I am manic-depressive. I just learned about that. I googled it. Must be true then. Do you know this common thing when people are getting ill and then they make the mistake to google their symptoms just to get all crazy about it? I am one of them.
One of my friends approached me and asked me if I wanted to participate in this mobile app project he is working on. “This is going to be HUGE!”, he assured me. I was excited. I could see he was right. The market was ready. The demand was there. I was hooked and ready to get started.
And we did. We build up our new office in the Philippines and started working. After a couple of hours we had the first prototype ready. Damn we are fast!
The next day everything changed. It sucked. In my head, the idea suddenly became stupid. I came up with excuses why this is not for me. And I was no longer willing to put any more of my precious time into it. My friend looked at me both confused and surprised about my sudden change of mind.
I wondered… “Am I a quitter?”
Yeah. Classic manic-depressive move, man. Eight months later my friend has put together an amazing product. I made myself miss out on that opportunity for myself on purpose.
I sabotaged myself in a weird kind of way.
The other day I was talking to another friend of mine and told her everything about my new “masterplan”. I figured out a new way to push my app business into new heights. I wrote down all the clever ways how to promote my apps and both increase retention and conversion rates of my sales. I got it figured out every little detail. I wrote it down in great lengths. It was incredibly effective and awesome!
She nodded in agreement and was eager to see how my excitement and inspiration transforms into actions in the next couple of months.
So I worked my ass off to get everything started. Bought the domain and set up my website. I build my sales funnel and worked on my first prototype product. After a couple of weeks it was done, polished and ready to be put out there into the world.
The next day. Everything was gone. My drive for the project. The mission. The whole endeavour made no sense anymore. It even felt “wrong”. Empty.
I simply HAD to quit it. Something inside myself told me. It felt close to criminal to continue working on it. Like I would betray myself.
My girlfriend used to complain about this behaviour in me. My friends as well. Everyone basically. In one moment I can be all pumped up and optimistic (like a maniac). And minutes later it all could crumble again. Suddenly nothing makes sense anymore. The stuff you felt so enthusiastic about now became meaningless (depression).
“Why don’t you just stick with something you like?”, she asked me.
That’s a tough one.
What if there is not ONE thing you like. And what if you don’t see yourself following ONE passion for a long time? What if you love the variety?
If you are following me on Facebook you saw this one TED talk I posted. It’s about people who don’t have one true calling. Could this be me? I don’t know. Also, what if you are just “done” with something? Like it feels empty now. It’s not challenging anymore and you feel like you want to move beyond it. Who knows.
“You got a problem with commitment!”, another guy said to me.
Thanks, but no. That’s not it. You don’t have commitment issues when you work 80 hour weeks for months on 4 hour sleep. Yes, you are plain stupid, but you are not afraid of commitment. No, it must be something else. Am I manic-depressive?
The same thing happened in the time I quit my job. I was working long hours. Our boss used to “motivate” us and assured us that “it’s only one more month and we got it…”.
We never did.
It was tiring and frustrating. But somehow I got used to it. I even began to enjoy my work there at the end. But suddenly (literally the next day), I crumbled again. Like in a sudden everything was wrong. It didn’t feel right anymore.
Like my “soul” protested against it shouting: “YOU WILL NOT SETTLE FOR THIS!”
Maybe I am bipolar!
“Bipolar disorder, also known as bipolar affective disorder and manic-depressive illness, is a mental disorder characterized by periods of elevated mood and periods of depression.”
That’s another good description I just googled. Thanks, Wikipedia.
But what if I am wrong?
What if there is a scientific reason behind all this?
I came across this article from Tim Ferris Harnessing Entrepreneurial Manic-Depression: Making the Rollercoaster Work for You. There he describes that there are 4 stages every entrepreneur goes through:
- “Uninformed Optimism”
- “Informed Pessimism”
- “Crisis of Meaning”
- and eventually “Crash & Burn” or “Informed Optimism” (depending on how you handle it)
It goes something like this:
Stage 1: The first stage of the concept is called “Uninformed Optimism”. At this stage on a rollercoaster, just getting to the top of the rollercoaster, you experience feelings of an adrenalin rush, characterized by excitement and nervous energy.
* Stage 2: The second stage is called “Informed Pessimism”. As you ride over the top of the curve you now have a bit more information. Feelings of fear, nervousness, and frustration begin to set in. Perhaps you even want to get off of it.
* Stage 3 – The third stage is called “Crisis of Meaning”. You’re past scared. You feel despair. It’s as if you’re standing on the edge of a cliff ready to jump, and you begin to think “Today the rollercoaster’s going off the bottom of the track for the very first time.” You feel helpless and you’re both terrified and frozen.
