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Well, my latest startup failure left me with around $50k personal debt, some legal pursuits, expired residence visa in the country I lived in, and a 3 months old baby daughter to care and provide for. And right, no job and no upcoming interviews.

I am sorry for a probably uninvited comparison — I am not implying that my situation is harder, and I know that burnout is a serious shit. It takes months to recover.

Some things to consider:

1) Even if you feel like a failure, you are not. You are a success. Our feelings are not a reliable indicator of personal value, especially after burning out.

2) Try to do something where you can feel small improvements every few days, with enough runway before productivity plateau. Running, meditation, skateboarding, playing guitar, rock climbing — whatever looks the most interesting to you, and looks easy enough (it's important). Regularly feeling improvements in any activity is the best therapy I know.




(2) is very important advice.

Don't worry about the big picture.

Every day, find yourself some wins and celebrate them.

Maybe it's something as small as brushing your teeth. Dental hygene rocks -- go you!

Or leaving the house and going to Starbucks, even if only to browse Reddit. Hey, getting out that door can be a big challenge.

Maybe it's going for a run or a hike. You totally owned that half-mile.

Whatever it is, write it down in a list, and look at yesterday's list every morning.

Every accomplishment, no matter how small, is a step forward.

Celebrate the fact that you made that step, and didn't give up.

One more thing:

I don't know where you, the OOP, are, mentally.

So while burnout is serious shit, depression is even more serious shit.

And we don't talk about it enough in the tech community.

Whenever I move to a new country, I immediately identify a local English-speaking hospital and dental practice. Because if I ever need them, I will need them on a very tight timeframe.

So, I would invest a little time and find a quality psychiatrist. Somebody that you feel comfortable talking to, and that gives you good advice.

Do what you would do with any professional service, and shop around until you find one you really like.

That way, if you ever really do hit rock bottom, you know where you can go, and don't need to start searching when you're in no shape to do so.


Can not agree with this enough. Burnout leads to serious depression; it left me in the ER a few times. DON'T stress man. Things work out eventually.


Thank you. Even if things are a little different for every person as they naturally are, this is good advice and I genuinely appreciate the positive attitude. As someone who has struggled with depression quite a bit, I generally have a knee-jerk reaction to "just be positive" advice, but this really sits a nice middle ground between "be positive" and "find a way to be as positive as you can".


"Just be positive" is horrible advice, even for non-depressed people.

Sometimes your world really has gone to shit. There is no shame in admitting that. Despair isn't limited only to people that have mental problems.

So you treat it like any other survival situation: take stock of your resources, focus only on your next action (and on nothing else), celebrate every win that you get, and realize that failure is going to be part of the process, too.

You're going to need every ounce of motivation and positivity that you can muster, and those ounces don't come free. So earn them, no matter how small, and bank those victories for the next day.

Slogging through a long and grueling hike isn't about focusing on the summit of the mountain. It's about taking one step. And then you repeat.

Sure, it might not be fast, and it might be hard as hell, but if you just don't quit, you will make it through.


>"Just be positive" is horrible advice, even for non-depressed people. (...) treat it like any other survival situation: take stock of your resources, focus only on your next action (and on nothing else), celebrate every win that you get, and realize that failure is going to be part of the process, too. You're going to need every ounce of motivation and positivity that you can muster, and those ounces don't come free. So earn them, no matter how small, and bank those victories for the next day. (...)

In other words, "just be positive"?


>In other words, "just be positive"?

For incredibly poor interpretations of the phrase "just be positive"


Is that not being positive? With every step, I'm sure the will to quit may come, but you will never reach the summit if you quit. Therefore, if you focus on NEGATIVITY like "I'm not going to make it!" YOU NEVER WILL. If you forge on, at least you're progressing, and that is something to help motivate you to finish your mission.


Of course! :) I have to be positive for my own sake. It's in my best interest to spread this to others, especially those who may be struggling as well. Psychologically, this is a very rewarding thing to do..even when you don't feel the best, if you can make another happy, it will most likely make you happy as well. I'm glad you cared enough to respond :).


Piggybacking on your point, there's a ton of value in linear relationships and guaranteed wins.

If you pick up a guitar and play it for an hour, you're probably going to get a little bit better. Likewise, if you go for a run, you're going to be a little bit faster the next day.

These sorts of relationships can be really good for our brains after founding a startup, where there isn't always a clear relationship between what you put in and what you get out.


This happened to me awhile ago too. Some mismanagement on my part. Left me with around 44k of debt.

