7 min read

How Social Entrepreneurs Are Immune to the “Sunday Scaries.”

Our Collective Burnout is no joke, my friends. We need a new economy, a new society, and a goddamn nap. How are we supposed to build at all when all of it is just so much? Collectively; cooperatively.
How Social Entrepreneurs Are Immune to the “Sunday Scaries.”
Photo by Patrick Tomasso / Unsplash

How Social Entrepreneurs Are Immune to the “Sunday Scaries.”

Workplace worries and existential dread last all week long.

This 🔥Hot Tip goes out to my fellow founders and builders still up on this time-warped late Sunday night, or the early risers on Monday.

Luckily, you’re not dreading Monday, dealing with the boss or your manager. You are the boss. Yay! For those doomscrolling Twitter or LinkedIn, bedtime procrastinating and lamenting on the work you didn’t get done on the g.d. weekend, it was the weekend yo?! Bookmark this and go to bed! Don’t let capitalism’s clock fool you. You’re tired…go with it, especially you east coasters. Up early? Phone down. Go back to sleep.

If you’re worried that I am telling you to rest, and maybe this is headed down the road of platitudes and toxic positivity, don’t fret. Um, hi, have we met?

This is not that kind of startup post; I’m not that kind of “thought leader” and I never tell clients to suck it up. I’m the first to say it’s quitting time. I am not here to tell you to have a great week!

Sundays are not scary for social entrepreneurs. This is the good news. We wake up every day ready to “do the work.”

The not-good news? For anyone whose work is grounded in a mission to create social and environmental change, Sunday Scaries are constant. Pushing through, even with “purpose” is hard AF.

We have two extremes: driven or dying. Those drawn to systems-change-work have to dig deep to motivate again. When we do, we’re unstoppable until we hit another wall. We can also be our own worst enemies. Nearly 50% of social entrepreneurs who attended the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in 2018 reported to have struggled with burnout and depression at some point.” We hit walls harder, then keep going.

As Paul Simon sang on the first vinyl record I ever owned, Graceland,

It was in the early morning hours
When I fell into a phone call
Believing I had supernatural powers
I slammed into a brick wall
I said hey, is this my problem?
Is this my fault?
If that’s the way it’s going to be
I’m going to call the whole thing to a halt

My mom always said this part of Gumboots reminded her of my dad which was meant to be a nod to his manic states and his belief that he could do anything.

We’d have to be just a bit mad, a bit full of it to keep working every day for one purpose: to save the world. That is some egotistical mission-driven to burnout shit right there. Nonetheless, it is a reason to wake up and try again.

Maybe this is how every social justice warrior, tree hugger, humanity lover, and music maker exists? We have to believe in the supernatural to think we will turn the tides of our current global economic and social system.

It is any surprise that many of us “call the whole thing to a halt” every few hours. I quit weekly and swear to give up E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. Clients, social media, community, contractors, creating. Who the fuck do I think I'm kidding? Sometimes, I wish I was more of a quitter.

Instead, here I am, again. I wake up and recommit; I fall into phone calls every late (okay–very late) morning. Monday or not, I double down. What fuels me? Global inequities that simply cannot continue. The fire burning deep in my soul right now is both rage-filled and filled with hope…because so many of us can see the moment we are in.

What’s equally maddening is how many are still completely unaware–oblivious to the fever pitch, the urgency. They don’t even register the scale of economic inequality as they walk past another tent to grab their coffee. They don't see gender, racial, or class divides because they choose not to; that shit is messed up to process.

We get up and send our kids to school after Spring Break, holding our goddamn breath. We barely got enough time with them because we don't get breaks in America. Can't people see why 4 weeks of paid leave put back in “Build Back Better” was a joke, not a win? And yet, it would have been something.

How did I do it twice, with zero paid leave and no full time job? I worked and went to grad school when my kids were a few weeks old. It's enough to make me stand in the middle of the senate floor and shout: What the actual ever loving fuck. Only four fucking weeks? We can't even get fucking four weeks passed? That is how much we care about work vs. our children and parents?

