Episode 17: How Therapy Made Me a Better Founder with Ryan Schwartz

May 30, 2023 | podcast | 0 comments

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You can find the full transcript for this episode at the bottom of this page

Too often we think about therapy as something to seek out as a last resort, when we’re in crisis and have exhausted all our other options. 

Even if you suspect that it might help you to pursue therapy proactively, too many of us view it as something optional. Especially when you’re a founder who is acutely aware of how you’re spending your time and money. 

My guest this week is here to talk about why he believes therapy is essential for founders, why it’s so helpful to seek out a therapist before you have a problem, and all of the ways his own experience in therapy has made him a better founder, as well as a co-founder. 

Ryan Schwartz is the founder of Mental Health Match, a free platform that makes it easy to find a therapist. He’s also the co-founder of TherapistsDAO, a community of therapists that shares ownership and governance of the infrastructure needed to advance mental health care across the globe. Prior to these projects, Ryan was a strategic communications consultant for social change organizations. Ryan and his husband are nomadic, traveling around North America in pursuit of the calmest nature backdrops to their lives as startup founders.

When you’re feeling self doubt about yourself, it’s really hard to be a good founder. You’re often blaming yourself for things that are actual lessons that you can learn about the company, about the market that you’re in, about your product. If you’re seeing them through the lens of self doubt, you’re not growing the company, you’re just beating yourself up.

Tune in to this episode to learn more about some of the ways founders might benefit from going to therapy, including uncovering blind spots and overcoming imposter syndrome, perfectionism, and avoidance, as well as the tips Ryan shares for how to know if a therapist is the right fit for you.

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • The challenges Ryan encountered when searching for a therapist himself that inspired him to found his startup
  • The double edged sword many founders face as high achievers
  • How therapy has helped Ryan be a better founder and co-founder
  • Why Ryan thinks therapy for founders is the work of your business and shouldn’t be optional
  • Ryan’s tips for searching for a therapist and why feeling uncomfortable may not always be a red flag
  • The self-care activities and work routines Ryan has put into place (in addition to weekly therapy) to prioritize his mental health and increase his productivity

Find Ryan Online:

Resources & Inspiration from the Show

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About Founders’ Fears & Failures and your host, Dr. Melissa Parks

Melissa is an entrepreneur, former therapist (PhD in Clinical & Health Psychology), and an executive coach for entrepreneurs with a special focus on startup founders. Her passion for supporting startup founders in particular began after witnessing firsthand the emotional rollercoaster her husband experienced as a startup co-founder.

She started the Founders’ Fears & Failures podcast with the mission of shining a light on the mental and emotional challenges that come with life as a startup founder. Having lived abroad for 10 years herself she realizes how much we can learn from hearing stories from around the globe which is why the show doesn’t focus on a country-specific startup ecosystem.

Melissa is also the co-founder of the Location Independent Therapist Community, and a mom to a toddler who keeps her on her toes, and fuels her passion for helping to make the world a better place.

If you are interested in coming on the show, please get in touch. We would love to hear your story.

Want to connect further? Get in touch with Melissa on social media:

Want to work with Melissa?

Melissa is a former therapist who provides mindset coaching for ambitious professionals around the globe. Schedule your free discovery call HERE.

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Did you enjoy listening to this episode? Leave your review on Apple podcasts or Spotify.

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. 

Episode Transcript

Melissa 

All right. All right. Ryan, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Ryan 

Yeah, thanks, Melissa. It’s really a pleasure to be here. I think mental health a specifically the mental health of founders and entrepreneurs is something I’m very passionate about. So I’m excited to have this conversation.

Melissa 

Yeah, me too. Me too. And, you know, I know, people have already heard this. I, you know, I announced the bio before we, we jumped into this conversation. So people know, your background is as as a mental health professional, my background is as a mental health professional. So I know that we’re not just passionate about this personally, but but on a professional level, too.

Ryan 

Yeah. Although I should say I am not a trained therapist. Yeah, so I work in mental health. But I want to be clear from the outset that I am not a clinical therapist. So that is not my training. And I, there’s some questions that I probably will not answer, because I don’t have the training. Because,

Melissa 

Yeah, I totally understand that. I guess I should have been clear that like your field, now is the mental health field. Yeah, with your startup, why don’t we start? Well, I’m good that that brings me to my first question, then Ryan, you know, how did you get into the world of entrepreneurship? And then, what about specifically mental health? How did that come about?

