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Staying sane in the membrane and starting a company

Stating sane in the membrane

  1. Be present.
  2. Have fun.
  3. Be yourself.

For me, this is it.

I think starting a company is like anything else in life – you start because you love it, you think you can be really good at it, there is a promise of money or someone told you it’s what you should do (I hope it’s not that one).

Then, after a while of actually doing it, you get a moment to come up for air and think, “Wait, what’s going on?” You get so wrapped up in the details of staying on-track with fundraising, user acquisition and product that you forget about the most fundamental thing – yourself.

No one talks too much about how people are doing on a personal level and why would they? It’s weird, and unless you really know the person and have an hour to listen to them rant about the 500,000 different things that are going on, you’ll probably just get a classic, “Yeah, I’m good” as a response.

But, let’s be real – making sure you’re not going “insane in the membrane” (Cyprus Hill, 1993) is pretty important. And that is only up to you to figure out.

I took approximately 10 minutes and came up with the three most important things to focus on daily to keep my mind right. For me, they are: be present, have fun and be myself.

I went a little deeper than only thinking about words – so here’s some substance.

Be present.

Remember in the Harry Potter series when we found out that Harry and Voldemort are linked, allowing Voldemort to infiltrate Harry’s thoughts, on-demand? One minute Harry is strolling around Hogsmeade having a few butterbeers with Ron and Hermione, and the next he’s blacked out on the ground looking like he got hit by a truck.

This is my relationship with the company I co-founded, Sideline (minus Sideline being a dark Lord who wants to kill me … I think).

Thoughts attack from every angle at any point in the day.

But, much like Harry had Snape to help him work through his mind-control abilities and issues, I have my wife. Now, granted she’s much better looking than Snape, she’s equally relentless in making sure I activate the synapse in my brain to take a break every once in a while. (You’re welcome for the spot-on Harry Potter reference).

It is SO easy to drift and fall into a stream of thoughts around whatever the topic of the day is in your mind. It’s impossible to prevent, but super important to control. When you are home and have downtime, be at home. When you’re in the office and people need your undivided attention, give it to them. Don’t get lost in your own universe – stay here on earth with all of us nice people. Whatever you’re thinking about can definitely wait a few minutes, or dare I say, hours.

Have fun.

My main criterion for whether I’m making the right life move, career-wise, has always been this: would 13-year-old me think this is cool? Some people laugh at that, but I really think me at 13 had it going on. He’s the definition of an idealist – dreams, on dreams, on dreams. If I can impress him, I’m doing something right.

If you were to tell 13-year-old me that I co-founded a fantasy sports company where you make legal sports bets, in a fantasy league, with the premise of competing against and beating my friends – that kid would be so pumped. (Granted, I was more obsessed with sports and outcomes of games than most 13-year-olds).

So that should naturally mean that I’m having fun every day, right?

Psshhhh … 45 seconds ago, I was comparing myself to Harry Potter being mind-attacked by Voldemort.

But imagine if, when you are having those deep, stressful thoughts, you zoomed out to think if you were having fun. Seems small and maybe stupid, but perspective is king. In my case, I zoom out and think about all the good things going on. We are lucky enough to be working on something we love and can make a career out of – why am I not having fun right now?

Be yourself.

When I was in middle school – which I think is the most impressionable time in life – I wasn’t too concerned about being the smartest person, the most popular or the kid with the most Pokémon cards. I was pretty fine with just taking the tidbits here and there that I liked, and meshing them all together into the blob that became me. I had some pretty proud moments – I never used hair gel and didn’t dip into the blonde tips. (Note: This was during peak N’SYNC). I also have some things I still shake my head at – like rocking my Timberlands from sixth to eighth. (I heard they are back!☺)

As first-time founders, we have circled back to a new, but equally impressionable time. We are the new kids on the block and we are just trying to find our way. There are our peers who are on the journey with us, eighth graders (successful entrepreneurs) who have found their way and can share helpful tips, teachers (advisors and mentors) who can open our minds to the things we need to learn, and coaches (investors) who we hope will pick us to be on their team.

As we get going, we notice that all of the influences and thoughts from all the people you come across are wildly overwhelming – you constantly wonder what the right thing to listen to is, if you should do it more like they do or if you should talk or act a certain way to be more accepted.

Here’s the rub: none of that matters if you don’t know who you are – both as a person and as a company.

And the solution: we think it’s tapping into the mind of a confident sixth grader. Pick and choose the stuff you like and discard the stuff you don’t. Only you and your team truly know the company, so be confident in that, and let it guide you.

By adding a few reminders to day-to-day life, I’m hoping we can enjoy the daily ups and downs from a different perspective. At any rate, at least nothing bad can come from being present, having fun or being yourself – so I think we are safe there.

By Tyler Eshraghi (MBA ’15), co-founder of Sideline Fantasy Sports