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Episode 1 of the Founders’ Fears & Failures podcast introduces you to your host, Dr. Melissa Parks as she shares more about herself, her passion for the world of entrepreneurship, and what inspired her to start this podcast. You’ll also hear more about what you can look forward to in upcoming episodes. You can find the full transcript of the show below.
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Welcome to Founders’ Fears & Failures, the show where we dive deep into the mental and emotional challenges of life in the startup ecosystem. I’m your host, Dr. Melissa Parks and I’m so excited to be here with you and finally launching this podcast in today’s episode. I want to share with you a little bit more about me and my “why” behind starting this show.
I have my PhD in Clinical and Health Psychology. I worked as a therapist for several years and I currently work as a mindset coach for ambitious professionals, supporting them with issues such as increasing emotional intelligence and resilience, overcoming perfectionism and battling imposter syndrome
In addition to my 1:1 client work and most of the co-founder of an online community called Location Independent Therapists. It’s a community made up of mental health professionals around the globe who are living and working across country lines and we help support them in growing their private practice and finding ways to combine their career and mental health with international living.
I’m also passionate about spreading the word about the power of mindfulness and self-compassion as tools for improving mental and physical well-being, increasing emotional resilience, and even enhancing productivity. I incorporate these tools in the work of my clients and I’m trained to teach the empirically supported Mindful Self-Compassion program.
In case it isn’t obvious yet. I do consider myself someone who is multi-passionate and I really enjoy having my hands in multiple projects. Another thing I’m working on now is writing a memoir about the time I spent living abroad. I grew up in Seattle, in the US, but moved to Spain in my mid-twenties, I spent a decade living in Europe, both in Madrid and Amsterdam and it was one of the most challenging but also most rewarding experiences of my life. I became fluent in Spanish, went to grad school, and even met my husband there.
My husband and I moved to the Seattle area four years ago, but part of my heart is definitely still in Europe and we try to visit as often as possible. We now have a son who’s two-and-a-half and keeps us on our toes. We also have a dog named Pintxo who is a fantastic coworker, except when it comes to recording these podcast episodes. I have to make sure he’s on the other side of the house because he goes wild when a delivery driver comes, or the garbage truck passes by, or a squirrel runs through our yard. He’s actually sitting here next to me right now and I feel like I’m doing something very risky by having him here while I’m recording an episode.
So that’s a little bit more about me and why and now I want to launch more into why I decided to start this podcast. The truth is I’ve had an entrepreneurial spirit myself since I was a kid long before I’d ever heard of the word entrepreneur, and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to pronounce that word back then. I’ve heard though that this, that this is quite a common experience amongst entrepreneurs. I’m sure if you think back to your own childhood, you’ll likely recall some of your earliest business adventures, whether or not they were successful.
Some of mine that come to mind include buying a snow cone machine at the neighbor’s garage sale and wheeling it up and down the street in a wagon and selling snow cones to the neighborhood kids. It was around the same time, I also created a business plan with my best friend and pitched the idea to my mom. The plan was to open our own babysitting club and it seemed like a really solid plan. Except that we were only eight.
Those of us who are entrepreneurs at heart are usually passionate, ambitious and creative and often there’s a deep desire to help others as well. These characteristics often open doors and bring ideas to life that others would have thought were impossible. However, for many entrepreneurs, this passion and ambition can also lead to mental health struggles if you’re not taking care of yourself.
I’m no stranger to the struggle myself. I’ve experienced anxiety, depression, insomnia, and burnout. And I’ve learned the hard way that if you’re a highly ambitious person and you want to sustain the passion for the work you do, you need to make sure you’re sustaining yourself first. It’s like what they say on the airplanes, right? You have to put on your own oxygen mask first.
For the past eight years I’ve had the pleasure of working with clients around the globe. First as a therapist, now as a mindset coach. Most of the clients who I work with are highly ambitious professionals who are facing similar struggles as the ones I experienced. They’re talented, passionate, high achievers who are often held back from reaching their full potential by things such as perfectionism, self-doubt or burnout. Not all of these clients have been entrepreneurs, but over the years I discovered that I’m particularly passionate about working with entrepreneurs, especially startup founders.
This is partly due to the clients I’ve supported, partly due to my own experience as an entrepreneur, but also because I had a front row seat to the emotional rollercoaster of startup life when my now husband became co-founder and CEO of a tech startup.
I recently came across a scrapbook I made for him right before he started at an accelerator program. I titled it “Mental Health Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs” and filled it with inspirational quotes to help him survive that emotional roller coaster himself. It was the closest thing I guess I could get to supporting him without, you know, treading into being his therapist territory. Looking back, I think that this is when my passion for the mental well-being of startup founders first started though.
Although I had no idea at the time that that’s what it was. I really just thought I was being a supportive girlfriend. However, over the next few years, my interest in the topic grew as I joined my husband at Slush and Web Summit, some of the biggest tech conferences in Europe, I had the chance to speak with founders, investors and others supporting the startup world.