If you’re still with me, and you're already close to spontaneously combusting, this lovely thread from Quora should do the trick. Startup “experts”–investors, educators, and more– have “obvious” answers for today’s “professionals.” The irony is not lost on me that the guys in charge of funding think this is how we live as entrepreneurs.

Summed up: They think a little grit will do the trick. Borrow from family. Tighten that belt. Rely on wifey for coverage. Here’s a preview:

Fun tips from the President for the Institute for Innovators and Entrepreneurs

PLEASE read the other answers at some point. I cannot be alone in this knowledge. Their answers to “How do entrepreneurs live without a salary to sustain their families and pay bills?” make it hard to see through the fire coming straight from my eyeballs.

Maybe you can answer my follow-up question in the comments? No, my question is not “What the ever-loving-fuck?” –but it’s close; it’s a two-parter.

How does a single person, or a caretaker with an aging parent or growing child become a successful entrepreneur in this country? Furthermore, without generational wealth, how does one not literally die trying?

Being an entrepreneur basically requires you to beg, borrow, and appeal in a way that is downright degrading. Why do it at all? Because we know we have that brick-wall smashing spell. We know how to fix this if we can just. keep. going.

For argument’s sake, you would need a full-time day job and/or a partner to live in a place with running water. W-2 employment or a marriages are required for insurance, loans, living expenses, and to support other dependents. To keep either of those jobs you have to show up and do the job well.

Typical American families need two incomes just to survive. (Since I wrote this piece in 2021, even that isn't cutting it for over half of this country). Even with a partner, the majority of Americans have less than $400 if a crisis were to hit. We had multiple hits.

If we are already underpaid and not making ends meet, how do we even find time for a loan?Many Americans live with food insecurity. College students live in their cars. Women with kids are paying the motherhood penalty. Menstruating people are paying the pink tax. Black women get the added higher emotional tax.

We will never not feel “behind.”

If this is the entrepreneurial starting block for most of the country, how does one start a business at all? How do we move beyond embarrassment, sadness, or frustration to owning the truth: it's NOT us.

“Founder” nonsense on Twitter.

The “experts” say “Save up.” If we do manage that, how can we avoid the deep depression when we can’t make it work? We’re told “6 months till you pay yourself.” The reality is it’s very common for women-owned businesses to take 3 plus years.

We are all exhausted, without any fuel or funding. We have nothing but headlines, solidarity, and the rage inside to keep us working on this sinking ship called planet earth. Too dark for you? You’re not paying attention, or you live in Silicon Valley (Yes even after SVB). VC-funded startups don't make profits for a decade but the bro-founder still gets their 6 figure salaries.

For the majority of humans, pandemic life is precarious. For founders and solopreneurs, but especially for social entrepreneurs, how each day will go is anybody’s guess. We are sure of one thing though: something will be ablaze. Maybe our hair, definitely the planet, hopefully the patriarchy.

How do we find the motivation to keep pushing on? We have to use this rage for something good — to keep fueling our purpose, to reimagine work differently for the survival of the planet and people, or we’ll burn it all down. Our elected officials think our current system can simply be built again, but better. We cannot go back; we’re out of gas (literally).

Our Collective Burnout is no joke, my friends. How are we supposed to build at all? Okay, I actually know this answer. Together. Cooperatively, sustainably, and democratically. We need a new economy, a new society. We to reinvent “social” or at least center it.

so·cial /ˈ sōSHəl / adjective
  1. relating to society or its organization.
  2. needing companionship and therefore best suited to living in communities.

Sunday, Monday. Whatever. We aren’t just redesigning the workplace. We are redesigning the biggest organization that exists: humanity. No big deal.

We have one collective purpose: change work for good (forever) so we can all live. That is what drives us…the need for social change.

We cannot fail and burn this mother. Another week, another chance to light up a room with your vision, or we die trying.

Sundays should never be scary nor should any day. We have the chance to make things beautiful and just. All we have to do is just burn down the goddamn patriarchy. Someone...anyone...got a match?!

Canonical link originally posted on November 8, 2021. This article has been updated since the original post to incorporate more fucks and more fire...because we know, it's only become a bigger sparkling dumpster fire.