How Gratitude Made Me A More Resilient Entrepreneur

Some light neuroscience on using thankfulness to avoid depression while launching a startup, and feel happier, immediately.

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“Gratitude is riches. 

Complaint is poverty.” 

— Doris Day

Entrepreneurs are at a predisposition to depression. 

I was always an optimist without limitations. My dreams would span such magnitudes I left myself fascinated by my own imagination. Entrepreneurship seemed a profession that welcomes the visionary. I embraced the thoughts of Einstein, Nicola Tesla, Muhammad Ali, and Martin Luther King Jr. I danced on the precedence set by Stephen Hawking and slept on the benchmarks of revolution that Bob Marley, Nelson Mandela, and Marilyn Monroe imposed. 

But, “It’s a dog eat dog world,” is the warning we are sometimes given. Don’t dream so big, don’t tell people your plans. 

Catchphrases like “Nothing beats a failure but a try: if you fail, try again!”, would leave others unhinged in defeat. We, however, stay snugly at arm’s length from the harsher and darker sides of early entrepreneurship. 

We have a superpower. 

We have something sewn into the fabric of our ambition. It makes everything stay safe, encouraging, and possible. It allows us to keep trying. It allows us to stay in the game patiently with powerful perseverance.

That thing is gratitude. 

It is an awareness of good things and a feeling you get when you choose to focus on appreciation. The emotional antidote to suffering in all its power. 

It’s one of the greatest assets a visionary walking in real-time can arm themself with. You only really know how much it is helping you, shaping you, and empowering you when you stop tuning into it. When I halted the gratitude I welcomed the despair and quickly, signs of misfortune and staring competitions with setbacks would ensue. When I was not grounded in mindfulness I was pivoting between negativity and pessimism and the not-so-fun tricks the human brain plays on us in the name of safety. 

Comfort zones are creativity’s graveyard. 

Startup entrepreneurs rise above justifying a victimizing mentality of hardship and know how to safely play on the frontiers of execution and burnout.

The same thing could happen and ‘grateful you’ will see it so differently from ‘ungrateful you’. We weren’t all taught to be self-aware, instead, our bodies scream at us to pay attention. We listen and ache. We try to solve the equation. Anything to help ease the startup strain. Breed success. Mitigate the suffering of failure. 

I come from a bloodline of Entrepreneurs. My mother and father set up a family-owned hotel and restaurant. I did not want to follow in those particular footsteps. My blood boiled with a passion for publishing and film. I now know you need this arousal if you are going to have the guts to get into the arena, lest we consider the 2% success rate in Hollywood. 

Starting our own thing does not intimidate some of us. We crave it. For me, it was the reason I felt I was brought into this world — to develop simple intelligence frameworks that enhance the happiness of humanity. To make neurocinematic movies that help us make sense of ourselves, each other, and this system. It’s the only time I feel authentically my Self. Every time I wander back into the generic status quo, depression joins me. 

The really heavy, life isn’t worth living, kind. 

Turning a vision with no existence into something of value for the planet, some of us are addicted to that. But there are many failures that come before we even get to the start line of the startup world. There are many dinners with deception.  

I had to have something that brought me back to Earth from the galaxies of innovation that lived in my mind. I also had to have something to help pull me out of the disgust I felt when I was in a continuum of delayed success. Escape the firepit that flamed the fear of being ordinary. Always on the way, never having fully arrived at my own self-actualization.

A failed marriage, an $18M film flop, never publishing the book I wrote, and the ‘things I failed at before I could fly’ list carried on. But, I turned all of my setbacks around by knowing how to channel gratitude when it mattered most. We get so obsessed with ticking a predetermined box. We sometimes do not realize we are learning the most valuable things we could ever need, to get to the places we were always destined to go. 

So what gets you from the trenches to the trophies?

What pulls you from the led weighted life that seems tragically burdensome in boredom, into the wide-eyed focused determination upon which startups are built?

I think it comes from the single most attainable high-frequency emotion, that revolutionizes one’s state of mind, improves well-being, and enhances physical energy — I believe it comes from gratitude — and I am not the only one. Lifelong researcher of gratitude and neuroscientist Glenn Fox documents how it enhances resilience lowers stress and boosts overall health. As a faculty member at the University of Southern California’s Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Dr Fox looks at developing mindset skills in founders and business leaders as it correlates to gratitude. 

Ask yourself right now, “What am I grateful for?”

Feel thankful, put your hand on your chest, inhale deeply and smile. Think about all the things you really do have to be grateful for. At this moment, you have already changed your brain’s chemistry for the better. There is a reason Deepak Chopra starts his meditations with this question and it’s no mistake that gratitude comes up time and again from CEOs to celebrities. Many of the most abundant individuals I am guided by in my life are advocates for the power of this emotion. The Wharton Health Care Management Alumni Association published an article “The Neuroscience of Gratitude” that details the benefits of gratitude as it releases both serotonin the happiness molecule and dopamine the reward molecule. These neurotransmitters facilitate optimism, intrinsic motivation, and improved moods to not only counteract depression but power high-performance. It doesn’t stop there, gratitude triggers other positive emotions. 

An e-motion is simply, energy in motion. Energy moving creates a frequency to which all else attracts. Understanding that is the start of manifesting. Things get really exciting when you realize gratitude vibrates at a higher vibrational frequency than enlightenment. It supercharges the actualization of your vision once you are taking inspired action from a grateful state of being. 

From spirituality to science you can enjoy a world where the cosmology of existence is complementary to the neuroscience of gratitude in entrepreneurship. I know, because it’s what brought me back from some of my darkest places while figuring out my purpose in the business world. 

Startups take time to show results so it’s easy to feel depressed without recognition or traction against the backdrop of so much uncertainty. The default unpredictable workings of a new business venture have all the makings to activate the reptilian brain and survival mode instincts. With uncertainty, the brain prepares for danger because it does not know it is indeed safe. Let’s be honest, it’s as mentally and financially risky as it gets. It’s easy to succumb to the stress as the body frails in fight-or-flight mode firing cortisol, energy plummets and you honorably sustain your effort, albeit exhausted. 

Gratitude allows you to appreciate the milestones on route to the goal rather than needing the one big reward of having accomplished the impossible. It avoids seesawing on the pressure of a moment that we think is the be-all, end-all. It simplifies and soothes the stress triggers that are inevitable.

Leverage gratitude to enter the ‘dog feeds dog mindset’ which breeds necessary resilience as a startup entrepreneur. Endurance is the ability to survive obstacles, but resilience backed by gratitude is the empowerment to thrive in the face of any obstruction. It’s the key to feeling abundant. It gives you the capability of altruism that differentiates the average from the self-actualized. 

Be grateful. 

You will have fun while doing it, perform better because of it and enjoy the startup journey a whole lot more. 

Name your alarm gratitude so you wake up feeling blessed. Write notes on your mirror to trigger your thankfulness to be alive. Set reminders on your phone to think a grateful thought. Smile, and say thank you as much as you can. Write down a few daily blessings, jot them down anywhere because journaling doubles up on releasing all the happiness and rewards from serotonin and dopamine. You will be amazed at what’s there for the taking for the human who makes gratitude their greatest habit. 

Now it’s time for my fix. Thank you for reading — I’m grateful. 

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