Founder Institute Image

Entrepreneurial Mental Health

Listen to the episode in full below - or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts to never miss the newest episodes from all of our Founder Insights podcasts.

Mental wellbeing is a common challenge for entrepreneurs to deal with personally, constantly iterating on finding the right work/life balances to maintain their own workflow in a healthy ongoing mental state—but learning to become the type of leader who can fairly and effectively deal with mental health challenges in others around them can be even more challenging.

In our first 2020 episode from the Mindstorm series, Adeo Ressi (Founder Institute CEO) is back with Josh Whiton (Founder of Makesoil). Together, they discuss how startup founders can deal with the mental health challenges that arise not only in their own lives, but in the lives of teammates, employees, partners, customers, and other individuals in their professional lives. 

They explore topics including:

  • How the job of a contemporary founder has now expanded to include reinvigorating collective belief into a team culture
  • Personal experiences dealing with the mental health challenges others in their professional life have faced, including working through challenges with teammates and partners
  • How working on one’s own ego as a founder can have positive trickle-down effects throughout an organization, including on the mental health and motivations of teammates

The following includes a full transcript from this Founder Insights podcast episode – these transcripts are produced by a third-party natural language processing algorithm, and are not checked word-for-word by humans for complete accuracy—so, there may be some errors or typos!  

Adeo Ressi  0:01 

Hi, welcome to Mindstorm. My name's Adeo Ressi, I'm CEO of the Founder Institute, and we're here to talk about mindful and awakened entrepreneurship.


Josh Whiton  0:12 

And I'm Josh Whiton, most recently of, and other planetary interventions.


Adeo Ressi  0:19 

I still love the term planetary interventions and movies, which we haven't recorded an episode in a little while. And what I'd like to do today is talk a bit about maintaining your vibration and your positive contributions in the world when you can be surrounded by others that might have a tendency to drag you down a little bit and how to stay true to yourself and encourage others to heal and come at things from a good place even at times that are quite difficult for them. And there may be trying to push their difficulty on you. And you know, I see this all the time. Because we operate in 200 plus cities around the world, and sometimes people are doing great and other times people are doing badly.


Josh Whiton  1:10 

They're usually doing great during the interview, hiring them.


Adeo Ressi  1:12 

right? I mean, I think both of us have struggled with people that we've trusted, who have changed. And then they drag you into their trauma or their reality somehow. And the question is, how do you maintain yourself, whether it be an employee, contractor, friend, and you're trying to do good in the world, and then all of a sudden, you can get wrapped into some data has nothing to do that.


Josh Whiton  1:39 

Great. Well, it sounds like you have a lot of experience there to share. And I'll tell you, I haven't updated policy on this, which is, if you're already in a venture that's trying to change the world, and go against the grain and do something super positive and whether save the environment or elevate conscious or whatever. I'm of the mindset, you've already got your work cut out for you. Like, work with the most stable a player as you possibly can. Because if you if you simultaneously are like taking people on who are in our super wounded triggered place and hoping to heal them along the way, or have them heal long way while you save the world, I find it's a little too unreliable. So I think it's difficult to get clear on whether whether you're working together just to sort out yourselves and the ego and heal, or whether you've got an outside mission, like clean up the oceans or whatever, because how many how many ventures Do you see fail just because the founders freak out? Or they go at each other or whatever?


Adeo Ressi  2:34 

Yeah, well, the we know for a fact based on tons of data that we've collected and we we do psychometric testing of everyone we work with that if you have someone who's unstable on a team, the outcome is 100% failure.


Unknown Speaker  2:53 

So I suspected as much, but you have the data.


Adeo Ressi  2:55 

Yeah, we have the data. So it's 100% failure rate. So I like to say First and foremost, that belief is the new currency of success. And what I mean by that is not just that you believe it, but everyone around you believes it. And that means your team, your partners, your investors, even your customers, and when you start to have variants on belief, that's a problem. And that that can can infiltrate and you know, you see now with things like the SoftBank implosion, you know, they were believing in a certain like scale really fast and don't care about anything else. And then what is this has been tested, hasn't it? Yeah, well, it didn't work very well. Because if you don't care about anything else, then problems start coming up very quickly. But so it is also your investors, but your team and then back to the team, to your point. Like you can try to heal the world you can try to do something better. But and I'm not saying that everyone needs to be perfect, but if you're have broken cogs in the machine can really grind things to a halt. Yeah.