Ryan 

Yeah, that’s a great question. I think in some way, I have always been an entrepreneur. I remember like, my first lemonade stand is in my like, first ways to make change. And then growing into my own communications business that I had before I entered the mental health fields. I think a big part of it was being raised in a household that was very achievement oriented. And so you know, that mapped, created some patterns early on in my life that has led me to always try to create something new, solve problems in the world be independent, these are big values that I have. And so I was working, I had my own communications business, where I would work with social change organizations, on figuring out how to reach new audiences and what their messaging would be to help create social change. And I actually had a personal experience of trying to find a therapist for the first time, you know, I was raised in Texas, it was not a very feelings forward culture. And so the idea of therapy was very new to me, about 10 years ago, I actually my I had lost my mom, very suddenly, it was very traumatic loss, it’s very sudden loss. And this is when a friend who had always been an advocate for therapy said like, this is a good time to go to therapy. And so, you know, I really struggled to find a therapist that I connected with, and I kept talking to friends and family. And then eventually, like friends of friends who had looked for therapists, and I kept hearing this story over and over again, that, you know, people wanted to go to therapy. But the search for a therapist was so overwhelming and complicated that they kind of just gave up on me. And I realized that there, you know, I had all this experience of how of bringing two different audiences together with my communications work. And I thought, you know, maybe this is an opportunity to do something in mental health and bring help therapists and clients that are connected.

And so that led me to creating mental health match, which is uses an online algorithm kind of similar to maybe like a dating app to actually help clients quickly find therapists who meet their needs. It all happens within a couple of minutes. It’s completely anonymous. And I was just looking yesterday. So since we started in 2018, we started in Texas, but then now we’re fully national. We’ve had 2.2 million clients use the site, which really blows my mind. So a lot, a lot of change there. So, you know, I think about entrepreneurship through a few lenses. One is being the founder of a mental health company. And all of the interviews with therapists and clients that I’ve done from there. I also was a co founder of a very short live project called founder corner that was matching, and bringing entrepreneurs into therapy to help more founders access therapy, both my co founder and I decided to pivot away from that project. But we did a lot of work with founders. The thing is, I’m a co founder of therapist DAO, which is a decentralized therapist organization. And so another different type of founder with like a community decentralized aspect. And my I am an advisor and founder of my husband’s company, and so I bring in some experience navigating relationships around startups, and thinking about what that’s like. Granted, most co founders are not spouses, but there’s a lot of relationships that I’ve learned with My spouse that I think could be really helpful to co-founders.

Ryan 

Yeah. Okay, well, so much there that I want to ask about. But I do just want to say I’ve, I’ve heard so much I know coaches and therapists who specialize in co-founder relationships. But I’ve also just heard of so many co-founders who end up going to couples counseling together, they work with a marriage and family therapist, and I hadn’t heard that before.

Ryan 

But it’s such a great framework to understand your relationship and what you are, how you’re interacting together and how you’re working together to create a worlds create something new together.

Melissa 

Yeah, absolutely. I hadn’t thought about it before. Just how much is transferable, but it makes it makes so much sense. So that’s great that they’ve got you got you on board there to help out.

Ryan 

Yeah, absolutely. It’s a lot of fun.

Melissa 

Yeah. So one thing I wanted to say too, is just this, this story of feeling like you’ve always been an entrepreneur, it’s also something that I’ve been hearing so much with the guests that I speak with, it just seems to come out like yeah, looking back, I guess it’s always been there. Do you think I know you mentioned kind of having a achievement oriented family? Like, were there any other role models of actual entrepreneurs?

