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Hit the Gym — The Entrepreneur’s Framework for Emotional Fitness

Leadership & Inspiration

Joshua Davidson wrote this article


I know you know that right now, things are far from normal.

With so much going on around us, it can be difficult to maintain focus on your business’ day-to-day needs — not to mention balancing your emotional ones.

But the reality is, even during the best of times, founders can often struggle with mental health and obstacles unique to the entrepreneurial journey. I, too, deal with anxiety, and as the CEO of, we partner with founders and companies every day to tackle these challenges and empathize with their struggles and anxieties along the way.

This isn’t exactly a new conversation to be having, as thankfully, the focus on mental health has only been growing stronger in recent years. However, it’s taken on a new tone now in the time of Covid19 and social unrest against police brutality and institutional racism for the Black community.

Founders and business leaders need to be able to cope with market setbacks and uncertainty, even while instilling confidence and offering understanding to their team and clients.

I’m far from an expert, but I have learned through experience (and am still learning every day), creating my own framework for entrepreneurship based on over a decade of successes and failures alike running an app development company.

For reference, I started Chop Dawg back in 2009 when I was sixteen years old, so the learning curve was steep, the pressure was on, and I needed to teach myself how to be a successful leader for my team.

In many ways, I had to work on (and learn how to maintain) my emotional fitness as a founder.

Self-Awareness Is Key

Balancing self-belief and self-doubt, the unwavering optimism in their vision to disrupt an industry, and every startup founder’s worst enemy: imposter syndrome.

It takes hustle, commitment and perhaps even a bit of insanity to build a company from the ground up.

Most founders will tell you they didn’t get where they are working a forty hour work week.

But like it or not, often it is burnout from long hours, emotional baggage and lack of self-care resulting in poor leadership that can destroy companies and dissolves partnerships and startups. There’s always exceptions to this, of course.

Successful founders inherently have the ability to work around the clock, wearing all the hats, taking no breaks to get from point A to point B — but this is not necessarily sustainable (or advisable) in the long run.

The reality is, the very things that can make a founder successful are also what can end up making or breaking them.

For example, pushing through exhaustion, failure to delegate, being unreceptive to criticism; these are all traits that can ultimately impact the success of your venture.

This is where self-awareness comes in handy for entrepreneurs.

Know your limits, recognize your weaknesses, and outsource those so you can play to your strengths. Ultimately, you set the bar for your team, and your confidence and compassion can go a long way.

To be quite honest, I wasn’t always focused on self-awareness like I should have been amongst my team members, and I nearly paid the price.

Today, this is a huge focus of mine. I attend leadership coaching once a week, and I highly recommend this for any founders or leaders out there. In just a few months time, I feel like I’ve gained even more insight into how my individual makeup as an entrepreneur impacts my leadership style, and new ways to adapt and improve overall for my teams’ sake.

Emotional Fitness Can Improve Your Interpersonal Skills

Beyond just managing your own emotional wellbeing, founders need to be able to effectively communicate, and have positive relationships with their team.

This starts by practicing empathy. Sounds obvious enough, right? Empathy has become a popular buzzword in the workplace, but how to truly practice it?

I think of the ability to practice empathy as sort of like a muscle. Takes practice, constant workouts, and you should continuously be on the lookout for new ways to flex and keep that muscle in good shape.

What’s happening right now requires us as leaders to look far beyond just our company’s day-to-day, and find ways to personally improve ourselves and our company as a whole for humanity’s sake.

For many right now, that looks like taking a step back to listen and to learn; for others, stepping further into the spotlight to lead by example.

For founders who are used to skydiving without a parachute, it can be tricky to comprehend that not everyone working at a startup (or an established company for that matter) is going to have the mindset to push themselves to the extreme.

And that’s perfectly okay, by the way. Everyone should know and respect their own personal limits.

It’s up to us as leaders to take off the blinders, even when it’s all hands on deck.

Everyone has different levels of output, needs, and willingness to sacrifice (it is your company, after all). Even when you’re in crisis-mode, remember to practice empathy with your team and strive to figure out their unique pain points; even what’s going on in their personal lives, if they’re so inclined to share.

It’s important to figure out any potential blockers to productivity based on real-world responsibilities, stressors and needs. In order to lead with empathy, you have to seek to understand how internal and external factors can ultimately impact work output on an individual basis, and work to address this on micro and macro levels when communicating with your team.

Leadership Is A Shared Mindset

The reason that Chop Dawg has thrived over the past decade isn’t because of me, but because of the plethora of leaders at Chop Dawg who accept, and thrive off of accountability and team efforts.

We’re a collective group of leaders, all unified under one goal, one mindset, one mission; to help our partnered clients #MakeItAppn®.

Empowering your team to become leaders so they can deliver the results you need starts with how you communicate.

Too many founders lead with their emotions.

I’ve been guilty of this from time to time (especially early on in my career), and I’m not saying you should ignore them, but these do need to be reigned in when you’re communicating with your team.

You ultimately set the tone for the rest of the team, and projecting negative emotions and feelings onto your team, unwittingly or not, is counter-productive at best.

Be Open to Continuous Improvement

The long-term success of any company all starts with the emotional fitness levels of founders and leadership who set the bar.

Right now, with the temporary shift to working remotely for workers everywhere, many companies are experiencing the challenges of completely shifting communication habits from an office medium to a virtual one.

Your team needs guidance, and positive, constructive feedback from you now, more than ever — even while you personally deal with the stress and uncertainty that surrounds us all. It’s not an easy time to be a leader right now, and the reality is, your team is struggling, too.

Make sure that you take the time to unplug, for the sake of productivity and your sanity.

Sadly, I’ve never been a reader, but I take every opportunity I can to listen to audiobooks and podcasts relating to leadership, entrepreneurship, and self-development.

If you’re looking for premium educational (and entertaining) content to enjoy during social distancing, definitely check out MasterClass. My favorite featured Chris Voss.

If you’re interested in my personal framework for entrepreneurs, you can also listen to The Entrepreneur’s Framework: How Businesses Are Adapting in the New Economy free with Audible or grab a copy on kindle for only .99 (free on Kindle Unlimited)!

While motivational and informative content might not ease the stress you’re experiencing as a founder, or erase any previous trauma or emotional baggage you might have, I firmly believe having the mindset of continuous improvement and self-awareness as it relates to us personally and to our team is key.

It allows us to learn from and emulate other emotionally fit leaders in our communication with our team and our business practices.

About Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.


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