Since 2008 we’ve published 4,000+ articles on Under30CEO.com. I once wore a button up and produced business content like Stop Waiting and Start Making Decisions.
Since then, I’ve gone totally off the grid, (like the last three weeks in Ireland) and what I’m learning is much different from the regular old business jargon. My titles now read: How to Take Control of Your Life, or What Bali Taught Me About Life and How To Use It, or Why Risk Isn’t Real and What It Really Means.
It’s exciting for me because I can really look back and see my own development as my writing has evolved and hope you guys grow with me as you read…
Yesterday, Michael Simmons, whose work I’ve been following since 2004, reached out asking for a quote for an article he’s writing for Entrepreneur Magazine. He asked for my best habit to reduce stress from the ups and downs of running a business. After sending him a very lengthy response, I realized that I needed to share some things with you guys…
In June 2013, my stress was at an all time high.
Under30Experiences was doing well, but was still in its infancy. I was scatterbrained, trying to start multiple other businesses (which I had the bad habit of doing), and had really shitty focus. Under30Media was under some big cashflow stresses because we were putting down deposits on hotels for the 10 trips we planned to run over the next several months.
We were growing too quickly and spread too thin.
I thought I had to go to conferences like other “important people” and be all about the entrepreneur “scene.”
I clearly remember going to World Domination Summit and seeing my friend Louis Lautman… He said something to the effect of, “Dude, what are you in such a hurry for,” and I realized I was stressed out to the absolute max. Later that night over a few whiskeys, I decided I needed to make a change.
I rented a car and retreated back into the woods. I even picked up a hitchiker on the way up Mount Hood, Oregon.
When I got back to New York I decided to go off the grid in my little apartment in Chinatown. The only places I visited were Yoga Vida, the co-working space a half a block from my apartment, and if anyone wanted to see me they had to come to Whiskey Tavern (the bar I lived above).
So what did I learn during this time?
I learned how to detach from my ego.
Okay, well let’s be serious, we are all still learning this. I’m no expert or a zen teacher here or anything, but I feel a serious urge to share what I’ve been practicing.
So, wtf, do I mean by detaching from my ego?
I’m going to broadly define ego as what you think about yourself.
… and guess where most of these thoughts come from?
Your ego usually comes from other people’s thoughts about you, and things going on in the outside world.
For example: My ego was pumped to see an email from my friend Michael that said, “Press Opportunity: Entrepreneur Magazine DEADLINE: Monday”.
“Wow, I’m fucking important! This is why I check my email on my iPhone when I’m still in bed. Thank god I saw this email or the world might have ended without my quote. I love being an entrepreneur!”
Ha! Sound familiar? This is why I’ve gone off the grid here people.
How many times have you been to your local business-card-swap networking event and heard this sentiment?
Now, the first thing I do in the morning is meditate. Not check my email.
Because I don’t want to fill my head with bullshit that isn’t me!
My meditation practice is about actually looking inside and listening to myself, instead of hopping on Twitter and seeing how many people retweeted my most recent article and letting that determine how my day starts.
This means no news in the morning, no social media- I don’t even turn my phone off airplane mode. I do nothing but sit in absolute silence and then start writing.
Writing is my art form, one of the many ways I release energy. I want that energy to come from within, not from reading Tim Ferriss’ blog and him filling my head with ideas.
So back to how to reduce stress from the ups and downs of running a business…
While we continue to try to detach from our egos, it’s important to note:
Please don’t get your self importance from your business or what you “do”. Furthermore, don’t get your sense of fulfillment from anything that isn’t you.
Have a hot girlfriend? Don’t let it go to your head Don Juan. She could get hit by a bus tomorrow.
Remember– I stopped reading Techcrunch and starting reading books on Buddhism… I’m subscribing to the concept of impermanence. Nothing lasts forever. Not your business, not your current relationship, not even your current life. You better start detaching now.
And most importantly, you should start detaching from your ego. It is said this is how you truly transcend suffering.
