"So the city has become too little for you? Jonas, do you have any idea what the hell you are doing?"
That was my father’s response, when I told him that I had decided to sell every item I owned and head out in the world with a bag of clothes and a laptop. I wanted to focus all of my energy on my new startup, Screenmailer.
So I quit my prestigious CTO position at one of Europe’s hottest startups. For three years I had worked hard with the rest of the team to disrupt the used car market, and finally the company was starting to crush it in several countries.
I was doing pretty well professionally and personal.
So of course not everyone thought leaving the company was a wise decision. But it was something I had to do. My vision for Screenmailer was bold and for a long time I’ve wanted to steer my own ship. So I took the leap.
The following period of time introduced me to a series of interesting emotions. Confident and fulfilled that I was pursuing my dream. Scared as shit that I didn’t know how things would play out and how I was going to make a living.
Shortly after I had made the mental commitment to drop the training wheels, I came across Start-Up Chile - the famous startup incubator that provides selected companies with $40,000, 12 months visa and a great mentor network (without getting company ownership). Instantly, I knew this was the perfect opportunity.
After submitting my application I realised what a terrible emotional situation I had gotten myself into. Start-Up Chile was a life changing opportunity. But also one that involved two months of waiting before I knew if it was even going to happen. Being an entrepreneurial guy, this was not really my cup of tea.
I DO NOT WAIT. I HATE WAITING.
And still, my hustle skills and strong motivation could not help me this time. My destiny was suddenly in the hands of an unknown gatekeeper.
Two months of light torture
Sometimes my mind would be racing. “If I’m not accepted, is that a total failure? How long can I go without income? Should I just keep all of this secret? Can I start preparations or will that make me more disappointed if I’m rejected?”
If you’ve ever sent a declaration of love to the crush of your life you know how this feels. I was anxious, scared, thrilled, fulfilled, prematurely disappointed, brave, lonely. My brain was doing wheel spin, fantasising about all sorts of outcomes, alternatives and future conversations.
Mental time travel is the enemy of psychological well being. But even if you know that, it’s hard stop your mind from drifting to the future, when you wait helplessly for something to happen.
The secret of patience is doing something else in the meanwhile
I felt stuck and knew that I had to do something. I realised that although I couldn’t influence the outcome of my application, what I could do, was take back control of my mind and make sure my energy was spent productively instead of wasting it on anxious imagination.
So I got back into action mode. The following weeks I:
Pitched Screenmailer at every startup event and connected with several possible investors and partners. Planned a backup-trip to Silicon Valley. Implemented a billing system for Screenmailer. Won the Developer Hero Award at Nordic Startup Awards and was featured on BBC, Lifehacker and Hacker News. Attended a Gumball 3000 like event to raise money for children with cancer. Travelled to reconnect with family and friends. Started selling all of my items and helped my previous startup transition as smoothly as possible.
That felt a hell lot better than watching paint dry.
Focus on now
For many of us, happiness is a feeling of freedom, opportunity and a sense of control. In situations where you lose control, try not to sink into the quicksand of mental time travelling.
Look at it from the bright side: Losing control completely can be a blessing. You get a free pass to not worry at all. Because worrying itself will change absolutely nothing.
Anxiousness is in the future. So try to return to the moment of now. Do the best you can today. Follow your heart, do good and trust that the universe will take care of the rest.
It worked for me and I’m super excited that I got accepted to Start-Up Chile and will be leaving to South America in August.
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