Blog Startup Journey

How Gratitude Has Made Me a Better Founder

wrote this on

This week, many of us are thinking about what we’re thankful for. Here’s my take…

An entrepreneur is all I’ve ever wanted to be.

And since college, it’s all I’ve been.

Some days — when things are going well — the role makes me indescribably happy.

And some days — when things really suck — the role drags me into lows lower than I thought possible.

When I’m in a valley, everything and everyone around me suffers. If my decision-making is impacted by my emotions (and of course it is), that has consequences for the entire company.

So at the end of the day, I have two jobs: I’m responsible for the success of the company, and I’m responsible for my own personal growth and well-being. The two roles feed each other.

I don’t think this is unique to founders.

I think we all have an ultimate responsibility to look after ourselves, because meeting that responsibility helps us meet our other responsibilities to our coworkers, our families and everyone else we come across.

One of the ways I’ve worked on preserving and promoting my own well-being as a founder is by practicing patience. Another is by taking time off.

And another way, particularly appropriate for this week, is by actively practicing gratitude.

The Importance of Gratitude

The idea of “gratitude” has probably been diluted over the years by fluffy motivational posters.

And that sucks, because as a concept, it’s damn powerful.

I loved Tim Ferriss’ podcast interview with Tony Robbins (the two parts are an hour long each, but both are well worth listening to).

Tim Ferriss Interviews Tony Robbins

In it, Robbins talks about the importance of gratitude in his morning routine: each day, he recites three things that he’s grateful for. One of those, he says, must be something ridiculously simple and non-material: the feeling of the wind on his face, for example.

He notes that the reason some of the wealthy, successful people he works with are unfulfilled and unhappy is because they base their lives off of expectations, rather than appreciation, and that reversing the two can cause a monumental shift in happiness.

Whatever your thoughts on Robbins — I know that some aren’t fans — it’s hard to deny the truth in that perspective, especially after you’ve tried to put it into practice.

How I Practice Gratitude

I’m not a monk, and I don’t respond to every situation with a calm, confident smile.

I lose my cool, I make bad decisions and I disappoint myself from time to time.

But I’ve found that practicing gratitude, just like working out, improves my mental “fitness” over time.

And just like working out, there’s an important caveat:

It’s ridiculously easy to be grateful when things are going well. But it’s a thousand times more important to practice gratitude when they aren’t.

Other than that, “practicing” gratitude really is as simple as it sounds: each day, no matter how things are going, simply list things that you’re grateful for.

9 Things I’m Grateful for

Here are a few of the things that constantly come up when I’ve thought about gratitude lately. I’ve randomized the order because I think it’s helpful to think about everything we’re grateful for, rather than what we’re most grateful for.

My View

This is what I look at from my desk in Newport. I never get tired of it.

My Customers

This isn’t my attempt at a canned Thanksgiving “thank you.” I feel deep, burning gratitude every single time I think about the fact that someone trusts what we’ve built enough to let us handle every support email that their loyal customers send. That trust keeps us all going, and it certainly makes me appreciate my relationship with every last one of our customers.

My Dog

Honey Badger keeps me company at work, and gets me out of the house to play often enough to keep me sane.

My Team

From the start, I knew that Groove’s success could only happen if I surrounded myself with smart, talented and ridiculously dedicated people. Even though we’re spread around the world, we’ve grown close and every single person has had a major impact on not only Groove’s growth, but on my own growth as an entrepreneur.

My Wife and Family

I got married this year to the woman I love, and that in itself gives me enough to be grateful for to last a lifetime.

My Board

My surfboard is my biggest source of stress relief.

My Readers

This blog was started as a marketing channel, there’s no doubt about that. But I was hoping to share our experiences and write the content that I wished existed the first time that I started a business, and I expected a handful of people to end up following us and giving Groove a try. A year later, more than 20,000 of you have invited us into your inboxes, and tens of thousands more come to visit every week. It boggles my mind. I’m immensely grateful for every read, share and comment that we get.

My Company

Groove has been doing well lately. We’re closing in on our $100K/month goal (and will have an exciting announcement about that soon. For those who have been asking, no, there’s no way this blog is going away), and we’ve been extremely fortunate in our growth the last several months. It’s low-hanging fruit, but it’s hard not to be incredibly grateful for that.

My Friends

Especially in the early days of Groove when things always felt like they were at a stall, being able to lean on my friends was a huge source of much-needed stability. I value my friendships dearly, and while I don’t really say that to my friends too often, I think it constantly.

Your Turn: What Are You Grateful For?

Gratitude has made me a better founder and a more rounded, happy person.

I hope this post has convinced you to give the practice a try, and I challenge you to start right now: leave a comment with 3 things you’re grateful for, and use the Tony Robbins principle: one of them must be simple and abundant, even when things at work or home aren’t going so well.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate, and a huge, heartfelt thank you to all of you.

← Older Post Newer Post →

From “aha” to “oh shit”, we’re sharing everything on our journey to $10M in annual revenue. We’re learning a lot and so will you.

About the Author

Alex Turnbull is the CEO & Founder of Groove (simple helpdesk software for small businesses) who loves to build startups and surf.

You might also like: