A Nifty Trick to Manage Stress

Jessica Ennis Splento

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Running a startup is a lot of stress. By default. Constant growth can only be achieved by pushing yourself and your organisation way past your comfort zone and that means a never-ending cycle of testing new hypotheses and being proven wrong daily.

That’s called stress.

Don’t get me wrong – stress is good. Without stress you don’t get smarter, stronger or better, nor can you grow. But you need to manage stress correctly to get the most out of your performance.

Two books I finished recently address this topic really well:

The main idea in Peak Performance is that periods of high stress should always be followed by rest, sleep and recovery in order to get better (both physically and mentally). If you are non-stop under constant physical or mental stress, you fatigue and burnout. Being lucky enough to have experience of considerable stress in both business and sport, I can vouch for this. You cannot avoid stress – it’s an inevitable part of growth and you need methodological periodisation to get the best out of your brain and body.

However, what Peak Performance book misses (regardless of this omission, I would highly recommend this book to everyone) is one crucial element in their formula. Their prescription deals with individuals as individuals, not individuals as parts of teams.

When all the stress you get is self-inflicted (professional athletes with hard training sessions, or entrepreneurs with marathons of back-to-back meetings and pitches, etc.) – your capacity to manage it is huge. You are in full control of the lever dispensing your stress and that’s powerful.

However, when most of the stress you get is a factor of your team’s performance – your river of stress tolerance shrinks to a trickle and you are either in a constant overdrive at 8,000rpm or you need more frequent rest and recovery, which has its own limitations.

Long time ago I found a way to neutralise this stress-multiplier. I never knew what to call it, but having read Jocko Willink’s and Leif Babin’s masterpiece – now I know. It’s called “Extreme Ownership”.

The idea is simple. Whatever happens to you – is self-inflicted. You don’t get a raise at work – not your boss’s fault. You didn’t ask for it. Not getting enough sales this quarter – not your marketing department’s fault for not providing you with enough leads. You didn’t work smart enough. Cannot find a job? Nothing to do with the economic situation – you haven’t looked hard enough.

That’s a tough one, but… Can’t find investment for your company? It has nothing to do with UK investors not being able to see the huge potential. You just need to practice better and speak to more investors.

When you own all the stress that happens in your life – you gain control. And when you have control – you are strong, so you can go pushing yourself for longer and harder. You do still need to rest and recharge, but it doesn’t need to happen every evening in front of a TV.

Dear Splento team, Splento associates, Splento photographers. You are part of Splento – because you are excellent at what you do. But just because you are an amazing property photographer, the best food photographer, London’s top portrait photographer or an unbelievable event photographer, you know and I know you can always get better!

When something goes wrong – don’t think: “Why did it happen to me?”. Think instead: “What can I do to fix it?”.

Don’t wait until I, or someone at Splento does it for you. Take charge.

Paraphrasing Nike: Just own it!