Why “top guns” don’t get stressed

If there were a 50% chance of dying every day while building your company, would that affect your work satisfaction?

Well, that was the mortality rate for fighter pilots in World War II, the highest among the military.

And yet, they also had the military’s highest job satisfaction: 93% claiming to be happy with their assignments.

How could that be?

The answer: No activity — not even flying in enemy territory — is inherently stressful.

As fighter pilots, they had the freedom to maneuver through a huge airspace however they liked, and they believed that their skill as a pilot would determine their survival, not luck.

Because they felt in control of their fate, they experienced less stress.

It’s the same for you as a tech founder.

The external events you face — a difficult fund-raising environment, micro-chip shortage, talent war — aren’t stressful in and of themselves.

What’s stressful is trying to “control the uncontrollable.”

And that’s a game you’ll never win.

You’re better off developing your ability to focus on what you control. 

Eric Potterat, longtime clinical psychologist for the Special Forces, calls it “staying in your circle.”

When something happens, the first step is to identify what’s in your circle.

🚫 You can’t control the stock market or the war in Ukraine. 

🎯 But you can prepare a persuasive case to your lead investor for bridge financing.

🚫 You can’t make a key team member stay at the company.

🎯 But you can reach out to people in your network for recommendations.

When I work with founders in high-growth mode, this is one of the first things we do: pinpoint their “mental fat” — their unnecessary stress — and strategize what to do instead.

Immediately, they feel back in control of their destiny.

And isn’t that why you signed up to be an entrepreneur in the first place?