Uncovering your attachments and releasing their grip on you is courageous work. Below is an excerpt from our article in First Round Capital's Review to help you wonder into what attachments you currently have that are blocking you and your company from moving forward?
Uncovering the Sources of our Anxiety
Once you recognize that what you are experiencing is most likely anxiety, the question becomes how do you release the grip of anxiety so you can operate with expanded awareness and creativity?
Milano offers that the first step toward uncovering the source of your anxiety is to pay attention to your attachments to certain outcomes and identities. “Anxiety is the fear of more fear. It’s fueled by attachment. It is rooted in the need to control the things around us to keep our reality known and safe.” Milano suggests that founders suffering from anxiety walk themselves through these questions:
What expectation, idea, or outcome are you attached to? A specific investor? A specific client? A certain type of product working? Being cash positive in six months?
What identity is driving the attachment? Have you created an image of yourself as the next game-changing entrepreneur to investors, the press, and your team?
Consider this example: A founder tells her investors that the company will be cash positive in six months. Then inevitable obstacles set in, and it becomes clear that goal is unattainable. It would be easy to descend into a morass of anxiety and what-ifs: Will the board let me go? Will the team start questioning my leadership?
A leader who has practiced uncovering their attachments, on the other hand, can see things in a more productive way. “The healthy thing to do is acknowledge the attachment to a certain outcome, soften your grip on it, and use your creativity to design a new path based on reality,” says Milano. “You get to what's really true and face what's actually happening. Then you can say to your team, from a place of integrity and clear-headedness, ‘Looks like it won’t be six months. Looks more like 12 months. Now that we know that, here’s what we’re doing about it.’”
Attachment to identities can be harder to relinquish, but it’s critical to consider. Many founders, whether through their own strategy or the attention of the press, assume the mantle of “the next big thing.” Suddenly, they’re not just building a product and running a company, they’re living up to very public expectations. “Now if your product launch isn't working very well, it starts to threaten that identity. Not only is your product broken, but you’re a fraud, a common human fear.
That’s one of entrepreneurs’ biggest fears: I went out there, I sold all these friends and investors on the next big thing, and it didn’t work. I’m a fraud.
“What this speaks to is the power of humility,” says Milano. The most inspirational leaders know that it’s not about them. They acknowledge challenges and respect the competition, and they are prepared for ups and downs. And importantly, they communicate this to their team and investors. “They say, ‘This isn't about me. This is about all of us collectively working together to achieve this beautiful mission. We’re going to face some bumps along the way, and what’s important is we navigate them together, as a team and a board.’
Cordaro adds, “It’s important to know that it’s ok to have certain identities, it’s totally natural and part of being human. Just know that all these identities come with hidden expectations that can add up quickly. It’s much more pleasant to make decisions as a leader from a place of what’s best for the company and society, as opposed to maintaining a personal identity.”
Cheers to leading without attachments - The Good Startups Team