Josh Whiton  4:05 

Yeah. And looking for, I hate to say it, I used to be this kind of naive mindset that I would just ignore a person's past up to that point. And just give people a fresh start. And now with the mindset that the past is, is worth considering, as you're building a team, what is a person done up to this point we're at? We're at a point where anybody can be happy and shiny for 30 minutes during an interview, but like, what does a person been doing with themselves up to this point? How have their previous relationships been working out? Are they in and ironically, you'll quite often find the best team person to bring on board somebody who's actually happy and doing well in their current thing, right? Not the person who's hasn't found their fit their whole life. They complain about all their job. I used to be so naive that I was just like, wow, let's give this


Adeo Ressi  4:50 

now then now. To the team members, its investors to SoftBank being a great example. Rip from the head. Lines today, you know, when you look at how they've treated people under duress under their own duress and under the dress of the companies is pretty poor. And I don't know a talented entrepreneur that wants that money. Because even though it's an enormous amount of money and there's a huge like pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it's saying like that around, if you have to deal with the hassles that that come with it, it's pretty daunting. And so I agree it's, it's, it's more than just looking at who they are or the amount of money they offer, whatever it's like, what have you done in the past? Where are you in your life cycle right now? And how can you contribute to this belief and vision that I'm trying to do? And it's very possible their contribution could be negative, if you're not careful,


Josh Whiton  5:48 

low consciousness. Money is probably another failure mode happens quite often.


Adeo Ressi  5:54 

Right? So So I guess, you know, for me, a big question is like, what do you do because it's Not it's not so black and white, it's inevitable that even if you come out of this and say, Yeah, we got to make sure everyone's a believer, a lot of people fame. They're like, Oh, I totally believe and you're like getting false signaling left and where they


Josh Whiton  6:15 

believe so long as you're there. But I've had this happen before. When I, I tried to experiment with outsourcing startup, so like my ideas, but I'll just like, get other people to start them. There was a decay function of the belief, right? So by day one, you know, by day two, they were like a 50% belief and by day three, they couldn't remember what what they were doing there why they weren't there at all. And by day four, it was off the rails, you know, well, leadership. Yeah,


Adeo Ressi  6:41 

that's why a lot of time that I mean, I told you this that you have to be involved as the founder.


Josh Whiton  6:47 

I do remember you should have warned me about my, my experiment.


Adeo Ressi  6:50 

Well, so so in many ways founders are the curator I believe, God I keep that believe using


Josh Whiton  6:57 

it, reinvigorating it continually.


Adeo Ressi  7:00 

Right. And so that that that's definitely I think the new role of the modern founder is to keep that belief alive, see


Josh Whiton  7:08 

a future, it's more real to them than anybody else and just understand that's, that's the role, right? And you're going to


Adeo Ressi  7:13 

have people that just end up not fitting, and then that's, for one reason or another, maybe they fit now maybe there's the decay thing you're talking about. So, you know, what do you do? And I don't think like, I'm not going to come and tell anyone listening today that there's an answer. It's like, if you do this, it will definitely work. I mean, the first thing that I would say though, is you should be conscious of the problem. Right? And if you feel that there is a cog that's not moving with the rest of the machine, you need to be like, what what is happening and how serious is it? And and, you know, I encourage everyone to awareness is the first step and action is the Second step, so I think I don't know if you would disagree that awareness is the first step. So maybe is worth talking about what


Josh Whiton  8:06 

the actions are. I mean awareness is almost the whole enchilada but it's it's in short supply and got it and even if a person seems fairly aware, you know, got their got the mala beads on. Got blindspots right. We are here's what happened here. Where's Oh, I bet I do.


Unknown Speaker  8:26 

I got off an airplane. Okay, I


Adeo Ressi  8:31 

got went through security.


