We’ll all be anxious along the way. It doesn’t matter which side of the table we are, be it as an entrepreneur, an investor, an executive, as a mom or a dad — we all face challenges coming from the ventures we choose for our own lives.
In his wonderful book “Antifragile”, Nassim Taleb defines fragility as the condition in which a system is prone to break with the addition of variance — say, as glass is with the addition of vibration, or as production line jobs are with the addition of AI-assisted robots. He argues that robustness is not the opposite of fragility, as the dictionary would tell us, because both words only convey the degree of resistance to variance. A true opposite would be the condition in which a system gets stronger with the addition of variance, and having no term in English for it, he coins the term antifragile.
The one kind of challenge that I can really talk about is of being an entrepreneurial investor. Most people get discouraged at the beginning of the journey and accept the average very easily. Indeed, for those who have escaped the bite of the ‘entrepreneurship bug’, it is difficult to understand the mind of a high-impact entrepreneur. To dream big and to see your dreams come true requires planning, learning, innovation, strategy, leadership skills, and of course, execution — even while dealing with the inevitable changes of course that life and product-market fit throws at you. Entrepreneurs are, then, tireless seekers of continuous improvement, living through days that get shorter and shorter and having minds that only grow restless over time.
In fact, while it is easy to see why antifragility is key for any entrepreneur, I came to understand that this trait is present in anyone that strives to be above average in anything in life. Antifragility is born of obsession, but it only grows with passion for what we do. That is what transform failures, disappointments and uncertainty into learning points and only those who learn from those difficulties can evolve at exponential speeds.
And how to manage the anxiety that this obsessive, passionate, tireless mind brings? My take on it is the only response to entrepreneurship anxiety is to know yourself. Often my friends do not understand my preference to stay at home on weekends committed to what I call “creative leisure” — studying, learning and organizing materials (which is, perhaps paradoxically, very relaxing as well). That preference comes out as my natural response to anxiety; this is my body and mind venting it all off, letting it go, making me more serene. Learning what works for you is paramount to keeping yourself whole (and sane).
Every entrepreneur needs a process of self-discovery, and the solutions for that come in infinite shapes and sizes. For some, it might be meditating; for others, traveling to different places. My secret weapon is my journal — I and my journal know myself as no one else will ever be able to. Time and again, you need to stop and ask yourself ‘what is the purpose of all that?’ Writing in my journal every morning makes me organize my thoughts and focus on the present, and the anxiety goes away. If you focus on the prize, you get anxious; if you focus on the process, you get the prize. Simple as that.
And of course the world will still be there tomorrow, but this urgency, this discernment of what is priority that comes out of knowing yourself makes you incredibly more effective. Trust me, if you know yourself you will be able to build a routine that might be imbalanced and even seem overwhelming, but that will have harmony. You will learn that to be more productive you will need X hours of sleep and of exercise, what kind of diet makes you feel better, more energized — in essence, what brings harmony to your life –, and then you will be more intense on the work-hours and be prepared to succeed in everything that matters for you. It’s really not about controlling your schedule, but surfing it according to what is relevant for you — I learned with Arianna Huffington to “not only make things happen, LET things happen”, and that is a big part of living a harmonious life.
Finally, not everyone is willing sacrifice moments of present enjoyment for a future outcome; the only ones that do so are those able to see fulfillment in the sacrifice itself by understanding how it plays a part in achieving future success. I had an epiphany last weekend that made me realize I’m on the right path. I was having a conversation with a fellow VC for whom I have the utmost admiration. Out of the blue he asked me: “If you could stop everything today and do only what you want in your life, traveling, chilling or whatnot, what would you do?”. It understood why he asked me that in the moment I thought of the answer: “I would do exactly what I’m doing! The choices I made so far were in line with what I really wanted for my life, they were not decisions imposed by others”.
In fact, I and my business partner Daniela went through some very rough patches in recent years. The challenges, the sexism, the continuous failing and learning, are things known to only a handful of people, and few can even imagine how difficult those were when they happened. But looking back, those were the very things that made the journey so cool, even when sometimes the results didn’t come out as positive as we had expected. And thanks to the day-to-day uncertainty, all was super-exciting at the same time. Living through processes like these made me an addict to the adrenaline it produces, and I can only look forward to the new obstacles that shall come our way.
Mine is not a standard story, if there ever was one. I started my career as a fashion entrepreneur, which made me fall in love with business and to nurture connections with ultra-high-net-worth individuals that I bring to this very day. With their mentorship and following unique opportunities I discovered in real estate investment management, I subsequently founded INVESTHAUS. It was a very profitable undertaking, which made me gain credibility with funds and professional investors, which in turn allowed me to build and maintain elite teams. Now, with those elements in hand, I could move back to working in an innovation-driven industry by marrying the connections, the experience and the love I have for creativity — and so, I co-founded a venture capital firm, BABEL Ventures. BABEL allows my involvement with everything that makes my heart beat faster: entrepreneurs developing their ideas/projects/companies, investing, connecting and mentoring. I aspire to be an example for other men and women like me, and that’s why I love my life.
Everyone else always has a stack of different life projects to offer you, very usually in the realm of the expected and the average. It is scary to make an out-of-the-box choice when there seems to be no choice available, but in general, this is why the brave succeed while the masses are still attached to living the average. Courage is needed to do achieve you actually want, and that’s what true leaders are doing: authentically living their lives, breaking conventions, following their passions and making history.
Don’t be anxious, be present.
Originally published at medium.com