Stress and Acceptance

4 years ago, I started to build a no-frills and accurate receipt OCR scanning API

4 years ago, I started to build a no-frills and accurate receipt OCR scanning API for other developers. I was ecstatic to write the first few lines of TAGGUN’s code during my Christmas holiday. The excitement continues to grow when the company gained early traction. By luck (and some skills, maybe), TAGGUN had our first paying customer in less than 6 months, and the revenue number continues to grow beyond my expectation.

But, out of nowhere, the excitement started to wear off. Work had turned into a daily grind. No, I don’t think it is due to hedonic treadmill, our human tendency returning to a stable level of happiness despite a major event. Running a business is actually very hard and my stress level began to creep up.

Stress level began to creep up

The stress level was at the highest point when I was troubleshooting a production issue while attending a tech conference in Berlin last year. I remember feeling absolutely helpless and scared of sitting alone in the hotel room late at night. I was staring blankly at my laptop, realising the Docker containers were crashing every 5 minutes under load, and I had no idea why. I thought to myself, “It is over, I fucked this up, all my customers are going to cancel.” I just wanted to crawl into a hole and never come back out again.

So many of us are dealing with a violent level of stress and anxiety these days. We sometimes cope by bottling the pressure inside or project it to the people next to us, hoping to return to that care-free state again. But the reality is stress and anxiety never really goes away, does it? Especially if we are taking risks to achieve bigger goals, we just have to learn how to deal with stress as they arrive. 

What works (sometimes, not guaranteed) to reduce stress for me are: practising Stoicism, gratitude, memento mori, regular check-ins, mindfulness, mindlessness, box breathing, genuine human connections with family and friends, and regular sleep and exercise. There is no silver bullet that works every single time. I just have to try and practice whatever that works each time.

What is also helpful for me is acceptance

What is also helpful for me is acceptance, to truly accept that I can never return to that feeling of care-free and excitement like when I first started TAGGUN 4 years ago. With my level of responsibilities now, it is futile to still chase that high. Stress and anxiety are part of me now, part of growing up, part of running a company in uncertain times. If not, I will be a man-child with Peter Pan syndrome, who refuses to grow up and face reality. 👶 And that’s not very fun either, is it?