You know, I don't like being strip searched when I go through security that much. And so the likelihood of it happening with beads and things as high as they come off. I'll tell


Josh Whiton  8:48 

you one thing that I want to talk about is I've been thinking, this kind of whole topic you're bringing up. I'm thinking about the ego because I hadn't experienced the other day or Perhaps because more meditation I've been doing lately, but one day I got triggered. And because I'm not a perfect person is anybody who knows me can probably attest. But I got triggered one day, super triggered. And I meditated, thankfully, and I could see the ego freaking out. It's like I stood back and I saw this tangled. It was really just like the super computer that had a lot of code it was running. And, and I was able to talk it down, I was able to see some of the almost structural defects in the ego. But anyways, I came out of this experience and just was like, wow, the ego. And what I mean by this is, it's the dominant force in society today. It's building all these skyscrapers and silly companies that are good for the planet and unconscious consumerism and marketing like it, that's just the ego doing this. And it's the primary determiner of our felt sense of well being. So that if everything is going perfectly Your day you have a perfect day, right? Well then the ego comes along and says Oh, but now they brought the food to my table and it's not as warm as I like it like the ego will just form another preference that needs to be met until somebody doesn't meet something and expectation and now it's it's upset again like people's you can make your ego just makes yourself unhappy as it tries to like attain, attain attain endless, an endless string of preferences that depend on people outside of you to fulfill its it's an it's a terrible recipe


Adeo Ressi  10:31 

Well, so, and I have a great example of this is very relevant to what we're talking about. So our site got attacked the other day. And I this, my co founder discovered it, and he called me up, he said, Dale, I don't want you to freak out, which is an interesting note opening




Josh Whiton  10:57 

you freak out from that moment. freak out. Nowadays, like


Adeo Ressi  11:02 

our site got hacked. Now, what was very interesting and very ties into this topic perfectly, and the ego and everything else. I probably in history would have freaked out and been like, Oh my god, we've been hacked. Wow, what do but I was because I was conscious and maybe even because I'm like, why would I freak out and when he opened with that the first thing that you can control the first action that you can take is your reaction. Yeah, right. And if you freak out, you set the tone of the organization because you're the leader than everyone else freaks out of the freak out. Right and and so in many ways, I was actually very calm. And I said, Okay, now that didn't mean that I didn't do anything. I wasn't like, oh, now let me go for a long walk. No long walk when you're getting So we thankfully By the way, they didn't steal anything to we didn't know what they stole when I first hot but then in actually gaining very valuable


Unknown Speaker  12:12 



Adeo Ressi  12:13 

when what so so instead of like freaking out so to speak, the first thing you can control is your own reaction and the first thing that I did is sort of center in myself like your meditation example and just let it kind of wash over me. And all those first reactions probably coming from the ego were very like oh my god, ah, anger frustration. Yeah, survival mode. And what I did instead is by taking that moment, to centering calm myself and just really reflect, you know, at the end of the day, what came out of it was an opportunity for growth and it was an opportunity for my personal growth. There was an ended up being a great opportunity for our organizational growth. And what ended up happening is it was pretty chaotic because we didn't know. And we, we kind of methodically went through and it did derail the organization, unfortunately, which can happen with these scenarios with broken cogs in the machine.


Josh Whiton  13:19 

But the real deal for a few days, a few days, a few


Adeo Ressi  13:23 

days later, about three days later, one of our team members, one of our executives, a woman walked in my office and she said, damn, you know, it's been really stressful the last few days. And I've been keeping in a tempo on morale and morale is actually pretty good. And I want to say something that might be a little surprising to you, but I'm really motivated. I'm proud of our response. And it's brought the best out of our organization. It's been really interesting to watch how we're reacting to things. And what was beautiful there is it it may Realize that you can't control the world around you. Bad things are going to happen. It is almost inevitable. I hope not but but you can almost count on it. It's just unfortunate that that's the case. The only thing you can one under percent control is your reaction and your emotion. Yeah. And and so maybe the first piece of advice that I can give is when a cog in the machine breaks. Instead of having that initial freakout ego reaction, fight or flight, fear, anger, frustration, center yourself and think like what's the best thing that you as a person and you as an organization can do to respond to it with making the world more beautiful and bringing love versus anger, fear, frustration. and the like. And what end up having our case is we figured out who it was we understand stood that they were having a mental breakdown because of the nature of what they were doing. And we started looking at ways to reach out to that individual to help them rather than, you know, punch to that.


Unknown Speaker  15:25 



Adeo Ressi  15:26 

Right, because you could sue them or like refer them to the police or whatever else. But we're like, wait a minute, like, what can we do to help this person, not a hunter hurt them or anything? I think a lot of people when they're threatened, they're like, You're threatening me like you're coming in on my territory, like the egos?


