Sunday, August 21, 2011

Jawbreakers

About two and a half years ago I broke my jaw. Normally when this happens, it's because of a blow to the face--a well-timed uppercut, or a poorly timed left turn.

In my case, it was stress.

A few months earlier, in November 2008, I had run a project straight into a brick wall and had to lay off 10 people, shut down the project, and step down as CEO.

There are a lot of reasons this happened, but the primary reasons were 1) I didn't have the support of my team and 2) I tried to spend my way around the problem by outsourcing locally at corporate rates.

I thought I could outrun the problems. And I was very, very wrong.

The good news was that by January I was sleeping again. The bad news is I was grinding my teeth nightly. At some point, parts of my jawbone were protruding through my gums.

I went through a painful surgery, followed by weeks of severe swelling and bruising.

Keeping yourself stress-free when building a startup--or leaving it--is pretty much impossible. But there are things you can do to take care of yourself, to notice the signs of burnout, and to proactively relieve your stress.

Recently I've been stressed about the beta, and I've noticed the signs--clenching my teeth, etc. This time, though, I'm not terribly interested in breaking my jaw again, so I've been walking more, taking lots of guitar breaks, and doing some simple meditation.

There's no real moral to this story, just a recommendation: take care of yourself. Notice the signs. If you're feeling stressed, identify the source and try to deal with it. And get in the habit of doing things that reduce the stress, because it can very easily end up being a well-placed, unintentional uppercut to the jaw.

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