Ryan 

Yeah, so on one side of my family, my great grandmother came over from Europe in the 19 hundred’s and started selling corsets out of her basement. And so there was a retail store in Chicago, for 100, and something years that all of my family was involved in. So my earliest memories of visiting them was like unpacking boxes and helping with inventory. It’s like, great, you know, how to count now, count these. And so, and on the other side of my family, they also under retail stores, so there was a lot of small business aspects. But you know, I think I was also raised, where achievement mattered. And like that was a source of pride was grades and extracurriculars and all of those things. And so, I think, you know, having looked at some of those patterns, it’s easy to say, Oh, I’ve always been an entrepreneur, and I have like that set of traits. But I also think that this was partly developed in me, through my early life of being able to create a business and be independent and achieve something and create change. And that’s kind of patterns that got reinforced over the years by my parents, that also helped me kind of pursue that lifestyle, right, and it’s a double, it’s a double edge, because I think that it gives me a lot of it gives me a present personality traits that helped me embrace the risk and the unknown, and the desire to do something different. But the flip side of that is, there’s a fear of failure. Right. And I think, I think for a lot of founders who may recognize, Oh, I love or say like, I’ve always been an entrepreneur, and I have these aspects of my character, it’s a little bit scarier to kind of dive into the fear of failure, and how that fear of failure affects founders on the job. Right. And, you know, something I’ve learned through my own therapy process, something I’ve learned by working with so many founders, and is that when you have a fear of failure, and you might be fueled by this fear, or this perfectionism, or all these kind of elements of it, you can subconsciously start to avoid tasks where there’s a high level of uncertainty, because you don’t want to fail, right? And so. So I think about, you know, when I first was a founder and showing up in like, avoiding some aspects of customer research, because I was afraid that they would lead to failure or avoiding, you know, pivoting on a product or thinking through even my own staffing decisions, and who to hire not to hire when there was a lot of uncertainty. I had a lot of avoidance and procrastination. And I think that that’s the flip side of being raised in an achievement oriented mindset is that then there’s the feeling of failure. And so being able to really embrace that fear, be aware of that fear, feel it, like sit with it, but not let it hold you back, like help understand how that fear of failure might get in your way sometimes. It has been a really helpful lesson that I’ve learned as a founder.

Melissa 

Yes. So so important there, right. Like I can totally see. Yeah, that double edged sword that you’re talking about. I’m curious, is that something that you discovered through therapy or did you realize it through some other means?

Ryan 

Yeah, absolutely. Through therapy, and through through kind of like, tracing my current traits that I experienced myself as back into where they might have originated and thinking through like, Well, what else has originated within that with my family of origin? So definitely, therapy has helped me be how I was afraid of failure and where that was getting in the way of my goals as an entrepreneur, and how to be more comfortable feeling that fear it’s sitting with that fear and being accepting it.

Melissa 

Yeah, it’s so counterintuitive, right? Like, if you don’t, that’s I’m not surprised that you’re saying you, you figured it out to therapy?

Ryan 

Yeah, of course. And I think it’s just one of the examples of where, you know, emotions have a lot of information for us. And we also live, a lot of us live in cultures or have been raised in cultures to silence that information and to like, numb or dismiss emotions. And so therapy has been really helpful to actually learn to embrace those emotions, become aware of it know what it’s like to feel them, and understand what information they’re telling me. Whether it’s about my body, or my relationships, or my business.

Melissa 

Yeah, I know, when you reach out to me, you told me that therapy has been a pivotal part a piece for you, right for your success as a founder.

Ryan 

Yeah, yeah, I’ve learned so much about myself. And I think not only does it help me see where there are patterns that are counterproductive to what I’m trying to do like patterns that need to be addressed. But it’s helped me be a better co founder, it’s helped me be in relationships with my team better. It’s helped me really have clarity about things and understand my own biases, especially biases towards information and biases towards what I kind of just wanted to shut my eyes to or like, avoid. Which you don’t, that’s not what makes a good founder, right? A good founder is willing to accept truths and go into discomfort to understand the landscape that they’re in.

Melissa 

Ya know, I’ve heard so many people say that before, like the importance of getting uncomfortable, right? Like you’re saying, just going into that discomfort, if it’s not what you want to do.

Ryan 

Totally. It’s something it’s something to learn. And I think a lot of founders, on the surface, embrace the idea of discomfort of the risk, the roller coaster that is inherent in being a founder. But we can also go deeper into that discomfort. What does it mean to acknowledge wrong? What does it mean to apologize? What does it mean to understand yourself at a very deep level, maybe, in my instance, like, I’m often a people pleaser. And that meant, sometimes I lost touch with my own values, and just kind of did what my investors wanted me to or what my staff wanted me to. And so really being in discomfort is more than just the roller coaster of the startup, it’s more than the external discomfort that you find yourself in. It is the internal discomfort with figuring yourself out and acknowledging your full humanity, both your strength and the places where you can learn and grow.

Melissa 

Wow. Yeah. I do think that in some ways, well, I think even the external roller coaster is is intense, right. But it does almost get like, romanticized. I think it’s like this is you know, this is startup life and what you’re talking about, I also think is so pivotal, but not all founders, you know, are, are ready to go there. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for people who are listening in, you know, maybe thinking like, you know, considering going to therapy, anything you’d want them to hear right now?

