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Erik Trautman

Technical entrepreneurship, business strategy and product development

Xkcd philosophy (1)

Startup Depression and the Search for Meaning

TLDR: I actually expected to get depressed, it still surprised me when it finally happened and I'm rather suspicious of its apparent resolution.

A few weeks ago, I couldn't focus, get stuff done, or even remember simple things. Work felt purposeless. Relationships seemed shallow and fleeting. I couldn't get more than nominally excited about things I'd normally jump to do. I felt like a ship drifting without an anchor, unable to latch onto anything for stability despite the supposed familiarity of the surrounding landmarks. All the usual ways I might find comfort -- leaning on community, taking pleasure in the challenge of work, experiencing the wonder of the outdoors -- were bereft of their power.

It sucked and it had been building for months.

For the last couple of years, I've kept a wary eye on my mental health. You probably know that I'm an incessantly optimistic ball of energy, particularly when you're still groggy from lack of coffee in the morning. I have a high natural frequency and, for the last several years, I've chased the high-energy thrill of starting a business with reckless abandon. At the same time, I've also been keenly aware of the phenomenon of "Startup Depression". I've seen a number of friends spiral, sometimes for many months, through deep bouts of depression that seem to counterbalance their otherwise ebullient energy.

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Passion vs Fulfillment

It wasn't long ago that I finally internalized the difference between passion and fulfillment, and it upended a lot of things in my world. I followed my passion into finance and energy and it sustained me for five years. In the beginning, my career was fulfilling too. Over time, though, the little things that made it fulfilling were gradually lost to disillusionment and epiphany and I was left powered by a rocket running out of fuel and I quit. That's really the heart of the difference between the two terms and why they are interrelated "“ passion drives the moment while fulfillment is necessary to replenish that energy when it cannot sustain itself.

Pas"¢sion /'paSHen/
Noun:
1. Strong and barely controllable emotion.
2. A state or outburst of such emotion.

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