There’s a big shift that happens when you finally pony up the courage to leave your comfortable, full-time, often lucrative position in the pursuit of following your gut and your dreams. Creating your own company is one of the largest (and most impactful) leaps of faith you’ll ever take in your life, and stepping off that ledge into the vast unknown probably shook your spirit. But when you look back on those pivotal first days of creating your business plan, finding your first set of investors and buying that dot com, you likely have stars in your eyes, thinking of how much you’ve loved your company since the get-go.
To both your friends and your employees (and maybe your board), you lovingly refer to your business as your ‘baby’ - and that’s probably because it feels how you’d imagine being a parent feels. Even in the darkest hours (and with the late night phone calls and the carpal tunnel), you would do most anything to make your company successful. Why? It’s a calling and an innate passion inside of you. And nope, we’re not just talking in idioms here - it’s actually scientifically backed.
According to a recent study conducted at Aalto University in Finland, researchers discovered that entrepreneurs love their companies just like parents love their children. Published in the March 2017 edition of The Journal of Human Brain Mapping, scientists studied MRIs to compare the brain as it responds to seeing images of companies, versus children. (Though they tested men and fathers in this particular study, we’re sure the same is true for women - and if we had to guess, women might even love harder.)
While looking at sweet shots of their babes and then ones of their company, researchers were able to conclude that both entrepreneurial love and parental love impact the same region of the brain. This section is associated with high emotional processing and consideration, skills you'd need to have both to raise a business and to nurture a child.
Erin Motz, the co-founder of the yoga and lifestyle brand, Bad Yogi, relates, saying, “I don’t have children yet but I always swear by the fact that I do love my business like a child. It doesn’t matter what it does to me; it can make me lose sleep, wake up early, stay up late, eat too little because it makes me busy or eat too much because it makes me stressed. I don’t care if it throws up all over me, there’s nothing else I’d rather spend my time with.”
Erin Motz, Bad Yogi. Photo: Erin Motz
An interesting takeaway is just how much being motivated and inspired by love can put up blinders for you. When you’re engaging the part of your brain that encourages unconditional love, you also suppress the other area of your cognition that is critical and negative. In other words? You always think highly of your children… and ahem, that your business is the best. Even if, sometimes, that’s not always the most accurate portrayal of either.
As Melissa Fensterstock, founder of Aromaflage says, “As an entrepreneur, you must be aware that your creation may have faults and may need to pivot. Sometimes it takes an outsider with a fresh perspective to bring clarity to an emotionally charged situation."
Melissa Fensterstock. Photo: HBS
"While entrepreneurs must be optimistic almost to a fault," Fensterstock continues, "they must also take care to evaluate risk and execute decisions with a clear and unbiased mind.”
A tall order for both an entrepreneur and a parent. If you find yourself faced with tough choices, try to get an outsider's perspective - one who isn’t cradling your precious one day-in and day-out. Since you carefully took care of your baby when it was a heavily diapered and unpredictable newborn, having someone else to weigh in can offer the objective reality check you need. Remember to keep in mind that those maternal skills are still beneficial and well, part of the job description of the CEO.
“To say that I'm maternal and protective about Feastive would be an understatement. I don't actually have a baby so I can't really compare it to the real thing, but startups are all nurtured from an idea – the ‘embryo’ if you will – into an infancy that is both perilous and highly rewarding. Every day brings something new to the table, and there's a never-ending sense of worry paired with discovery that I imagine is just like having an actual child,” says Debbie Soo, founder of Feastive.com.
Mid December with the holiday season on the horizon and having read too many pieces about social media addiction, I was ready for a break. Every time I reached for my phone, I had a Pavlovian instinct to click on the Instagram icon and that's when I knew it was time.