Ryan 

Yes, that is the work of your business. Understanding yourself as a founder is the work. It is just as important as that, you know, Monday sprint planning, it is just as important as the investor report. This is the work and so I think a lot of founders put therapy in a category of self care, like the gym, or in a category of somewhat optional health care like going to the dentist, right. And this is I think that is a mistake, because and I like to think about it, this might be helpful. I think that there’s mental health, which is often framed as like minimizing in crisis, and then there’s mental performance, right? We all and this is actually like working at your best. And we all our brains operate like a subconscious operating system, right? We only know what that the surface until you dig deeper. And if you don’t dig deeper and you don’t understand how your brain operates and the patterns that it has and the biases that it has, it’s like running your business on DOS, like you haven’t upgraded your operating system. And therapy, I think is a place to help you do that, to actually get in touch and understand it. And if you don’t make that visible, you are a founder running on DOS, and that is not productive or helpful for your work.

Melissa 

I love that comparison. I will never

Ryan 

Do you remember DOS? Did I just date myself.

Melissa 

I remember. I’m sure there are people on here. Yeah, I think I think you’re speaking to people who are listening. I think that that is a really powerful message. And I think it’s one of those misconceptions we have in just society, right about what it means to go to therapy, right? You wait until there’s a crisis, or you do it because things are, you know, it’s the last resort sort of thing. But what I hear you talking about is much more preventative and proactive. And, and you know it can I think therapy can serve different roles at different times in your life, too.

Ryan 

Absolutely. And I’ve been in that reactive place. And I that was how I started my journey, I think in mental health. And I continue to go to therapy on a weekly basis, because I believe in the proactive benefits I don’t believe in I see it right and I understand it. And so there’s a proactive element to taking 15 minutes out of every week, and checking in with what your emotions are telling you understanding the way your brain is operating and finding the blind spots that you didn’t realize you have that are preventing you from being the founder that you aspire to be.

Melissa 

Yeah, yeah. And what about yours? Do you have the same therapist you’ve worked with over the years? Or have you worked with different therapists

Ryan 

I just had to change therapists because I moved states, which was hard. But this gives me a new opportunity to explore some different aspects and kind of start fresh with where I want to lead where I want to go with therapy next. So unfortunately, I could not use mental health match my the site to find a therapist, that would be a very big dual relationship if your therapist is also your customer. So I it was a little bit painful to go find one, but I’m very happy with how things have turned out.

Melissa 

Oh, good, good. Yeah, of course. Yeah, that is unfortunate. You couldn’t use it, because it sounds like you’ve created such an important thing. I often so I work as a coach now. But with my background as a mental health professional, I often have people reach out to me and asking me like, how do I even find a therapist. And sometimes, you know, it’s like, you’re saying, you know, if you change states, if you change countries, like you’re gonna have, you might not be able to continue working with the same person so that if someone outside I’m in Washington state, so somebody outside of Washington State asks me if I have a recommendation of a therapist, I might not know of a specific person. But it does even get tricky to I’m glad to know about your about your company, because I’m gonna be sending people there now. Because I don’t know. You know, Psychology Today is out there. That’s the one I often send people to. I run an online community for therapists who are globally mobile. And so if somebody’s looking for somebody with that profile, I’ll send them there. But I think we have, you know, 30-40 therapists on there right now, like we’re really small, so it’s not going to fit a lot of people in their needs. And it sounds like you really, yeah, you’ve really created something that can help people all over the United States.

Ryan 

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, and it has, right. And that always worries me. So yeah, mental health match. It’s completely free. It’s completely anonymous. And you’re able to search for therapists who also specialize in entrepreneurs in businesses and career development. And so it’s a really nice way to enter into therapy. If it’s for the first time, if you don’t know exactly what you need, or what’s going to come up, like even just finding a therapist who often works with other entrepreneurs can be a really great way to start.

Melissa 

Oh, yeah, that’s awesome to know that you’ve got those filters, too. And what about because I know that you know, one of the best things to kind of predict if a therapeutic relationship is going to work is finding if you have that fit with somebody, so is there anything like Do you have any like tips that you give people when they’re searching like, should they try out a therapist or do the therapist offer like an initial like quick call or something for people?

