My name is Shashank Shekhar and I’m the founder of a company called Stoned Santa. We collaborate with artists to offer personalised gift items through our platform. I started it about 3 and a half years back when I was still in my final year of engineering.
This entire entrepreneurial journey has been a rollercoaster ride with some good highs and some shallow lows.
In certain cases, the lows can leave a lasting effect and shake your confidence, particularly if you leave them unresolved. As a founder, you may often find yourself being constantly hammered by the lows, and then one day you break. For me, I remember clearly when I experienced that –
There was this client, a really nice gentleman from Dubai, to whom we had shipped an artwork. He was very happy with it but had just one complaint – we hadn’t left any buffer space in the art piece for framing.
I distinctly remember that I got off the call with him and just burst into tears.
I don’t know why but I felt so ashamed and upset. Yes, of course as a company we have to constantly improve and we took that feedback constructively to make sure that all our future artwork had buffer space for framing. But just for that day, that incident did leave me questioning everything that I had done till then.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough. We experienced some very low lows. The worst part is how you have absolutely no control over certain aspects of the circumstances. We’re still bootstrapped as a company and that too at an early stage. That added to the kind of business we do, it requires a lot of human interaction.
The lockdown left us fighting many major changes and was quite demanding on me.
I had to speak with each and every one of the artists we work with, and understand their pains and challenges. I had to talk to my team members and understand their challenges. Some team members decided to leave us around that time. I felt like I wasn’t ready to take on so much change in one go.
That wasn’t all. We had some 70-80 orders already placed with us when the lockdown was announced. So I had to personally speak with hundreds of people including courier companies, artists, customers, teammates, etc. to make those orders happen. I started experiencing anxiety. Just the thought of attending to or attempting a call would make me anxious. I started procrastinating heavily. I wouldn’t take any calls. If I did get a phone call, I would wait for it to stop ringing, and then check who the caller was on Truecaller. But even if it was an urgent call, I wouldn’t return it.
I even stopped replying to messages which were not work-related.
I stopped texting my friends. I am very active on social media and share lots of content, particularly on Quora, LinkedIn and Facebook. For this 15-20 day phase, all of that stopped. I would just ask myself,
What’s the point? Who am I to be sharing my experiences or my story? Why should it matter to anybody?
At this time, when everything seemed to be falling apart, something nice that came my way was NSRCEL partnering with YourDOST which gave me access to the Founders program provided by them.
My coach in this 6 week journey was Dr. Jini K Gopinath. I was still in that state where I was procrastinating everything. I remember I even missed my first call from YourDOST to schedule my session with Dr. Jini. But then I got a follow-up call to schedule the session again and
I was really impressed with the YourDOST team’s persistence.
So my sessions started with Dr. Jini. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from it. I thought there would be 1 or 2 sessions which would barely scratch the surface. But then when I did speak with Dr. Jini, my experience outshone my expectations. We had 6 calls, one every Tuesday for 30 mins.
It was an excellent opportunity to rethink the way I think.
First of all, Dr. Jini’s voice is super calming, and when you’re talking, he really listens. That in itself was therapeutic.
He recommended that I journal my thoughts so that I become more aware of them.
The next step was to dig deeper into the root of my thought processes. One thing that kept coming up again and again was how I thought of myself as incompetent. He told me not to believe it as a true fact, but to think of it as an assumption, which may or may not be true. Now I needed to dig deeper to back it up with facts to prove if it was indeed true or not. This approach was very effective for me.
Another thing we realised together was that I was procrastinating things to escape them temporarily. He encouraged me to face the bull by its horns. Remember how I used to avoid responding to calls and messages? That has come down now. I’m also able to pinpoint some mistakes I’ve made in the past, in retrospect. I’ve also started getting close to understanding the roots of my anxiety and behavioural patterns.
All in all, the whole experience with the Founders program has been really smooth.
I feel that not enough founders are still open to seeking help from Psychologists or coaches. This is because they’re unaware of the gravity of their own issues. If you broke a leg, you will not be able to move unless you go to the subject expert i.e. a doctor and get your leg plastered into a cast. If you don’t get it treated, it will only get weaker and weaker and you may never be able to walk again.
Similarly, when you face certain mental challenges, and if you don’t really go seek help, it will keep getting worse until it’s too late. A lot of times, talking to friends might help. But if you think the issue is deeper than you might as well take professional help.
Are you a startup founder, incubator or VC looking to boost your and team’s growth? YourDOST’s Founders Program will help you do just that. Click here to learn more.