This article was published on March 9, 2018

“What is stress, really?” according to Boris

“What is stress, really?” according to Boris
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Founder & board member, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

My favorite place to work from is a hammock. That might sound too lazy or hipster for you, but the reason why is simply because I have a sensitive back that hurts when I get stressed.

By making sure I’m in a relaxed position (hammock, floor, couch, bed) I can prevent some of the pain. I also can’t stay in the same position for too long. I’ll spend an hour max in a hammock, then do a standing meeting, then work on my laptop on the floor for 30 minutes, then do a walking meeting. It sounds hectic but it is actually really nice to move around and have an active day. Good for the body and the mind.

I am aware of the image it projects, that I’m extremely laid back and don’t have a worry in the world. People who are serious about business do it at desks under fluorescent light fixtures with a serious look on their face, usually wearing a suit. I don’t look like that. But that doesn’t mean I’m never stressed or anxious.

What I do know is that I’m very good at hiding how I feel. I’ve trained my poker face and will generally always look happy, or neutral. That’s also because I usually am happy, or neutral. When I’m less than neutral, or unhappy, I go into hiding. I run away, pretend I’m sick or busy, etc.

A few weeks ago I was not at the office. I canceled my meetings, moved most of my tasks to the next week, and did not reply to email. I came up with a reasonable excuse, and nobody took notice. What actually happened was that I was at home, in bed, paralyzed by fear and uncertainty. I could not find the strength and courage to get out of bed and face my responsibilities. I was miserable and unhappy and unable to do anything about it.

Now before you get worried, I’m really fine. The thing is, I’ve been there before. Often. It seems to be an inherent part of being an entrepreneur, and lots of entrepreneurs I know have similar experiences. I’ve learned to accept it when it happens, but not to ignore it either. To many people, stress means having too much to do. Being overloaded with work. If I say I’m very busy people usually get a worried look on their face, but nobody really gets stress from working hard or being busy.

Stress is caused by uncertainty, frustration, or a feeling of being powerless to change something. And no matter how successful your company is, and how efficient and organized you are, at least some part of doing your work is dealing with things you can’t change and will have to accept.

We all have a buffer to absorb some of this frustration, and sometimes that buffer needs to absorb more than it can handle. Getting through that is as much a part of success as making tough decisions and being creative.

It is less discussed, as it’s uncomfortable to talk about your weaknesses. But as you’ve found out by now, I don’t care much about what people think of me. Most people think all I do is lie in a hammock anyway.

What we’ve been talking about this week:

? Facebook asked its users: is pedophilia ok? We ask… is Facebook ok?

? Twitter wants our help defining new “health metrics” to measure the quality of the site’s conversations. How about, “number of minutes not logged in to Twitter”?

? Speaking of stress… this startup almost went bankrupt. Now it’s one of Europe’s fastest-growing companies.

? Bezos wants to be your bank — Amazon might soon offer checking accounts.

? Ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt is kinda sure robots won’t kill us for another decade or two. Reassuring.

? … in other news, researchers just taught robots to predict our every move. What was that, Eric?

Happy International Women’s Day!

Today’s daily newsletter (TNW’s Big Spam) was taken over by the women of TNW — and our company could truly not run without them. Are you subscribed? You should be… but you can also check out the special here.

I almost forgot…

Our TNW Conference in Amsterdam is fast-approaching, and you won’t want to miss our speaker line-up. Have you bought your tickets yet?

Bye for now!

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