Ryan 

Most therapists will offer a free 10 or 15 minute consultation to see if you’re the right fit. Awesome for therapists who don’t feel like they need to offer that because they’re full or they just, but I will only see a therapist, if I have a 10 minute chance to just connect with them. And see what that fit is like, I do recommend folks go for three full sessions just to feel out. Because oftentimes we’re looking for like a friend, or we’re looking to replicate some kind of other relationship in our life, that we’re safe and vulnerable. And that it might not be the right replication of that relationship. And I feel different, you got to give it a little bit of space for it to be its own relationship. And for it to be its own, kind of develop on its own. But you know, you’re looking for somebody who you feel like you can be safe and vulnerable with, and you’re looking for somebody who you have confidence has the expertise to work with you. And so there are, you know, like, oh, I don’t find them funny enough, or I don’t like, like the way their voice sounds like those aren’t really good reasons to give up. Therapists, right, like that might change as you grow in that relationship. But things like, I don’t feel like they get me I don’t feel like they have the cultural understanding to understand me. You know, I feel like they’re not, they don’t have the expertise, or they didn’t match what I was hoping for in terms of professionalism, like, those are may, those are bigger issues that actually can get in the way of you feeling like you’re in the right space. And so, you know, feel a therapist, I’ve given them a few sessions, and then tried to think, are my hesitations rooted in? Something that is kind of more superficial to my relationship and my ability to do work with this therapist? Or do they feel actually really deep about me being able to be safe and comfortable in this environment? And if they feel deep move on, there’s there’s a lot of therapists out there.

Melissa 

Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s great advice. Yeah. Don’t, don’t hesitate to keep looking. But I will just share that one of the first times I went, well, actually, the first time I went to therapy was in college, and I only gave it one session. And looking back, I realized that it was because the therapist really knew what she was doing. And she really pushed some buttons in me. But so I think that’s, you know, people might need, it might feel uncomfortable, right? We’re talking about the getting into the discomfort it might be because that’s really the direction that you need to go into. So yeah, finding that balance between like, it’s a good fit, but like, you know, maybe it’s like you’re saying a safe space. I think that’s such a great, great way to define it.

Ryan 

Yeah, and that’s really great. I love that story from you, because it’s awesome. So a time to ask yourself, are you avoiding something? Is there avoidance at play? And why? What are you avoiding and why? And that’s? Yeah, and that’s even great to even go back a second session and say, like, you know, I wanted to run away after the first session. And I want to talk about what I was avoiding. Right?

Melissa 

Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah. And if it’s a safe space, right, hopefully, it feels safe to be able to do that. And to, because that is, yeah, that’s where some of that real change and that real change making can happen.

Ryan 

Yeah. Absolutely.

Melissa 

Oh, sorry, Ryan, you go ahead with what you were about to say something?

Ryan 

Well, I was just gonna say like, I think avoidance is a really big theme for founders to explore. And maybe that comes up in first therapy session about what why they want to walk away, or move away from that. But I also think, you know, if you have a co founder, chances are your relationship has got a lot of avoidance in there, there are things that you don’t want to bring to the co founder, there are self doubt that you don’t want to bring up. And that is where relationships start to suffer. And I can’t remember what percentage it is. But like the majority of startups that fail fail, because of co founder, conflict when there’s when there’s co founders. Number one reason co founder run companies fail is because of conflict between the founders. And so avoidance just starts to pile on right. And so that’s why I think a couples therapist or a couples therapy framework can be really helpful to allow people to be vulnerable with each other. And that’s where so much trust and growth happens in our relationship. And so I think avoidance is a really good theme. If you’re listening to this to start thinking about, are you avoiding anything with yourself, with your customers, with your business with your team? And what does it feel like when you’re avoiding something? Are you even aware that you’re avoiding something in the first place?

Melissa 

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Like we were saying earlier that you might need an external person to help you notice those the blind spots, right. They’re called blind spots for a reason.

Ryan 

Yes, yeah, absolutely.

Melissa 

I always think about like, I don’t know. Like it’s so important right to get clarity about where is your avoidance happening, but also don’t beat yourself up for it. That would be kind of my advice I’d give to like, it’s it’s so it’s such human nature, right? I think our brains just try to like conserve energy. And we just don’t want to be avoiding when it’s holding us back from something important though, right? Like if it’s pushing us in the direction of startup failure. That’s definitely a path you don’t want to be on.

Ryan 

You Yeah, exactly. I mean, they’re all learning lessons, right? This is all about, you know, founders are often pursuing growth mindsets, how do I get better? How do I grow better? This is just another type of growth mindset is that be more aware of that avoidance, right? I think about like a meditation practice. You know, they’re often coached, like, be aware of when your mind starts to wander. And then don’t beat yourself up for it, just like gently come back to your breath. And so I think about the same thing here, like, be gentle with yourself, you’re growing, and you’re learning. And if you’re beating yourself up, you’re not giving yourself the space to grow and learn.

