My conversation with Jessica Carson really helped me to grow as an entrepreneur, and investor. This is one of those conversations that you wish you could have recorded to share with everyone, and I’m so grateful we get to share it with you.
Jessica Carson is the Director of Innovation at the American Psychological Association where she leads the organization’s effort to innovation and product strategy. She has such an incredible and diverse set of experience from her role at the APA to being an expert in residence at Georgetown University, she was formerly a Neuroscience & Psychology Research Fellow at the National Institute of Health (NIH), and a Director at NextGen Venture Partners. Jessica recently published a book called “Wired This Way” on finding mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being as an entrepreneur. The book has been called “the essential user’s manual for the entrepreneurial spirit.” I got so much out of this conversation personally, and I am truly humbled and honored that we get to share it with you. I hope you will get as much out of it as I did.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS WE TALKED ABOUT:
- Jessica Carson, author of “Wired this Way” joins us and talk about her own personal journey and how she was drawn to the mental health space by her own desire to understand herself. She talks about how she has struggled in the past with her own mental health, and physical health and how some of her greatest, brightest and most productive strengths started to backfire on her because she was doing everything to the extreme.
- She talks about how early in her career she found herself fascinated by the duality of traits she saw in creators and entrepreneurs. She talks about the “light” qualities such as ambition, productivity, intuitive, charismatic, open to experiences, etc. and how those light qualities seemed to always be paired with “dark” qualities such as depression, addiction, arrogance, distractibility, and others. She observed that creators are this complex set of “opposites.”
- We talked about her book, “Wired this Way”, and how she came to write it based on her own experiences light and dark qualities, what those qualities mean and how we can harness them for good as entrepreneurs.
- One of my favorite parts of this talk is when she explains how entrepreneurs can turn their focus toward understanding themselves in order to learn to leverage their light and dark qualities for positive outcomes even after making mistakes along the way.
- Jessica explains that a lot of our struggles and strengths are one in the same. This sounds really simple, on the surface, but it’s far more complex than I originally thought. Jessica and I spent time unpacking what that means and how entrepreneurs can leverage knowing this and using it to know themselves better.
- We talked about how the “dark” components of entrepreneur mental health have “light” components to them that are an asset to the entrepreneur. Jessica explains this in the context of potential energy, or the difference between north and south poles, or the power differential that exists between positive and negative like with protons and electrons. This differential, or potential energy is a lot of what drives entrepreneurs to great success but if unmanaged, and unchecked can also be the downfall of many great entrepreneurs. We talked about why, and how entrepreneurs can learn to avoid the downsides of their light/dark qualities while maximizing the upsides.
- We talked about traits like charisma. Charisma is an essential quality of the entrepreneurial spirit. We discussed how important this trait is for things like fundraising, etc. However, there is also a dark side to charisma. The dark side can include inauthenticity, manipulation, suppressing your feelings, or pretending to be someone else. The stronger the light, one could argue, the stronger the dark side (fake it ‘til you make it, etc.).
- We discussed the idea of vulnerability and how we can foster an environment in the startup ecosystem where founders, entrepreneurs, investors, and others can be vulnerable together and how that vulnerability could (and likely will) drive better outcomes for all stakeholders including investors in the long run because creating that space for the entrepreneurs to be well, is what allows them to create, and drive maximum value.
- Jessica helped me catalyze this thought that’s been swimming around in my head that my role as an investor is to show up in a way that creates space mentally, emotionally, and physically for my founders to maximize their creativity. This creates maximum value in the long run for everyone. It took me years of self-discovery and people like Jessica to help me realize this.
- We talked about why entrepreneurs are blown up by the press and cast aside when they make a mistake. We do not seem to give entrepreneurs room to make mistakes, and improve, and do better. We crucify people who make mistakes and write them off which is perpetuates the negative dynamics in the ecosystem in a way that paying for therapy (by VCs, for founders) is not going to fix.
- We discussed how we can do better as investors, entrepreneurs, and an ecosystem when it comes to allowing entrepreneurs to create, win, fail, evolve, improve, and learn themselves, so they can improve and do more, better, faster, further next time. Jessica explains that at the end of the day, the degree of a creator’s self-understanding really drives their ability to leverage their complexity, and the duality of their spirit. This energy to do well exists already, the entrepreneur just needs to be given space to create and leverage that potential energy.
- I asked Jessica for advice on how to learn more about myself and get to this place of harnessing the light and the dark qualities of ourselves. She said she encourages us to leverage creative outlets, outside of our primary business pursuits that let our minds explore, think, learn, and digest.