News, Insights and Stories from the Australian and New Zealand tech ecosystem.

How I cope with stress

The announcement from Matt Berriman last week that he was stepping down as CEO of high-flying adtech startup Unlockd in order to look after his mental health after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder has sparked discussion in the startup community once more around the toll the stress of entrepreneurship and all that comes with in can take on one’s mental health.

Poor mental health affects a significant number of people in the business community: a 2015 study found 49 percent of entrepreneurs surveyed were dealing with at least one mental illness, with around a third dealing with two or more.

We had Startup Daily’s David Koch let us in on how he manages stress in his various roles. 

Frankly I don’t see myself as any busier than most Australians who juggle work, family and community work. The biggest difference I suppose is that what I do is a lot more public and transparent than most.

As a result people seem to be intrigued how I juggle co-hosting Sunrise, running my family business Pinstripe Media, being chairman Port Adelaide AFL club, family commitments, community work…and cope with the organisation and “stress” of it all.

Everyone copes with stress, it’s part of life, but I suppose I have adopted some strict philosophies on how to get it all done which work for me. Remember everyone is different.

. I love everything I do

None of what I do seems like work. I’m lucky I enjoy everything I do… and that makes a huge difference.

My father had a great saying; “have enough confidence in yourself to give anything a go but if it doesn’t work out have enough confidence in yourself to do something else”. In other words, don’t be afraid to take up an opportunity but never get stuck in something you don’t like because you’re too afraid to change.

I’ve always lived my life to that motto. Focus on what you love doing and success will, hopefully, follow. Either way you’ll enjoy life.

. I work at being fit

About 12 years ago I started seriously training to climb Mt Kilimanjaro the first time. It had been a life goal of mine.

I’d always thought personal trainers were for wankers but I teamed up with one to prepare for Kili and couldn’t believe the impact it had on my quality of life and ability to cope with the shift work involved with Sunrise.

I made it to the top of Kili (and have done it a second time) and 12 years on I’m still seeing the same trainer every Tuesday and Thursday. It’s a permanent appointment in my diary and everyone knows not to book anything into that time. It’s a bit of “me” time… and Todd trains me as a 61 year old. It’s all about resistance training, posture, cardio and core.

. I’m a very process driven person

Process is my friend. I run a very strict diary, I hate being late (I even get annoyed when others are), I love to do lists, every day has a plan.

That doesn’t mean plans don’t get changed, but I get a lot of comfort from a well planned day.

I try to build process and routine into my personal life so as not to overthink simple decisions. I have a wake-up routine, I have sleep routine, I put my clothes out the night before so I don’t need to think about what to wear in the morning, I eat the same breakfast.

I have this weird view that you can think through only so much during the day so make the simple things easy.

. I try and compartmentalise my life

Work is work, family time is for family, me time is for me.

I try and prioritise everything that’s important to me in my life and make sure I do it to the best of my ability. Again, I’m not perfect at this but I give it my best shot.

When the kids were younger, Libby and I had an agreement that I could work as hard as I liked during the week but weekends were devoted to family…coaching kids sport, spending quality time together. So I just conditioned myself and kept it going.

It means saying “no” a lot if it doesn’t fit into a compartment time.

. I’m an optimist…and hate whingers

I’ve always been a glass half full type of person rather than a glass half empty. I try and look for the positives in everything…whether it’s people, business, News, the economy etc.

I try and avoid whingers and negative people. I find they sap my energy and enthusiasm to get things done.

. Libby and the family are at my core

I’m a family sort of guy…for me they provide a foundation for my entire life. They are large in number, loud, funny, opinionated and keep me absolutely grounded. And, of course, Libby is at the Centre of that.

Married for 39 years, she is my rock, my sounding board and a critical part of what makes me tick.

Because of the family I don’t need a big circle of friends and, those that I do, have absolutely nothing to do with Media or business. There is a group of 15 of us who all met when our kids went through primary school together and we’ve travelled together ever since.

. I invest in myself

I’m a great believer in investing in yourself to help gets things achieved… and I’m not afraid to spend on that.

I don’t enjoy gardening so I’d rather work harder to pay for a gardener to look after the house.

Since taking on the Port Adelaide role, and the travel associated with it, Libby and I rent an apartment in the city close to Sunrise and the business so it makes it easier to juggle life and the timetable. During footy season I will sometimes go seven weeks without getting back to our home.

. I volunteer

I’m a strong believer in Karma… that you give before you take in life. Plus I feel guilty about what a privileged life we lead as a family.

Volunteering… whether it be at Port Adelaide, helping Youth Off The Streets operate The Koch Centre For Youth, or promoting organ donation… it reinforces that sense of community which I think is essential for leading a happy, productive life.

You’re only here for a short time, so make it count.

David Koch is the chairman of Pinstripe Media, which owns Startup Daily. This post first appeared on LinkedIn.

Startup Daily