a safety net as you navigate the complexities of startup world. A good mentor can offer guidance, share valuable insights from their own experiences, and provide the support you need to take risks and learn from your failures. Don’t underestimate the power of a bi-weekly call to clear your head with someone who knows better.

Maybe it can get easier to develop grip with some self-discipline? Define clear, measurable goals for where you want to be in 1, 3, and 6 months, and then work backwards from them to understand what needs to get done. Understand what success looks like to you, and be equally clear about what constitutes failure. This clarity will help you stay focused.

Finally, be mindful of the risk of burnout. Entrepreneurship is demanding, and without proper care, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed.

Your life is a movie and your path may be challenging, but it’s also filled with opportunities for growth and fulfillment. Keep pushing forward, stay true to your ‘why,’ and never lose sight of the impact you wish to make.

Wishing you all the best on your entrepreneurial journey

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  • Sasha

    Your emphasis on learning from failure truly hit home for me; it’s a relentless teacher that’s shaped my resilience more than success ever could. Mentorship, as you pointed out, acts like a guiding light, preventing us from straying off course, a valuable reminder in the chaotic startup world.

  • Jacob B.

    Your piece on facing failures resonated with me. Accepting and learning from mistakes has significantly shaped my journey. Setting short and medium-term goals has indeed kept me focused, a strategy that can’t be overlooked. Thanks for highlighting these critical aspects!

  • Rasmus

    I learned a lot from diving into projects that were way over my head. It was scary, but every time I failed, I picked up new skills that made me better. After each project, I’d take some time to think over what happened โ€“ what I did wrong and what I could do better. Those reflections turned my failures into stepping stones, and I gradually saw myself improving.