Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Kicking Pavlov’s Dog – by Russell Holcombe


HolcombeThis is why I love entrepreneurs.  Russell Holcombe is one of the successful entrepreneurs I planned to feature in this series, and upon accepting my offer to write something, he decided to throw my questions out the window and create his own guest post about entrpereneurial energy.   I love that he decided to stick it to the man… and I’m the man!  I hope you  enjoy Russell’s post… and if so, his first book is featured on my Books page.

Kicking Pavlov’s Dog

We have all heard the story of Pavlov’s dog. He trained dogs to salivate when the bell rang by promising them food. This natural response is wired into our bodies; we all learn to salivate when the bell rings. Unfortunately, Mother Nature wired us for small, frequent rewards.

Ask anyone to make the choice of making $100,000 per year versus nothing for nine years and then receive $1 million in year 10, and almost everyone chooses option 1. After all, if the food disappeared for nine years, most of us would stop salivating and go find a real job. Only the entrepreneur finds joy in the latter journey. We are in the home run business, which means the bell rings every day, we keep salivating, and the reward is delayed until tomorrow. It would drive a dog mad and most other human beings as well. We violate human nature and it leads to many bad habits at home.

Each day of the entrepreneurial journey is dictated by some massive bell ringing without an immediate reward. It is unnatural. And long term unhealthy. The entrepreneur’s mind makes decisions that violate the natural homeostasis of the body with the constant release of stress hormones called cortisol’s. These build up over time and damage the body. When I was writing my first book, Tanya sat me down one night and explained how one more vodka soda was not going to make it go away. She was right and it took some energy to find a new way to handle the anxiety of creating something from scratch. Is it good enough, will it be helpful, can I make people feel what I want them to feel? All of these thoughts are emotionally disfiguring.

I have discovered that talking about it helped me handle it. In one study, patients that spent 15 minutes a day writing about their daily troubles felt better about their prognosis even though their outcome was all but predestined. This is why support groups like Entrepreneur Organization and collaborative workspaces like Atlanta Tech Village and ROAM are so critical to the entrepreneur. Getting it out of our head prepares us to handle the ringing bells tomorrow. Finding a place where someone can listen to your thoughts is critical to health and happiness at home.


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