Melissa 

Yeah, no. But we do often think like, I just need to push myself harder, and like, you know, criticize myself to improve and, yeah, it’s, I think it’s for some people it takes go into therapy to really realize just how detrimental that can be.

Ryan 

Yeah, I mean, the, the hustle culture is very real. The individual blame culture of startups is very real. And I think that they’re both think they’re both misleading. I think that and they prevent, when you fall into those mindsets that either you’ve done you something is wrong with you, you’re blaming yourself, you feel guilty. Or you’re trying to emulate someone where you don’t you have kind of like a celebrity view of who they actually are and what their life is like. You don’t give yourself the space and compassion to grow. And to be honest, and to dig deep. And I think that that, I think that that’s, that can hurt a lot of founders.

Melissa 

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I do hear that all the time. What I hear often is like, it’s the second time around, you know, you look back in hindsight, and yeah, I didn’t. That didn’t go so well. Last time.

Ryan 

Yeah, exactly. Like, once you go that route, and you burn out, or you you know, you crash and burn, and it’s just like, okay, that did that didn’t go so well. Let’s try something different.

Melissa 

Yeah, my hope is like with this show, and just other things I see happening in the in the startup ecosystem, though, we can help people from like, at least a percentage of people from getting to that point of crash and burn, though, right? Because there’s Yeah, you don’t. I mean, I’ve also met people who say, like, no, I’ll never go back to startup life, because I did. You know, I burned out too much. And I don’t believe I can do it differently. So I’m curious to hear like, what is some of the I don’t know, like self care kind of stuff that you do these days to really help you make sure you’re caring for your mental health, but also performing as a founder.

Ryan 

So weekly therapy is at the top of that list. I work a four day a week. I do not work on Fridays, I work very hard Monday through Thursday. And then I have three days, because two days just isn’t enough. First of all, like even when, as a founder, when you’re not working, you’re often thinking about work. So like you’re not really resting a lot of the time. And then there’s just like life, chores and things. I just find that a two day weekend is not enough to recharge, and give yourself the space, you need to have perspective on your Monday through Thursday tasks, right. And so so I take three days off for the weekend. I try to be nature. Those are very big. And then yeah, I think weekly therapy and just really trying to get very restful rest. So not I don’t watch a lot of TV, but you know, I like to be hiking or I meditate a little bit reading things that actually helped my brain kind of find rest, rather than just destroying it.

Melissa 

Yeah, things like that. Okay. Yeah, yeah, no, I hear you. Like, it’s, it’s so hard. I think in this, like our technology, like we’re just surrounded by technology, I mean, looking. Obviously, I’m recording a podcast. I have lots of technology around me right now. Even when I’m away from my computer, you know, there’s the phone, maybe there’s a ebook or something around too. It’s just it’s tough and a lot of what you’re saying, you didn’t say this specifically, but it sounds like you’re you’re stepping away from technology a lot when you’re resting.

Ryan 

Yeah, like when I go hiking, I’m out of service phone is off, right. And I’m just grounding myself. I will say like, just to be clear. I am more productive on a four day week than I ever was on a five day week. We do these five day week hustles. That do there’s a scarcity mentality there that I have to, there’s just not enough hours, and they just gotta keep doing more hours and more hours and more hours. And those hours are not healthy, productive hours, right. And so, you know, I find that on a four day week, they’re productive hours, I’m focused more on what actually needs to be done, making sure that I’m working on priorities, and not just not just reacting to work that comes up, because I have to be careful about how I spend my time. And so it is very good. I’ll say I also do so my partner and I do another thing. We work for six weeks stretches. And then we take a week that we call our like a relay planning week. And so this is where we spend one day on my company and thinking strategically. And there’s a series of questions that we asked. We spent one day on his company thinking strategically, with the same series of questions, we spend a day on our relationship, and thinking about relationship, which, incidentally, is the same series of questions. And then we spend a day kind of like prepared like, adding tickets to sprint boards coordinating with teams like preparing for the next six weeks of work. And I find that having that opportunity to step back regularly, every six weeks is really, really powerful. I’ve adopted the same process with the Dow that I’m a co founder in with my other co founder and pretty soon our steering committee. And so I think like having that regular interval to like, step back from the email, step back for the meetings, and ask yourself like, what are my priorities? And am I working on those priorities? If not, like what’s gotten in the way of them? It was really helpful.