* At this point, you face a critical juncture. You can come off the bottom of the curve and crash and burn, which is when your business goes bankrupt, you lose your marriage, you start drinking, or you end up in a doctor’s office because of stress. Or you can come around the corner because you’re getting support at “Crisis of Meaning” and you can enter an upward swing call “Informed Optimism”.
* Stage 4 – Informed Optimism. You’re calm. You’re informed. You might even say you are cautiously optimistic.
Make sure to check out the full article…
What if I just went through all of these stages VERY FAST and crash and burned afterwards?
Now I could beat myself up about why I didn’t follow through on all these things. But oftentimes it’s better to say “no” to stuff.
When you choose yourself – I found – the more you say “NO!” to things the better off you are. I had to do it.
- I had to drop the project my friend and I were working on in the Philippines.
- I had to quit my job in order to stay sane.
- I had to kill the app project I am working on.
Because I chose something different for myself. I wanted to “make a positive impact” onto the world. And I didn’t see how ANY of these things would have helped me to achieve exactly that. Further pursuing these things would have caused me to leave this chosen path again.
Choosing any of these things would have caused me to betray my higher purpose.
In the last couple of years I worked my ass off to “make it on my own”. To build something which provides value to other people and gives me on the other side some form of “purpose” and “mission”.
But isn’t everybody out there looking for that?
I could beat myself up about being a quitter. A failure.
- I never finish stuff I start.
- I never follow through.
- I suck.
- Why am I such failure.
- I lack willpower.
But this won’t get me far. And I also feel like it’s completely wrong.
What if “quitting and saying no” is actually the BEST thing you could do in these situations?
When you deeply resent doing something, just stop doing it. If you force yourself to do it anyways, you will deliver bad work. Your employer is unhappy. You are unhappy while doing it. And the world is a little worse off than before. Just stop.
In the last couple of years I am working on moving away from something I already know (for example: writing code) into something new and more challenging stuff (entrepreneurial endeavours).
And every couple of months it feels like I get tested. I get offered great opportunities within the “old” system. Life tempts me to go back.
I got the best job offers once I quit my job. I got the best coding projects once I decided I try something completely different. Life was too good to me once I chose myself.
But I chose something else instead and life was testing me over and over again.
It’s like it was asking: “Is this still what you are trying to do? Look, maybe this changes your mind back! This is amazing!”
And instantly you feel tempted to go back to the old self. It’s so much easier to go back to something you know you can handle. Cuddle with your former self in the safety within your comfort zone. That’s sounds like fun!
It’s easy but it will eat you alive. Once you stay somewhere because of “convenience”, this convenience will become your enemy within yourself. It will suck you dry. Until you resent it.
Funny how this actually works.
EVERYTHING which keeps you small, “depresses” your true self.
Makes sense right?
- Staying within your comfort zone does exactly that to your soul.
- Reading toxic stuff on Facebook or listening to the news works the same.
- Being around angry and judging people kills your spirit.
- All this things depresses your soul. And eventually causes it to die a slow death.
Depression sets in. Because you kept yourself small for a too long time. Instead of expressing yourself freely. You held back. Instead of thriving for what COULD be you settled for what was EASY.
And now your soul is pissed.
I made a commitment to never raise my hand against myself anymore. I was reading “The Valkyries” by Paulo Coelho and there was this one part in it:
“From the moment that you set foot outside, the Valkyrie said, promise, in the name of the archangel Michael, that never again, never again, you will raise your hand against yourself. I’m afraid to say that, he answered. Because I don’t know how to comply. You have no choice, if you want to see your angel. I didn’t realize what I was doing to myself. I might continue with the same kind of self-betrayal. Now you know, Valhalla said. And the truth gives you freedom. Paulo nodded his head. You will still have many problems in your life, some of them normal, some of them difficult. But, from now on, only God’s hand will be responsible for everything. You will interfere no more. I promise in the name of Saint Michael.”
I remember whispering “I promise.” to myself in agreement after reading it.
I promised it to myself.
And that’s why I had to kill all these projects. I promised my “soul” and couldn’t go back. I promised to strive for the best that I can be. Even when it mains to fail a lot along the way and “suck” at these new things for a while.
Going back was no longer an option. Mostly because I was scared. Scared of what would happen to me when I do. The amount of guilt and pain I would suffer especially because I STAYED within my comfort zone are too much of a border for me.
I promised to drop this bag of guilt once and for all.
Every since it became “easier” to say no to things. It’s still difficult and tempting to “do just this one more thing too”. But it gets better.
Every day I know a little bit more about what my true self needs right now.
Every day I live with a little bit more clarity.
It’s small progress.
But it is progress indeed.