If you get your happiness from how well your business is doing, you are in for a very very tough ride.
You might kick-ass and be a runaway success story, but guess what, one day you are not going to be that overnight success story.
Michael Jordan is a miserable man since his 50th birthday.
If you want to truly reduce your stress from your life repeat after me:
*You are not your business.*
*Your self worth has no bearing on whether your business succeeds or fails.*
… in fact… You are not an entrepreneur.
You are a human being just like everyone else.
If we all thought like this, we’d be a hell of a lot nicer to that person in traffic who we think is less important than us because we are on our way to a big important meeting.
To recap: find your sense of worth from internal sources, not external sources.
External sources include the media, the comments on your blog, what your mom thinks about you, and even most of the thoughts you tell yourself in your head.
“Ugh, Matt, you are such an idiot.” <<< Guess what? That stuff comes from low self esteem brought on from what other people have taught you to say about yourself. Maybe someone like Jeff Bolt called me an idiot in Junior High School. It’s not Jeff’s fault, his Dad probably taught him to talk to people like that. But it doesn’t mean I have to believe it about myself and repeat it 15 years later.
Okay, take a few deep breaths, ask yourself what you think about yourself and see what comes up.
I bet you didn’t call yourself an idiot.
If you are like me, you just saw Entrepreneur Magazine logos, photos on Facebook of myself hanging out with a bunch of beautiful women on the beach and calling it work, while also flexing my abs…
But guys, seriously. One day this will all be over.
The dude with the long flowing hair up there might look like me, but if I tie myself to my ego and my thoughts about how cool I am, it’s all going to come crashing down.
If I get my sense of happiness or self worth from these external sources, as soon as that stuff disappears, my life is over!!!
And I don’t know about you, but I want to be prepared for the f*cking apocalypse.
Want to build a foundation out of bedrock? Then start practicing this.
Okay so what is an internal source?
Let’s see. How about asking yourself what is truly you. Are you an entrepreneur just because your guidance counselor told you it was a good idea, or because it’s the best way ever to get rich?
When I ask myself what is truly me (and I’ve asked myself this question over 1,000 times) this is what comes up:
I truly enjoy writing. Not because my second grade teacher Mrs. Borgia told me, “One day I’m going to be proud to have been Matt Wilson’s teacher” (total milf btw), but because it’s an amazing release for me.
BTW, even if I never published any of it, or ever got any positive feedback, I’d still do it.
I also truly enjoy being outdoors. And not just because I look cool in my Waveborn sunglasses. (We all know the girl who starts going to the gym, but really just she wants an excuse to buy new clothes.) Truly, from the inside, I love when some crisp air hits my lungs on a day in the backcountry. I truly love the warmth that the sun brings me when I go to the beach, or the exfoliating feeling of salt water during a surf session.
The best part is, when you do the things that truly fulfill you, you’ll come to realize that they are usually super simple.
And for me, the more often I do these simple things, the better I feel from the inside, and the less I care about material things like trying to get rich.
What is incredible about this type of fulfillment from the inside, is that nobody can take it from you.
The first step is asking yourself what is really you. From there, start noticing the things that are really you and enjoy them. Who cares how many people Liked your new profile pic. That’s not “you” anyway…
Questions, comments, concerns? I’ll try to help.
I know these topics can be a bit esoteric and they probably challenge a lot of what you know. As I’ve said before, I’ve only been studying this stuff for a few years, and in no way think I have it all figured out. Even when my ego wants me to believe I do, I have to force myself to stay humble and keep grounded. I don’t want anyone to think I know it all.
I hope this was helpful.
Keep looking inside. There is a lot of cool stuff in there.
Drop me a comment below.
Matt Wilson is co-founder of Under30CEO and Adventurer in Residence at the travel community Under30Experiences. Check out our trips and look out for his book coming early 2015–travel essays and lessons learned over the last 2.5 years abroad.