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Mental fitness tips for web3 founders
In the early stages of a project, the only irreplaceable piece of your company as a founder is you.
Jericho is the web3 founder community. Meet, learn & build with 400+ hand-picked founders from 40+ countries.
Hi frens - Moon speaking,
Many joined since we helped builders identify investors. We’ve been however observing quite unhealthy behaviors amongst builders.
For the next edition: Should we first identify even more investors (global web3 VC mapping) or observe the Goblins’ behavior (web3 observability)?
A few years ago, I heard on a podcast that often founders fail because they fail to grow as fast as their project requires it. It stuck with me. I had felt limited by my own mental health for all of my teenage years, so I knew that this was real and applied to me.
By digging into the data, the realization became increasingly alarming. Founders are:
2x more likely to suffer from depression
2x more likely to have suicidal thoughts
6x more likely to suffer from ADHD
10x more likely to suffer from bi-polar disorder
While it has been shown that the founder persona by itself is keener to have a mental health condition, the reality is that being an entrepreneur can really challenge your mental health, well-being, and performance.
In the early stages of a project, the only irreplaceable piece of your company as a founder is you. To increase your chances of success, you have to make sure you stay on top of your mental health and keep showing up at your best. For example, being able to think clearly when you make important decisions can save you weeks of work and prevent many mistakes.
I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to build something. Last year, after a long burnout things shifted and I became obsessed with fixing my mental health for good. I quit my job and started spending all my time on this new goal. As I went and discovered what worked for me, I started sharing my experience with others. Eventually, this journey led me to create Twoplus, a mental fitness gym for web3 folks: A place where people can find infrastructures, programs, and peers to start training their mental health like they would train their bodies in the gym.
Basics get 80% of the job done
As a web3 founder, there are no pre-defined routines and schedules on how to work. A good chunk of your efforts early on should focus on setting your day-to-day to meet your basic needs with the right routines in the right environment. Those are your systems.
Designing systems that meet your needs well and consistently might be one of the hardest things for web3 founders. Most often, web3 people sit for long hours inside in front of a screen. Nothing in this basic setup meets the most important human needs. So you’ll have to be intentional and make sure that you provide for all these needs yourself.
Needs of the body
There are oceans of information on these topics so I’ll keep it short.
Food: Make sure that your brain always has some glucose available. Everyone has their own diet but try to avoid high-IG food. Eat vegetables. Drink water.
Move: Get the blood and fluids flowing to your brain. Stand up from your desk and move every 30 minutes - 5 min walk, stretch, squats, push-ups.
Sleep: Go to bed early, be consistent, wake up without an alarm, make sure you breathe through your nose, shut down & slow your brain after the web3 race. Reading, using dim lights or candles, and journaling before bed helps.
Go outside/nature: Daylight is very important for your circadian rhythms and sleep. Natural light and darkness set our natural cycles, when we’re energized and when we feel sleepy. To optimize your energy and mood it's essential to take as much daylight as possible. The more you intake light, the better you feel and sleep.
Needs of the mind
Connection: Meet with friends or family regularly. Find a proper office to work from. The stress caused by not connecting enough with people can be immense. We’re social animals and a huge part of what we’re designed for is connecting face-to-face with other humans. Sex and affection are also important. Not having sex can really increase the pressure on your subconscious. Getting laid boosts mood, confidence, focus, and so on.
Safety: Building a project is hard and risky. Adding any additional “perceived threats” makes the burden heavier. Some examples are ongoing conflicts with co-founders or people close to you, unsolved traumas, financial precarity, high expectations, and uncontrolled growth. Perceived threats are anything that will make you feel unsafe at night when ideally you should feel relaxed and recharge batteries.
Satisfaction: If you can’t enjoy the ride and be fulfilled, you’ll have a hard time staying motivated and productive in the medium to long run. Losing motivation is actually the number one reason why startups fail. If most days feel like hell for weeks and weeks, you’re clearly digging into your vital reserves of grit, accumulating mental debt, and eventually, you’ll run out of gas. Optimize satisfaction for things that are actually good for you, not addictive (doomscrolling Twitter and Opensea). Avoid the sudden bursts of dopamine or euphoria because they’ll trigger a low eventually.
Alignment: Knowing your values and making sure that you remain close to them can’t do anything but help you feel more energized and motivated. Society (and social media) keeps incentivizing entrepreneurs to build nothing but trillion-dollar companies in the latest hottest market. But maximizing your chances of success means finding the thing that you are most driven by. This might mean making trade-offs, following a different path than what popular narratives want you to do and building something you’ll want to stick with in the long run.
