Cameron Herold, former chief operating officer of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and one of North America’s most innovative business minds, knows that entrepreneurs can be grinning ear-to-ear one day and sobbing uncontrollably the next.
But, according to him, that whirlwind of emotions isn’t something to be ashamed of—it’s something to embrace.
Herold was in Kelowna this past Thursday, speaking to CEOs and entrepreneurs who were taking part in the Metabridge retreat: A tech conference that brought 300 Canadians and Americans to Kelowna for a couple days of learning and building relationships.
He began his speech with a survey.
“I want to take a quick poll of the audience before I start, just to see how entrepreneurial we really are. I’m going to read out a list of phrases that describes entrepreneurs. If you hear five words that describe you, stand up,” said Herold.
“Are you filled with energy? Are you fluttered with ideas? Are you driven? Are you restless? Are you unable to keep still?”
After the first five characteristics were listed, the majority of the room was on their feet.
“That’s actually not a list of entrepreneur (traits), it’s a list of traits for bipolar disorder.”
Herold said that many extremely successful entrepreneurs are clinically diagnosed as manic depressive or bipolar.
“We are different, we need to embrace that and tell the rest of the world: ‘Stop trying to teach us to be like teachers or lawyers—we’re not.'”
Herold is a serial entrepreneur who has built up several businesses throughout his career. He is also a university drop-out who got most of his business training working for College Pro Painters—at the age of 21, he had two businesses and 12 full-time employees.
He explained that many CEOs go through a cycle of highs and lows.
“The ride of an entrepreneur is very similar to a roller-coaster.”
He described the ascending phase as uninformed optimism.
“When you see something really risky in front of you, you don’t even see it as being a risk; you start doing things that are a little bit crazy to everybody else, but you seem like you’re perfectly in control.”
The next step is rolling over the climax and looking down at a descending phase, which Herold calls informed pessimism.
The descending phase of the entrepreneurial roller-coaster is very difficult emotionally, said Herold. At times it is difficult to think clearly. Some even consider giving up and selling their business.
Herold calls the lowest point: Crisis of meaning. He explained that it is wise for CEOs to get coaching or support to make sure that they can get through this stage and avoid crashing and burning.
“If you can get through it, you come to an informed optimism stage. It’s not the big celebration and it’s not the feeling of: I think I can. It’s the feeling of: I know I can.”