The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question, “How do you stay optimistic when your company is struggling?” is written by Damian Bradfield, president of WeTransfer.
When I joined WeTransfer in 2010, our company was just five people crowded in a small room on the second floor of a house in Amsterdam. Our early years weren’t easy—we decided not to take funding while we were still shaping our business—so we were forced to absorb initial costs ourselves. We often weren’t able to pay salaries, and we all worked multiple jobs and relied on lucky breaks and innumerable sleepless nights to make ends meet.
But what got us through that difficult start was our belief in our company. We knew that the market was fed with up old-school file transfer services—with USBs, hard drives, the headaches of file-transfer protocol—and we knew that our product could offer trusted, secure, and simple transfers that allowed users to focus on creating, rather than worry about delivery. Fast-forward seven years, and our company is now 50 people instead of five, and we’ve added 40 million unique users per month.
Challenges are inevitable, but struggle isn’t. Conviction in the strength of your product goes a long way to quieting the unconstructive anxieties and internal debates that paralyze decision-making and hurt morale.
As WeTransfer has matured, we’ve faced new challenges that have tested us, like expanding to new markets, upgrading our web application framework, finding the right type of advertising model, and deciding when and where to get financing. These decisions have all involved big debates, and, sometimes, we took steps that distracted our focus and cost us time. But we’ve been able to stay optimistic—and therefore, to absorb these challenges without skipping too many beats—because we were confident in the quality of and demand for WeTransfer.
I learned another trick for staying optimistic during my time in the Netherlands. There’s a Dutch word called “gezellig,” which means coziness and relaxation—the feeling you get when you slow down and take the time to be with friends and family. In America—especially in the startup scene—we’re probably not moving toward the 30-hour workweek like the Dutch anytime soon, but we can adopt an attitude that tries to bring more gezellig into our lives.
My friends from the Netherlands understand that giving yourself time and space to think—whether that means taking a long stroll after lunch, going on vacation twice a year, or simply taking a coffee break every afternoon—helps us put life in perspective, think through our doubts and anxieties, and actually be more productive. Grinding ourselves down can be counterproductive.
There’s a corollary to the “gezellig principle”: Staying afloat when your company—or your career—is struggling does not have to be a solo task. One of the keys to success of WeTransfer is that we are ambiverts, people who can switch between being extroverted and introverted. My team is comfortable talking and listening; we know that if conflicts arise within our organization, that we’re all capable of reaching out for help and providing an ear for our team members when they need it. And this is crucial for the success of our company: Struggling alone is a quick path to failure.
So, seek advice when you feel stuck. Call a friend or mentor when you want to mull over an idea. Find a confidante to express worries to so they don’t eat you from within. And, for that to work, surround yourself with good people, who have genuine motivations and who support what you’re doing.
In moments of struggle, I remember a favorite line from Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: “My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.”