Self-esteem: Work towards balancing your sense of self-worth. If you don’t esteem yourself why should investors, teammates, and clients? Strong self-esteem will help you build better relationships and confront difficult challenges with calm and focus. Build confidence through many small consecutive wins. Set healthy goals and expectations for yourself and your project. Goals shouldn’t be too easy but not impossible either. Oftentimes, we tend to shoot for the moon too quickly, but building a project is a long endeavor. The most successful entrepreneurs you know have worked on their ideas for decades and honed their craft by tackling small problems one after another.
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Mental fitness in web3
The main goal for the web3 founder is to 1) create systems that provide for these needs on a daily basis and 2) protect these basics while riding the web3 entrepreneur life’s roller coaster. Doing this involves intention, tools, and discipline.
Marathonians build a light body that minimizes impact during foot landing. Rugby players put on a lot of muscles to optimize for short explosive bursts of power and at the same time protect their bodies from violent impacts. Knowledge workers also need to shape their physiology in a way that makes them resilient in their day-to-day. It's about maximizing mental fitness to mitigate the stressors caused by the following:
Market ups and downs
High screen time
Large quantity of distracting stimuli (notifications)
Context switching across apps and projects
Digital-first relationships vs. IRL
None of the above are ‘good’ for your mental health. While the basics described in the first section do provide a strong foundation for your mental health, they don’t offset the toxicity of web3 life. Just like eating a lot of vegetables doesn’t offset eating junk food.
That’s why beyond the basics, your first line of defense is to be intentional about your mental diet by minimizing your exposure to these stressors: no day trading, no/few notifications enabled, working in blocks of 90 minutes to avoid context switching, no more than 2-3 tabs open, connecting with at least one human each day… etc.
Keep these mental health stressors in check.
You can go as far as noting down your relationship with each of these stressors through mindfulness and observation, then taking some time to reflect. Are these things really helping you or are they dragging you down?
Besides watching your mental diet, there is mental exercise. We could dedicate a whole article to this part because there are plenty for all tastes, styles, and goals, the same way running and rugby might appeal to different people. Here are some practices that really helped me early on and that I still use on a daily basis to enhance my mental health and resilience:
Wim Hof Breathwork → Each morning to boot my brain or during the day to process stress.
NSDR → Each day after lunch or an intense workout to make sure I soothe my nervous system and refill energy & motivation. I think I owe much of my recovery and health to the many NSDR sessions I’ve had and I always come out surprised at how refreshed I feel.
Reflection → Taking time to write, process complex emotions, and set the next steps on things I want to keep track of, in both my personal and professional life. Prioritizing the next day in detail to make sure I reduce uncertainty and have clarity on what I must achieve even when things are hectic. Note: gratitude journaling has been proven to have a positive impact on heart rate and inflammation.
Open heart meditation → A time to remind myself of my deepest values and link them back to what I will do during the day. This is so underrated. It is also a good time to reinforce your self-compassion, self-worth, and positive emotions vs. negative ones which in turn increases your overall resilience and stamina.
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The health-first mindset
"You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems." - James Clear, Atomic Habits
The way you implement your health basics, mental hygiene, and mental fitness practices form your daily systems. The things that structure your day, your routines, and habits. Those will be your foundation as you’re building through ups and downs.
Think of your systems as your sailboat and your entrepreneurial journey as a cruise across a wild ocean. If building your project is like sailing the pacific ocean and its storms, the quality and resilience of your ship will be a key to success in your journey.
Getting your systems right might be the most important investment you can do early on. Start learning how to work on yourself, implement and evolve systems that will be your best tools to solve problems on a daily basis and thrive.
Building habits until they become things that you do on auto-pilot takes time and effort. Habits generally take between 21-66 days to consolidate. That’s why we built a system that helps people build habits through peer accountability in our mental fitness program.
The 2nd cohort kicks off on Nov 28th, I definitely invite you to check it out if you’re ready to put in the work and become more mentally fit. You can also check out a 1 min video explainer here:
Spoiler: There are no hacks, shortcuts, or prescriptions to follow. It's your journey. It’s on you to design the mental diet and find the exercises that serve you best. If you’re looking for a place to start and train with like minded people, Twoplus might be the thing you’re looking for.