Ryan 

Oh, no, I’m so glad that you added that in because yeah, we can. I think often we do think about that, like just in week stretches, right? Like, what do I do each week or, and but I love what you’re saying, just like building in a way to zoom out. Right? And I’m so happy you shared like it’s a professional life thing. But it’s a personal life thing, too.

Ryan 

Yeah. And so the questions we ask every six weeks are like what feels different than six weeks ago? What did we learn over the past six weeks? What energize this? What energizes, how do we prioritize what got in the way, and we’ve added, like, we’ve gotten away with our customers, we’ve gotten away with our business. We’ve gotten away from short sightedness, and we’ve gotten away from our own emotions. And then broadly, where do we want to be in six weeks. And we do that as fruit for the companies, we do this for our relationship. And it’s really helpful to get grounding and focus. And because I find that if we go longer than six weeks without doing that, the work becomes reactive, rather than focused. You’re just responding to things coming up with that clarity of like, is this really worth my time at the moment? And time is like the greatest thing that founders have any to be judicious with?

Melissa 

You? Absolutely. Are you just got my wheels turning in my own business? And like, I usually wait until the end of the quarter. But why did I decide that? Yeah, it’s just interesting to hear what you’re saying, like six weeks is the max date that you found you can go.

Ryan 

Yeah, yeah, we’ve tried different lengths and different times and six weeks tends to be like the max between before, it doesn’t feel like we’re as focused and directs.

Melissa 

Oh, well, so I mean, you’re involved in so many things that I’m curious to know, specifically, with, with your work that you’ve done over the past few years of mental health match? Is there anything that you’ve taken from that, like the learning journey that you’re taking into your next ventures? Or maybe you know, a venture to come?

Ryan 

That’s a great question, I think. Think there’s a few things. One is that the relationships are really, relationships really matter. And so in my one of my current ventures is a decentralized organization of therapists, and we are relationships really, really bad are there we built together a founding team. And so developing those connections in those trust is really, really important. And it’s really different than when I did a mental health match, which was very centralized and hierarchical, where I’ve made the decisions, right, like, this is much more community based. And so I’m looking at relationship lessons that I learned in a centralized hierarchical startup and how they apply into decentralized one like where we’re How do I foster trust? How do I foster connection? We’re both mental health match and the DAO, the decentralized organization, we’re very remote and our teams are distributed across the states and the DAO is global. And so where do we find those times to connect with each other outside of your work questions that develop that actual, those connections and those trusts that to be able to work together. So I think that there’s some relationships and thoughts that I’m pulling there. And I think the second one is something that founders learn as their companies grow, which is giving up on a sense of control. And this is a really hard one, I also grew up in a household of people who liked their control, right? People liked their control. These are patterns we learned, we went on them early. And in a startup, it’s like a preseed or, you know, very, very early on startup founders kind of shine with that aspect of control. They are doing everything, right, like, you’re managing communications and products and operations. And like all of these different hats that you’re wearing, there’s like a level of control that comes with that, that can be really great for a founder who’s got a vision that they want to see happen. But once you start growing, especially once you hit like a Series A, you don’t get that control anymore, you have you have to delegate and this is where I’ve often seen founders struggle is that the they feel like they still need to have control over things that they’ve tried to delegate. And so they end up burning out because there’s just not enough hours in the day, you have to trust people. And you have to say like, okay, that’s not exactly how I would do it, but it gets the job done and good enough, like we’re moving on. And so being able to feel, when you have anxiety over loss of control, when you start to micromanage as a way to try to exert control, like these are lessons that I have learned as I grew a centralized company, and certainly within a decentralized organization, there’s very little control, and it is okay. And these are like lessons I keep learning and they reinforce each other. Because you are moving together as a community. And that means, like, people are gonna do things different, and it can be messy, and that’s okay. And so I think getting comfortable with giving up control, loss of control. And being aware of those feelings that come with that is a really important lesson that I think founders often learn too late when they’re burnt out, or where they just never were able to grow their team or their their company the way that they had envisioned.

Melissa 

Yeah, yeah, I loved so that just really important piece of advice there as well. And it sounds like yeah, you hear you saying a little bit like some learning it the hard way of it. Probably also some help with therapy, I’m guessing in there, too.

Ryan 

Both are very true.

Melissa 

Well, Ryan, what about? What if we could go back in time for like the very beginning of your of your journey into entrepreneurship? What advice would you give to yourself back then?

