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Join our Mental Fitness Program

Negative emotions, including stress, are the result of self-sabotage. Mental fitness allows you to travel the startup journey with a positive mindset and boost performance.

Have you ever been really angry at a co-worker? Felt threatened by a competitor or been jealous of a colleague?

Those “negative” emotions are normal and sometimes critical to draw our attention to something important. When we feel fear, immediate action might be needed, e.g., to get out of this situation. But, when those emotions stick longer, we start to feel anxious, complain about our co-workers at home; and a constant feeling of stress setting in.

The cost of lingering negative emotions

The reactive part of our brain, this “inner judge,” helps us survive dangerous situations by following deeply rooted patterns. On the flip side, we’re incapable of clear-headed, creative, or resourceful action when this inner judge is active.

We do the most harm to ourselves and others in those very early seconds, right after we feel hurt, threatened, or misunderstood.

Imagine one of your long-term employees is resigning to move on. There is no need for your reactive brain to rescue you from danger. Yet, our inner judge is already in full swing and fires a snappy remark that might harm the relationship with the person you share so much history with.

Flipping the switch

Switching from our reactive to our creative brain often takes just a little nudge. This helps us empathize with other people or come up with innovative ideas. By establishing routines that let us pause for just a few seconds, we regulate our emotions and allow a completely different region of our brain to be activated – the “inner sage.”

Let’s go back to the case of the resigning employee. Instead of risking the relationship in a rage, you might pause momentarily and listen to her reasons for leaving. By accepting the situation as a fact, you open an opportunity to address retention challenges plaguing you for some time.

Self-command in 10 seconds

We do the most harm to ourselves and others in those very early seconds, right after we feel hurt, threatened, or misunderstood. A snappy response might be quickly forgotten by us but is often burned deeply into the memory on the receiving end.

The good thing is self-command requires the most willpower in the first 10 seconds! Once you overcome the outrage in those early moments, you will find moving to your creative brain much more effortless. That little pause - and maybe a couple of weeks of mental fitness training - is all it takes to switch your brain from outrage about the resigning employee to gratitude for the long journey traveled together.

How do you flip the switch?

It was a beautiful early fall day in Chicago. We had a great event with customers, and I was about to board my plane to New York. Nothing special; done it a thousand times.

Somehow I found myself on the airport floor. Two caring older women leaned over me and asked: “How are you?”. Guess what my answer was? "I am fine!"

“I am fine.” 🫠

What happened? Startup life happened. Too many meetings, not enough sleep, our business was as smooth as a roller coaster, and I was not sharing my concerns with anybody. Everything was fucked up - aka business as usual. And I collapsed.

We can’t assume that people are fine. I certainly wasn’t. And we might want to revisit our language when we want to know how somebody really is. Some ideas I am applying ever since:

Follow up

How are you? Fine! How does fine feel for you?

‘Fine’ is easy, a shield to not answer the question. We need to respect that. Yet, I would have loved somebody to follow up and allow me to share.


What is your status, red, yellow, green?

You open the door without overstepping. If the answer is green, great. Often the answer is not just a color but a path from one color to another.

Embrace the Silence

How are you? Fine! (smile)!?

Give room. The awkward silence might allow them to share if there is more to “fine”.

What happened next back in Chicago? I took the next flight to New York and pretended nothing happened. It took me a couple of years to realize that a change was needed.

Ultimately, I added two hours of sleep to my schedule and opened up to coaching about what was happening in my head. I accepted the nuances of life as something beautiful and, in the process, became a coach.

What is your status 🔴🟡🟢?

  • Writer's pictureDaniel Kraft

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

At the Springsteen concert, we were seated furthest away from the stage, and everybody was glued to their seats. With Wrecking Ball, a woman, easily my mother's age, jumped up in excitement. She immediately turned around to apologize for blocking our view. Too late, nobody was sitting anymore!

She was the spark we all needed, and it became the experience of a lifetime #StepUpToTheLine

The song tells the story of hard times, tearing down the presence and the resilience to rebuild again. It sounds a lot like startup life, doesn’t it? Listening to it from a founder’s perspective is a double-edged sword.

As the disruptors, we’re often challenged and even teased by the status quo:

🎸 So if you’ve got the guts mister 🎸 Yeah, if you got the balls 🎸 If you think it’s your time 🎸 Then step to the line 🎸 And bring on your wrecking ball

That is what we are to many businesses: A wrecking ball demolishing the status quo.

On the other hand, our ideas are often the first draft of a bigger change to come. We have our moment in the spotlight just to be swiped away by an even bigger change.

🔥 Now when all this steel and these stories, they drift away to rust 🔥 And all our youth and beauty, it's been given to the dust 🔥 When the game has been decided and we're burning down the clock 🔥 And all our little victories and glories have turned into parking lots 🔥 When your best hopes and desires are scattered through the wind 🔥 And hard times come, and hard times go

Now we are on the receiving end of the wrecking ball.

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