The #1 Thing you MUST Avoid as a Startup: Burnout

“The only guarantee, ever, is that things will go wrong. The only thing we can use to mitigate this is anticipation. Because the only variable we control completely is ourselves.”

― Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage

I woke up to a fire. Not a literal fire in my house, but a fire in the company.

After another 17 hour day, I crashed for a little sleep only to jump out of bed with my fight or flight mode already rushing.

We’re a young startup therefore everyone on the team has a lot of responsibility on what to accomplish and what they have their hands on each day.

Stress is always high. The smell of smoke and the heat of flames are constantly nipping at you when fires are constantly raging.

Concentration gets pulled thin.

The idea of calmness seems to dissipate from your existence. One problem solved? Onto the next one.

You’re on a race against the clock against your ZCD (Zero Cash Date) and the endless circle of features, upgrades, and bugs that seem to pile in.

The more you grow the more problems are faced.

Welcome to SaaS.

And this day was no different. Except for one difference.

I couldn’t seem to motivate myself.

I sat with a cloud above my head… thinking of all the solutions to run away. I was ready to hide under a rock and close the door.

I was ready to walk away, quit and never come back.

This wasn’t procrastination. It was exhaustion.

Burnout.

And it’s the most dangerous thing that can hit you or your team in your company. ESPECIALLY in the early days.

I read somewhere, that the most IMPORTANT thing a Startup founder has to do, is avoid burnout.

Of all your responsibilities this is a key one. Write that down and remember it.

Nothing can and will sink your battleship faster.

I’ve seen it happen to so many people and they always do return. But it’s later. Months later. Years later…

I don’t care if it’s SaaS, Physical, Digital, Services, etc… whatever you are selling be careful of burnout.

And the question becomes, what are ways to prevent burnout from happening?

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1) Take care of yourself.

You are not a Businessman, you are a Business, man (or woman).

You need to understand and put some perspective on things. As important as some of the priorities and fires are, so are you. If you put yourself in a vulnerable position (especially as the leader) you endanger your company, your team, and your life.

You are doing the opposite of leadership.

Make sure you schedule time for exercise and breaking away from the computer. Clear your mind.

I find the best exercises I do are based in giving perspective to myself.

I try to remember that even in the worst moments, these are just moments in my life and it is NOT my life.

Eating right. Whatever your diet is, just make sure you are eating. Drinking water. Thriving as a human.

You’re a complex machine that needs to be fine tuned. Take care of yourself.

2) Build a team around you that you can rely on.

Ok, this one seems pretty generic… It’s one of the most important parts of building a business!

But, there are two key points we need to outline and they lie in the aspects of “RELYING” on your team.

One is you need to hire people who are great at what they do and know more about it than you do.

Your role is simply to put the best possible people in place for the positions. Now this is hard when you are just starting because of cash flow and you’ll have to find the right balance between when you can afford this and when you need to get someone in.

Sometimes you’ll have to bite the bullet for a little longer to get great people, but if you hire the wrong people it will only cause MORE headaches.

If you can’t rely on them, you’ll never be able to get a breather. You’ll always be so busy checking on what they do (or fixing it).

The other major problem I‘ve seen here is founders who don’t want to give up “control” or feel that people can’t do it right.

After your team gets onboarded, you will NEED to take off those training wheels. It has to happen. You gotta give them the reins and let them make wins and mistakes. It’s part of the learning curve.

There’s always ways to attract great people… from Vesting Equity in the company, to Profit sharing opportunities, to job perks, to titles, and of course organized pay bumps that align with the revenue of the company (so they grow as you do).

Your biggest hurdle is selling great people on your mission and vision. That’s what you need to become great at. Why would great people want to work for you? Join your mission?

Sell that. And you’ll find great people everywhere.

3) Don’t let your team burn out.

This is a hard one to accomplish, but you have to be very aware of this.

As you align and build great people you’ll need to really understand that they are just like you.

Their stress and capacity to deal with high intensity situations is just as vulnerable as you.

Just because you hired great people doesn’t mean that they are superheros who won’t be phased in the same way you are and you can’t push them like they are.

I am so guilty of this myself, but it’s easy to see the negative effects.

Push your people to burnout… and you lose your team.

You lose your team, you’re back to doing it all yourself. You go into burnout. Company dies.

Ok, seems pretty logical. So how can we ensure they don’t burnout?

Be understanding about the hours they work. They need breaks and time off too.

Make time for FUN moments, so there’s a synergy of fun/hard work. Sure work is work, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be bonding as a team and having some smiles throughout the day.

Video game groups, fun meeting hours (beer calls), and group challenges are all ways you build the team and still de-stress on those moments.

Make sure your team is protected from Fires while still able to firefight. What do I mean?

Set up systems that reduce the anxiety of the day to day. Of course, major issues will always pop up, but your goal is reduce this as much as possible to enable max concentration and focus time throughout the day.

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4) Add Perspective.

“In every situation, life is asking us a question, and our actions are the answer.”

― Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage

When the tough times come (and they will) and the fires rage (and they will) and the burnout creeps in (and it will) is the time you need to be the most mentally sharp.

There is no major way to learn this without just taking action and facing these issues.

But the more you face adversity, the more you need to understand that you have to rise to the challenge of becoming mentally strong.

The Mental game is going to be your biggest challenge.

Facing YOU. The voice in your head.

And when you are facing it, you need to add perspective to get yourself out of the rut and back into action.

We have two choices at all times.

Act or React. Let our emotions overwhelm and dictate us or we dictate our actions.

It’s so much easier writing this than dealing with it lol. I’m still guilty of this, but I’m learning each time.

Sharpening my mind and seeing a bigger picture.

This moment won’t last forever. I may not even remember this feeling in a month. Or a week. Or a day. Or even in a few hours.

Keep calm, this is a fleeting moment in our lives and we have a lot of life to live. And a lot to accomplish.

No one ever said it was easy. In fact, everyone said it would be the toughest thing you ever did.

Don’t give up now and get back to work.


If you are dealing with burnout or feel it approaching, it’s time to disconnect.

Take some time to re-align your goals and remember why you started.

Break from the computer and get into some of your favorite passions.

Life will go on, but you have to choose how you build it.

Would love to know in the comments if this helped and if you have faced burnout before.

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 (or less). It's all 100% Free and brought to you by Demio.

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