Josh Whiton  15:48 

Yeah, I would say this response by you and your team. Is, is like, is like it's evidential that you've done some work on the ego and I Know you personally and I've, I've seen whether you call it ego work or not, I've seen you do so much to try to better yourself and take a more expansive view and feel your oneness with everyone else and empathize. So looks like it looks like it's working because that we saw your response here.


Adeo Ressi  16:16 

Well, and and you know, what


if it quickly trickled through the organization, because nobody was like, yeah, how do we sue them or take them down or no one else had an ego driven response, either nice and and now, I think that the leadership of an organization does trickle down but it not only in individual circumstances, it trickles through organizations long before those those tests come up. And to some extent, the enlightenment and the awakeness and awareness and and beautiful You know, push that you make in the world does reach the other levels of the organization. And so if these things happen, the organization learns how to respond long before the car breaks, right. And so I think that's maybe another takeaway, and then, you know, the other thing so so first how you respond, how you center yourself informs the organization, how they will respond. So that would be my first piece of advice. And then my second thought on this or piece of advice, however you want to phrase it, is, can you turn this into something good, and not just good for you? Not just good for the organization, but good for the person


Josh Whiton  17:50 

growth experience for everyone.


Adeo Ressi  17:52 

Yeah, why not? I mean, at least try. You know, I'm not saying you're going to be see i'm not i'm not saying Every situation is going to wind up where like win win win, right? But why not? Like why not


Josh Whiton  18:06 

hold the hope and give the opportunity for it?


Adeo Ressi  18:08 

Exactly. I love that like create the opportunity for a win win win to to occur.


Josh Whiton  18:16 

And if somebody puts it under healing steps on, then you can say, well, we have really, really tried here to open to give this this opportunity, right? It's super hard to do because I


Adeo Ressi  18:27 

mean, I've had this now happened to me in the last few weeks, quite a few times with friends as well, where you know, something happens to them. They're queuing up a battle, and you can see that people around them get scared, get nervous, or like what's going on and and then even as an outsider, in some cases, if you can step in and say hey, timeout. How do we turn this into Win, win, win win win for everyone because


Josh Whiton  18:59 

you can reframing a matter of minutes, the whole tone will change.


Adeo Ressi  19:02 

Well, exactly. And that reframing is is a really beautiful I love that term too, I think is a beautiful opportunity because you might have, in some cases, someone that works with you or for you, and they're queuing up for a fight. And because maybe you are an involved and and, and maybe your wisdom or experience hasn't trickled through the entire organization, and maybe that person that is feeling very hurt, their egos hurt or they're afraid. And if you can help step in and reframe it for the win the big one where everyone wins. I think that's beautiful. And you may not have the answer right away. And that might be the third piece of advice or words that I would share, which is like maybe you don't need an answer right away. But you set the intention and which we've talked about manifesting You sort of take a step towards that direction and sort of say, hey, look as long as my intention, and my manifesting is going in that win win win direction, and I don't need to have every answer right now. Yeah,


Josh Whiton  20:15 

the intention that the sincere intention will help create those opportunities to help help the universe everyone around you to conspire for those opportunities. Because that intention was sent there.


Adeo Ressi  20:27 

Right. Right. So so I'll tell you just to continue the story of this this incident, right.


Josh Whiton  20:34 

But I have three things that I want to add to your thing real quick, can we and then so I pulled the book off your shelf that somebody gave you, I think as a joke, but it's by this you know, like Yogi or something. Yeah. And I like I like the book a lot. He says


Unknown Speaker  20:50 

the joke book is


Unknown Speaker  20:53 

trying to make fun of you and give you this book because it really was one of my friends


Josh Whiton  20:59 

and he He says in there that responsibility is your ability to respond, which is which is nicer than just responding because Wait, this burden on your foot, not your ability to respond. So responsibility is freedom. In that sense. Freedom is the ability to respond. And our ability to act is limited, but our ability to respond is unlimited. Because that response can just might be internal, it might be not acting, it might be whatever, right?