Ryan 

That’s is. That’s a great question. I think it gets. So this gets to the heart of what I think a lot of people popularize is called impostor syndrome. And I think I carried that with me for a really long time where I turned like, for me impostor syndrome is just this like, phrase of a Petri dish where like, self doubt, and self conflict just gets to grow. And so like, you know, I, I’m a short queer guy. And so I didn’t fit in, I didn’t feel like I fit into all of these rooms of investors and CEOs, and startup accelerators. And like this whole world, like it felt like I didn’t belong. And I internalized that feeling of not belonging it through this lens of imposter syndrome, and just became like, self doubt, like I don’t belong here, because I’m not smart enough, good enough, experienced enough, fill in the blank, blank enough, right? And so looking back on that, from my experience, now, I’m like, Oh, wait, you were smart enough, you’re experienced enough, you’re talented enough. You just feel like you didn’t belong, and you didn’t belong? Because you just didn’t culturally, there’s different there. You didn’t grow up like rich straight, white dudes. Right? Like, it’s like, understanding that. And so I think I struggled with that for a long time and really question my role as a startup founder question my worth as a startup founder. And so I would go back to my younger self, and try to connect the dots and say, like, you feel like you don’t belong, but it’s not a reflection on you. It’s a reflection on them. And like, you have the talent. And you just trust yourself like no one, no education. If you can’t trust yourself like who’s gonna trust you? Right? So I think that that is like an a very important lesson I learned that I wish I had learned a little bit earlier on. Because when you’re feeling self doubt about yourself, it’s really hard to be a good founder. And you’re often blaming yourself for things that are actual lessons that you can learn about the company about the market, that you’re in about your product. If you’re seeing them through the lens of self doubt, you’re not growing those things, you’re not growing the company, you’re just beating yourself up. And so I think I would take those lessons and go back to younger Ryan and say, like, pay attention, don’t beat yourself up, like focus on other aspects of things like turn that self doubt, feel it, and then just like, push through it, and channel it back out to learn something and grow.

Melissa 

Well, I just hear Thank you for saying that. Because I think so. So often, when we talk about impostor syndrome, it is talked about and like, it’s this mindset thing that you need to just flip the switch and stop doubting. And what you’re talking about is like, No, it was it was because of the culture I was in, right. And the belonging is so important, right? It’s, it’s not just like, okay, just stop it. Right? It’s, I just think that so many people are gonna hear that message from you, Ryan, and really say like, oh, like, kind of a breath of fresh air.

Ryan 

Yeah, I hope so. And I wouldn’t have gotten there, I wouldn’t have gone deep. Understanding those feelings like what is that? What is impostor syndrome really feel like for you. And for me, when I really spent time with that feeling, it felt like not belonging. And it was a very big eye opener for me. And it was a good eye opener for understanding some of the self doubt that I experienced.

Melissa 

All right, so one last pitch there, go to therapy, work with a professional to dive deep and, and get some understanding about that right about Yeah, where does this imposter syndrome come from? What about if people want to get in touch with you and learn more more about your company? What’s the best way for them to reach you?

Ryan 

So I am on LinkedIn personally, Ryan Schwartz with mental health match, come say hi there. If you are interested in mental health match, you can go to mentalhealthmatch.com, you can either join if you’re a therapist, a licensed therapist, or if you are looking for therapists that’s completely free and anonymous, mentalhealthmatch.com Mental Health Matche is also on Instagram, I really love what our social people put out. It’s very affirming and helpful. So check us out at mental health match on Instagram. And then if you are interested in web3, decentralized organizations, mental health within this growing field, you can check us out at therapists DAO, therapistsdao.com.

Melissa 

Awesome. I will include all those links in the show notes. I just knowing my audience, I think there’s gonna be people who are interested in all those different options. So thank you so much for coming on here, Ryan and sharing your story. I really hope that this is I’m sure that this is going to help people who are listening to you know, either keep seeing the therapist or taking the plunge to find a therapist themselves.

Ryan 

But yeah, and thank you to you to creating a space in this container for people to understand the emotional side of being a founder.

Melissa 

Awesome. Thank you, Ryan.

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HI I’M MELISSA

I'm a therapist-turned-coach who loves working with clients around the world! I work with the globally mobile community to support them through transitions as well as entrepreneurs who need support navigating the rollercoaster of entrepreneur life.

I'm also the co-founder of the Location Independent Therapists (LIT) Community, a mom, a self-compassion advocate, and an aspiring author.

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