Lessons from the Edge: When Stress Takes Over

By Bob Bernstein, an EO Nashville member and founder of Bongo Productions

Sometimes things in business and life are laughed off until something happens that forces us to take matters more seriously.

As an entrepreneur, my mind generates so many ideas that I started numbering them in emails to my administrative team. I made my Forum mates crack up when I spontaneously quoted Britney Spears to describe this non-stop flow of ideas. “Oops! I Did it Again” became my entrepreneurial theme song.

But I knew there was a problem when I passed out in the parking lot of my kids’ school.

After a night in the hospital and a weekend wearing a heart monitor, I realized my ideas—and trying to pursue every one of them—were running me into the ground. I had always thought of my mind as a moneymaker, a source of never-ending ideas for company changes, new projects and creative marketing ideas that had propelled me to open six different restaurant concepts and two wholesale operations. Now my mind was, in a sense, out of control. My ideas had become distractions.

There were signs that I was going to collapse, but I didn’t pay attention to them. I thought I could power through. The people around me were amazed at how cool I seemed under pressure. I took pride in my work-life balance, spending time with my wife and kids. But much of it was a lie. I was with my family, but I wasn’t really there. I was thinking about construction costs, design changes and emails to send. My massage therapist can attest that no matter how cool I appeared on the outside, I was stressed all over the inside.

It was time to take care of my health, so I decided to make some changes:

  • I’m being honest with people. I’ve told my staff and friends what happened to me in order to honestly deal with where I am.
  • I’ve found ways to reduce my commitments without shutting down my desire to do new projects. I am accepting partnerships. I resigned from a non-profit board and turned over some decision-making responsibilities.
  • I am taking a four-week mindfulness class, and I started going to therapy. I have discovered the value in talking through long-repressed feelings.
  • I have sped up the process of turning over even more day-to-day work to my administrative teams.

My business turns 25 at 4 p.m. on 28 March, 2018. My goal is to be the chairman of the company and hand the CEO position to someone else. Before my collapse, I thought pursuing every idea was my superpower. Now, I look back and wonder what was so funny then, and I’m glad to be taking my future and health more seriously.

Learn more about the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and apply for membership today!

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