Adeo Ressi  21:24 

Right. No response. Sometimes it was


Josh Whiton  21:26 

right. You know, so. So that's the first thing. Second second thing that that book reminded me of is prana Yama, you know, this is like the Hindu concept and practice of different breathing techniques. So what's cool about those is they have like hundreds of them, and they're for specific circumstances. There's breathing exercises that are specifically geared to to get the ego to chill out to get both of your brain hemispheres working to get you out of A triggered state to get you like this alternate nostril breathing, that's a good one. But you know, they've got hundreds of these, right?


Adeo Ressi  22:07 

I just tried it,


it's harder than it's


Josh Whiton  22:10 

good to use your hands. So it's you know, don't do the wrong one because the wrong one will just like amp up the energy in your body. And if you're just already triggered, that's not the right one to do. But there's these there's there's their checkout pranayama and, you know, that's something you can share in your culture in your office, right, like extending that into an alternate nostril breathing. It's like a it's like a time tested technology for bringing like the whole brain back online to deal with an issue. So that's rap


Adeo Ressi  22:37 

is a great tool


Josh Whiton  22:38 

breath is a great tool and it's right there. Unlike going to the therapist or going off for a medicine ceremony like those take a long time to set up or the like the our ability to breathe, and chill out is immediate. So that's the other one and I did that the day I remember now when my ego was freaking out. And then later on when I had the super meta awareness, we can actually look at the ego and see it as a supercomputer. reprogramming, I think that doing that pranayama was part of what gave me that metacognition ability. And then thirdly, what you reminded me of with your response to the situation, which I'm still learning in my life is somewhere between being permissive and getting walked all over and going to war. Somewhere between those two polarities is the open heart with good boundaries, right. And that's severely missing in our society today. And I've been in that place a couple times, where I could look at somebody who was trying to get me into something that wasn't right for me, or really overstepping, or whatever. And I've been able to look at them with a wide open heart like radiating love and just be like, no, like, that's not working for me. And they feel the heart more than the know and they're like, I can see that all right, you know, and it was just like wow, the open hearted know how incredible is that? Are the open hearted boundaries. So like you guys are like, Listen, buddy, like, you can't keep hacking our site. It's not not good for anybody.


Adeo Ressi  24:09 

And here's other alternatives for what you can do with yourself. Well, speaking of waiting, so you gave a great, so we every time we interacted with the individual, he would attack. So I ended up going to where he lived, he lives in another country and I had meetings set up and he had actually hacked those meetings and it seemed to us that he was going to plan something not pleasant at those meetings. And so, first there was the decision to go which we said, okay, we're because there was some risk and going we said, okay, we'll go. Then we found out he was planning something. And we said, okay, we probably have to cancel them, but it ended up being kind of back to like not having this strict plan. But letting the universe open door. With intentions, I ended up meeting with other leaders in the city and discussing what was going on. And one of them volunteered in that meeting to help Wow. And it ended up being perfect because that person was able to bring the calm the situation down to the point where there was a healthy dialogue, and then introduce the person that was experiencing trauma and trouble from a calmer state of mind to start dialogue in a from a, you know, much healthier place than where it was before. And you know, if I had been over reactive, and you know, God knows would have happened if I had had too much of a plan. I might have never even gone yet or just canceled. Everything's going into. Yeah, whatever. So instead, I said okay, When I sort of let let things flow and guy and be guided by circumstances and sure enough met with everyone discussed it and literally one of these people volunteered to turn and also turns out the person who volunteered both of his parents are trained psychologists, therapists professionally. And so he has some background and was really able to bring it all to now it's not concluded just yet this is it's still underway, but you know, right and I can't even I can't tell you how it's going to be concluded. But what I can tell you is that right now I feel like we're we're moving in the right direction to a healthy and happy resolution for everyone which was and is the intention and I can't give you that roadmap, but I'm but the because we had the intention. I let sort of things guide me in a conversation rather than a hard pass. And you know, other things have come out of it that are really beautiful too. And I would add maybe as a fourth and possibly final piece of advice, just do two or words due to time. I was then, because I was open. I started again and I was willing to talk about it like I am now. I got some really interesting people giving me really beautiful ideas, one of which we're probably going to do and it came out of I went, I went to lunch with a friend of mine in in the region. And she was telling me she went through something similar but not in a business context in a personal context. And she gave me all this advice. But what what what she also brought up is how broken the broader mental health system is. And so you don't even have the opportunity to catch incidents like this before they happen or like this. No prevention and there's no cure, right? Because


Josh Whiton  28:03 

chances are this person has had experiences before now that weren't quite acceptable. But ya know, it's just nothing really was there to


Adeo Ressi  28:12 

Well, he had actually been committed to a mental institution as we found out but but leave that aside what we did then, which is also like past the point of cure, that's like too late, right? But what what sort of she had gone so far as to be like, I wonder what services are available. She went in purporting to have a problem and the mental health system in a couple different countries were like,


Josh Whiton  28:38 

I want to do Wow, even if you're just like, I need help, I've got issues,


Adeo Ressi  28:42 

right. So what we realized the coming through this process, we also saw an opportunity, which was to create some sort of Mental Health Network that would be there far earlier than emergency right? You could turn to and maybe it's like you get some sort of decent rate you go, Hey, dear therapist, you you have some business experience, would you be willing for like $50 or $100 an hour just if someone is in trouble, you know, do a half hour emergency talk with them. And then if you feel they can help you no charge them for an hour, but like not make it very approachable for people who need a little bit of help. And when we realized that just wasn't there, like and it certainly wasn't accessible. And so it inspired us to really start thinking about can we build a global Mental Health Network, if you will, that can be responsive to needs before they escalate to problems. And then because what we saw is like, when you have the need, there's not much there. And when you have the problem, there's not much there. So let's try and fix it.


Josh Whiton  29:57 

Well, and that's a A good time to issue that challenge to your network of entrepreneurs and founders out there. That if you're wondering what domain to go into the mental health situation worldwide is not


Adeo Ressi  30:20 



Josh Whiton  30:21 

It's in crisis. You know, there's mental health to get involved in every part of the bell curve because even normal people, people who aren't you know, labeled as mentally unhealthy, still generally not too happy a bit depressed having


Adeo Ressi  30:36 

mental health is like working out right you know, it's like if you don't work out at all, your health will not be good and and mental health is the same. It's not saying you just wait for an emergency. You know, you should be concerned about your mental health in the same way you're concerned about your diet in the same way you're concerned about it. Working out and keeping your body fit and in relatively good shape and if you don't do things for your mental health, it will suffer like all the other facets of your being. Yeah. And I would say though, in general, we have a mental health crisis which can be subject for a broader conversation in the future. But but but just going back to the topic here of running something, so you know, awareness, and then those are some tools that I would recommend and I agree with you about ego but at the end of the day, I think if if someone is really in crisis in someone's really, you know, not helping you but hurting you, trying to find that win win win situation, and and then if you can salvage it and bring them back into the fold, great. If you can't, then the win, win, win, maybe an accent, but like if you can make an exit, we're true. Everyone wins. I think that's that's a beautiful outcome.


Josh Whiton  32:04 

That is certainly a beautiful intention to hold any final thoughts? No, I think I think that's a wrap. If you want, we could just summarize real quick a ton of the stuff that we just covered like the leader, the leader sets the tone in the organization. So just remember that within a matter of minutes, you could decide whether your whole organization goes into war mode or goes into peacemaking, you know, world healing mode, right. Having a beautiful intention, even in a crisis situation, not being super reactive, and coming up with a black and white decision immediately. Check out pranayama if you need something to physiologically gives you that that space and that breathing room, and yeah, and we need more mental health startups in the world and people taking on that challenge. So


Adeo Ressi  32:52 

thanks, everybody. This was beautiful. Hope you enjoy

*  *  *

Graduates of the Founder Institute are creating some of the world's fastest growing startups, having raised over $1.75BN in funding, and building products people love across over 200 cities worldwide.

See the most recent news from our Grads at, or learn more about their stories at

Related Insights

More insights
Founder Institute Image

PODCAST: Founder Institute India Director Vadiraj Aralappanavar on Galata with Puneeth Suraana

By Dustin Betz on Jun 25, 2020
Founder Institute Image

Startup Planning for Coronavirus & Recession: Founder Insights Podcast

By Dustin Betz on Apr 01, 2020
Founder Institute Image

Revenue Strategies to Navigate Unknown Market Futures

By Dustin Betz on Mar 27, 2020

Are you ready to apply to the world's largest pre-seed accelerator?

Apply to the Program