Everyone talks about the massive upside to business accelerators. If you've never been in business, and you're trying to start one, they are the place to start. They are an extremely intense MBA crash course providing constant education, stimulation, networking, and mentoring. For four months, you're learning and working as fast as you possibly can. It can be exhilarating; an overwhelming adrenaline surge that goes on and on, with new ways to fuel the high at every turn. It's meant to launch your business into the stratosphere as quickly as possible...as long as you can harness the power.
What no one tells you, what no one talks about, is what happens when that accelerator is over. You are left to run your company on your own, kicked out of the nest to fly or plummet to your business' death. That's really as it should be, but a program like MassChallenge isn't just an accelerator. It can act as an accelerant. You can feel like you are burning as bright as a sun, zooming as fast as a comet, but then the fuel is gone and all is much darker. You are no longer immersed in a swirling vortex of passion and creativity from every side and chance encounter. It all becomes much...quieter.
It can be a massive shock to the system. Ever since we moved out of the MassChallenge office space on March 31st, I have had serious problems focusing and concentrating. The last thing I wanted to do was move my team back to working in my home office. I had telecommuted for twelve years before MassChallenge, and now I'm back. It's a nice, quiet, comfortable cell, except this time I have cellmates (my team).
I became depressed. My sleep suffered. My mood deteriorated. I stalled at setting the office up for my team so we could effectively work in my office instead of my kitchen table. There was too much to do, on all fronts, with little desire for any of it. Because, now that I was home again, I was on kid duty at the same time. I had to run the day time errands again. It's like being stuck in a limbo halfway between housewife and corporate CEO. It sucks.
I knew with a logical eye that this could not continue, that I had to figure out what the heck was going on with me. The team and my family absolutely needed me to pull myself together, except that I was lost. Fortunately I've had a family therapist for years, who has helped my husband and I handle the complications of raising a child with my son's special needs. I made an appointment with him, and for once my son was not on the discussion list.
At first, he seemed a little confused by the physical and mental ailments that had been plaguing me. Eventually, the light dawned, and he had a hypothesis. He told me that I was grieving. Confused does not begin to sum it up. No one died. My dog had not been hit by a car. Grief?! What he explained to me is that, although little known, people can grieve when they experience a loss of something that affected them intensely on an emotional and physical level, like a long time job, research project, or choir. When that stimulus is removed from your system it can be a visceral withdrawal much like the death of a loved one. It can affect people in much the same way. He said that I'd just need to give my emotional and physical systems a chance to recalibrate to my new reality. He gave me one prescription to speed up the healing process. Write. Write about what it is that I have lost so that I can accept it.
So, this post is a baring of my soul to you and a warning...a warning about the intense joy and intense pain which a business accelerator can be, about grief in lesser known forms, and a warning about the dark side of the zoom.