Now, people tend to tell me very personal things even before they find out I’m a former therapist. So at these events over coffees or dinners, I really got an inside look at the behind the scenes of the startup ecosystem, a firsthand look at the mental and emotional struggles that people were experiencing.
This was back in 2018 and at that point, I don’t think the startup world was ready to shift the way they thought about founders’ mental health. However, just as the pandemic shifted the way we think about mental health and mental health support on a global level, I think it’s also started a shift inside of the startup ecosystem.
I’ve been thinking about this podcast idea for at least a year and towards the end of last year, I came across increasingly more startups, online summits and other podcasts that are aimed at reducing the stigma around founders’ mental health.
I really think we’re reaching a tipping point in the startup world where we’re going to stop seeing burnout as a badge of honor and investors are going to start seeing the importance of investing in human capital for long term success.
In my experience as a therapist and coach, I found that the number one thing that makes a painful experience more difficult for someone is when they think there’s something wrong with them for struggling. This is what ends up being at the heart of shame. Shame is that feeling that “something is wrong with me.”
So, what contributes to this feeling? Well, it’s even stronger when we look around and all we see are other entrepreneurs who seem to be sailing along smoothly without doubts or fears and whose personal and professional lives never seem to collide.
I’ve realized that there’s only so much power in me telling my clients that they aren’t alone when they’re struggling. What they need are others inside of the startup world to tell them that they’re not alone. We need a larger conversation to be taking place. And I want this podcast to inspire you to talk about the not-so-shiny side of life as a founder with people inside your own network.
A study out of UC Berkeley found that 72% of entrepreneurs are affected by mental health struggles and I’m not at all surprised by that number. The truth is that life is a founder can feel like a constant uphill climb each day. You need to constantly expand your skill set, there’s uncertainty lurking around every corner, you may be tasked with taking on a leadership role before you’re ready, be weighed down by decision fatigue, and all while having investors breathing down your neck figuratively, or maybe even literally!
I’ve also heard life as a startup founder compared to the experience of being an Olympic athlete. But whereas Olympic athletes have a whole support squad helping them succeed, founders tend to have too few people in their corner that they can lean on.
I also hope this show will help to change this and inspire founders to reach out for additional support from a coach, a therapist, a mentor, or even to create a peer support group of other founders.
So what can you look forward to on this show? Each Tuesday, I’ll release a new episode featuring an interview with a founder, investor, or other professional supporting the startup ecosystem. They’ll share their stories of fears and failures, in other words, their own personal experiences on the emotional roller coaster of life as a startup founder. I’ll also be bringing on a few experts to talk about some of the common issues that plague founders and steps they can take to take care of themselves.
We’ll be covering it all on this show – dealing with stress, burnout, and mental health struggles, juggling the competing demands of personal professional life, coping with the inevitable setbacks and failures that are part of the entrepreneurial journey, and more.
Although I’m based in the U. S. I’m featuring stories from founders around the globe. Partly for selfish reasons – I love meeting people from around the world – but also because I think there’s a lot we can learn from sharing stories across different countries and cultures.
I have one more “why” to share with you before I wrap up this episode and I’d say it’s arguably the most important. A couple of years ago I became a mom and something shifted inside of me at that point. I’ve always been ambitious, but suddenly it felt imperative me imperative to me to ensure that the work I was doing was helping to make the world a better place for my son.
The show is one of the ways I’m hoping to do that. There are too many talented founders out there who will crash and burn before they can help the world with the product or service that their company was intended to provide. My hope is that by reducing the stigma around mental health and redefining failure through this show that we can reduce the risk of this happening.
So, I have two more episodes that are being released today. One with a second time founder who is sharing his story of recovering from a failed startup and burnout. He’s also sharing what he’s doing differently this time around to protect his mental health.
The other is an interview with a psychologist who specializes in the topic of loneliness and we’re discussing why loneliness is so common amongst founders, how it’s related to mental health struggles and what you can do to combat loneliness. If you’re dealing with this yourself, have a listen and please subscribe and leave a review.
Also, if you’re a founder who would like to share your story on the show, or if you know of a founder who has a great story to share, get in touch. You can reach out to me through my website, melissaparks.com, or on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook. You can find all of those links in the show notes.
I look forward to seeing you again next Tuesday and until then have a great week and enjoy the episodes!
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Disclaimer: The Founders’ Fears & Failures is for educational, informational, and entertainment purposes only. It is not meant to be used for personal health advice and should not be construed to constitute personal or professional consultation or guidance, or to replace medical or mental health treatment. The opinions expressed by this podcast, including the podcast guests, are not meant to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of a medical or mental health provider regarding any questions or concerns you have about your medical and/or mental health needs. If you are in crisis, please visit this website to find a list of suicide hotlines around the globe.