5 tips on how entrepreneurs can work their way out of a dark place


It’s true what they say, that life is not an upward trajectory. Every now and then we find ourselves living in dark places; mentally, emotionally, spiritually and in all other aspects of life that can possibly go wrong. As an entrepreneur, I find myself there in certain times.

Sometimes in the middle of a risky venture, I am at my worst mentally and emotionally. One study I read described entrepreneurs as one of the most mentally unstable people. Sometimes it feels like riding a killer whale; Onlookers commend your confidence for taking the risk but in truth the entrepreneur is terrified to death, wondering how on earth he got there.

Advertisement - Continue reading below

In May last year, I walked out on my PR job to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams; to build  Xibra Digital & creative, a mobile application startup. Soon I found myself in a dark place because I was wondering if I had made the right choice after weighted what my PR career could have panned out to be. It was after three months that I knew know for certain it was the best decision of my life. Looking back on what I have gone through to get here; a better place, below are the five lessons that I have learnt that could help anyone who might be in a similar place.

Keep calm and call dad or a mentor or anyone older

While most of my peers believed that I had made the wrong bet, talking to my mentor Mark and my Dad proved that even though at the time, it didn’t seem like it; the decision I made to leave my job was the right one.

The adage that older is wiser holds true and I have found wisdom in sharing my fears and disappointments with older people I hold in high regard. You will be surprised how calm they will be as you narrate your ordeal. Their words of comfort that usually follow are comforting too. Talking to someone who has probably been where you are is one of the first places you want to try as you try to answer the question of ‘what next.’

Take time off

I quit my job late May and I decided to take the summer off since I had not gone on a vacation since graduating from University two years earlier. It’s hard to take vacation days when you are busy working to earn one pay check to the next in order to keep up with the bills. I realized that, to take time off without worrying about bills, I needed to move back in with my parents, which was not the best place in the world I desired to be, however the idea of a couple of months of no work and hustle free rent outweighed the desire for freedom. And that’s what I did. But before did, I spent three weeks in my apartment planning the entrance and exit strategy, which has given me a sense of how much harder I have to work each week and month in order to move out.

Just a word of advise, getting back in the game may prove to be a lot harder than you may anticipate. So think long and hard before you make this decision because there might not be a job or work to come back to when the break is over. In my situation it worked well because I was changing professions all together,so the break proved more helpful because I got the time to purse information and create a new network of people I needed in order to accomplish my company’s goals.

Your twenties is the best time to take a few risks and if this means taking time off to rethink your life’s plan, you owe it yourself to search the depth of your soul to find out what makes you tick, what gets you out of your bed each morning and everything else in between.

Let go of the notion of who you are and reinvent yourself

When one door in life closes, it is natural at first to stare at it for far too long that we fail to recognize the opportunities that lie within our current enviroment. This is usually caused by the fear of letting go of the known while trying to embrace the unknown. But you possibly cannot discover new lands without the courage of losing sight of the shore.

A month after quitting, unemployment and depression were so real that the thought of calling my former boss to request for my job back crossed my mind a couple of times because I was suddenly scared of what life without an end of month Golf tournament was going to be like. However I started accepting where I was and focused more on who I wanted to become by the end of my break.

Growth is inward-outward so I started a re-brand of myself, starting with my mental attitude, reading everything I could about how to be a great entrepreneur. I realized that if I reached the end of my break and I hadn’t learnt a certain amount of new skills, I would be a failure by default because I would still be the same person.

Reinventing yourself made accepting who I was, easier each day.I Identified areas in my life where there was opportunity for growth and work towards achieving them. Soon the notion of entitlement to who I was slowly fade away which made life more interesting again.

Surround yourself with people who love you no matter what

The world is a cold harsh place and like Sylvester Stallone said, “No one hits harder than life.” I have found that when I am going through a dark period, I am not as fun-loving as when everything is okay with the world because difficult times are  a wake up call of sorts to remind us of just how cold and shrewd life can really be, which in turn makes us develop a cold outlook to life.

But going through this period made me realize that its far better to be a fun loving person than a judgmental jerk who complains about whats wrong with the world, regardless of the difficult circumstance I may be facing because I possibly have no clue to the kind of ish the other person may be dealing with.

By letting my family and friends be there for me, I have rediscovered happiness and I honestly feel like a very lucky guy to have people who have loved and accepted me for who I am at my worst.

Suite up and show up (get back on the horse)

The final step is no matter how shitty you feel, always dress well and show up to where you are supposed to be on time, which is the key to true reinvention. For the past two months and a half, I have taken every opportunity that has come my way, and as a result I have seen incremental improvement in work output for my company. Diligence pays off and when you do it often, opportunities present themselves. Two guiding quotes on this

“You cannot connect the dots looking forward. You have to trust that your dots will connect somewhere in your future” – Steve Jobs

“The harder and smarter you work, the luckier you get.” – Neil Gaiman

The most important thing is to get out of the dark place, as soon as you can because the longer you stay there, the harder and longer it will take for life to start happening to you  again.

Finally, Take time to reflect on why you got there in the first place and how you can avoid it in future; write your own blue print of advice. I was able to rediscover my passion for writing again through this blog and given a choice I never would have chosen to go through what happened  but like they say, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

The bottom line is that  I have grown from who I was three months ago which is more important than everything in between. #Keep Moving and growing. It’s the secret to happiness.

Image: alleywatch.com

Editor’s Note: This is guest post by Patrick Seruyange. He is an entrepreneur & C.E.O. of Xibra Digital and Creative. He is an acclaimed filmmaker, Ad-man and a professed foodie living in Uganda, E.Africa.With his career spanning six years, Patrick has worked with a broad portfolio of clients ranging from leading Multi-nationals to home grown brands, Including; Google, MTN Uganda, Shell-Vivo, South African Tourism board.