The downward spiral

I'm not sure if you can relate to this:

I was just listening to an interview with a guest who's been really successful at launching products. At first it was exhilarating: "Wow! This guy's story is amazing! Look what he's accomplished!"

And then I got kind of depressed.

I started comparing myself to him: he's younger than me, he's accomplished more in a year than I have in 5, and his first product has done way better than mine. Looking at his success, I started to feel hopeless; like the race is already over, even though I've just left the starting line.

Do you ever feel like that?

I think the truth is: we all slip into this kind of negative thinking from time to time. What should we do with these thoughts?

Here's what I've come up with:

  1. Realize this could be a symptom of other things. For example, I haven't had a good night's sleep in days. I'm way more self-critical when I'm tired. First step: take a nap.
  2. There's a time to learn from your heroes. But you also have to realize that their story is different from yours. Don't dwell on comparisons. You are your own person, with your own story. The process is going to look different for you and that's ok.
  3. Focus on the people you want to help. This is the key. The most important step. When we're dwelling in self-pity we lose sight of the purpose behind building and launching products: helping other people with their pain.
  4. Practice your craft. Your craft is your delivery mechanism: it's how you're going to deliver help to the people that need it. If you're a writer, write. If you're a coder, code. If you're a designer, design.
  5. Hang out regularly with other people who are on the same path as you. Share your struggles. Empathize with each other. Listen. Offer (and receive) encouragement. Talk it out.

We're self-critical when we put too much pressure on ourselves. Relax: we don't get any closer to our goals by stressing out. Stress is a mess. Take a deep breath. Close your computer. Go watch a movie. Allow yourself to de-pressurize. Have a good sleep.

When you wake up: remember to enjoy your journey. Creating things for other people can be a great joy. Let's enjoy it.

Justin Jackson

PS: I originally wrote this for my mailing list. You can sign-up here.

Published on October 25th, 2013
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