I never let that put me down. What I did instead was to find more work since I do consulting and pay down the debt and still get a decent living.

So lesson is to learn from your mistakes and find solutions to your problems and keep on fighting.

You'd be surprised how many people actually have it worse than us but the key here is to not give up.


I agree on #2. I burned out and lived off my savings for a while (granted I was fortunate in that I HAD savings), and started biking and working out more to try to accomplish a long-time goal which I had always told myself I didn't have time for. I lost 45 lbs and eventually started gaining muscle. Being able to bike farther and farther each day without wanting to die gave me motivation to keep going, and further the numbers on the scale helped.


"Our feelings are not a reliable indicator of personal value, especially after burning out."

This is awesome advice for any situation brilliantly sumerized. Thank you!


Ha, throwaway here, too - I wanted to post that kind of question as well in the last weeks, but I am starting to figure how to get back on the track.

My background: 39, failed a couple of companies - the last one was the only true high profile project (in biotechnology). As a bonus, my co-founder tried to make me sign some IP related documents once we were going under, proving that the person I was living with the last two years of my life was a complete human disappointment.

I am a scientist, multilingual, deep expertise in chemistry, skills in biotech, IT, and the whole startup salad. CV wise in Europe, I am totally out of the norm, have no life partner, and had to struggle to get back to life. No savings left, so I actually moved in to the cellar of my parents place. Additional bonus: All the stress of the last years start to pay off and gave me some bad health surprises, and I had to face a 2-3 month long depression.

Fortunately, I got our of it, and I am not facing the same thing?

Where do I fit in? What should I do with my beautiful, finite life? Work in a company? Get a wife? Get kids? Save up money to start my next project?

Take a break, think about what you want in life, re-evaluate your situation, and move on. C'est la vie.

If anyone wants to get in touch - here is my email: mfv@freeshell.de

:^)


Even if you feel like a failure, you are not.

"Remember that failure is an event, not a person." Zig Ziglar


Your situation sounds much worse. There is no need to apologize for making a useful comparison which brings perspective to the discussion.

No offense but most of the sob stories that make HN front page sound like whining from a spoiled brat. Your case sounds like proper bad/tough.

I guess at least you've gained some skills from all this.


2) is very important. I was in a rather similar situation as OP and thought "I have to do things to keep my mind distracted", so I started trying to do several things every day. After a while I wanted/needed to have a way to track my own habits and I came up with https://everydaycheck.com . Really, doing a little bit every day helps in not feeling like an imposter!


Are you still at the 50k personal debt, legal pursuits, etc?

As someone about to start the dreams - I'm curious.


The debt is less now, and I now have the means and the plan to repay the rest. All in all, everything is good.


Wow, thank you for the perspective. I've been feeling similar, but on the spectrum my situation is not so bad. Do you have a blog or contact? I'd be glad to get to know you.


> Well, my latest startup failure left me with around $50k personal debt, some legal pursuits, expired residence visa in the country I lived in, and a 3 months old baby daughter to care and provide for.

I'm having trouble imagining a scenario where the last item is really a proximate consequence of the startup failure (rather than a bit of context that makes the problems that are such consequences more acute.)


This was around 3 years ago. Things are much better now.

Some context: not all startups are financed with external investments; some happen to run from founders' personal savings and debt. I consider myself, as an ex-CEO, to be fully responsible for the failure, but it doesn't make myself a failure. I lived and learned through the experience.


probably for the same reason there were so many summer 2009 babies in apartment buildings full of wall st types. :)


Despite the smiley, there's​ a not-implausible explanation implied by that.


> I'm having trouble imagining a scenario where the last item is really a proximate consequence of the startup failure

That's pretty easy for me. Let me try to give an example: start-ups are really hard on relationships, starts-ups that are failing and that you are trying to save doubly so. There is a small chance that that led to relationship issues which in turn led to OP now is a single parent.

There are lots of other explanations besides.


English is not my first language - does OP really imply he is a single parent simply stating "and a 3 months old baby daughter to care and provide for."

I would say the same even though I'm happily living with my wife. Nursery cost and rent alone would cause financial difficulty.

You can save on nursery but a 3 months old is a full time job if you don't have family around (which an immigrant like me and op is unlikely to have)


No, it does not imply that, but it leaves that possibility open.


I wasn't a single parent; just the only source of household income. My wife later did extraordinary things to save the situation.


I didn't read in an implicit “on my own” like you seem to have, but I agree that that is a plausible reading, and a fair description of a causal scenario given that reading.




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