How To Manage The Stress of Entrepreneurial Life

Mindfulness Tips from the Teachings of Jack Kornfield

There is no doubt that to be successful in business you need a great service or product, solid strategy, and sound financial planning. But there’s more than that...

If you’re not familiar, Jack Kornfield is a prominent Buddhist teacher who played a key roll in bringing Buddhist Mindfulness practice to the West. Born in Massachusetts, Kornfield became a monk while working for the Peace Corps in Thailand. Now he has taught Buddhism for 40 years and has written over a dozen books on spirituality. Together his books have sold more than a million copies and have been translated into 20 languages. He has led international gatherings of Buddhist teachers that have included the Dalai Lama, and he is a well-known peacemaker and activist.

As an entrepreneur, having something great to offer and a plan to sell it isn’t the whole battle. It is inevitable that you will deal with moments of intense stress, disappointment, fear, and frustration. Additionally, your ambition, desire and other emotions can cloud your judgment and take control if you’re not careful.

Knowing how to set your frame of mind and manage your emotions are key ways to improve your chances at success. Here are 4 impactful tips taken from the teachings of Jack Kornfield.

Security Is Mostly An Illusion, So Don’t Be Afraid To Take Risks

In Jack Kornfield’s book The Wise Heart he discusses that, despite how things may seem day to day, virtually everything is uncertain. We have little control over most events that happen in our lives.

As an entrepreneur, your proposal, new feature, or entire business venture may fail. And even if you may have a few years of high profits, success is never certain forever. Embracing the fact that things can, and more importantly, will go wrong is essential to breaking through unproductive beliefs that prevent you from taking risks.

The Wise Heart relays a story from a famous Buddhist teacher. This teacher holds up a beautiful teacup and explains that, to him, the teacup is already broken. He knows that one day it will lose its beauty and eventually break. He says that he can fully enjoy the teacup in this moment, but when it’s gone he won’t look back.

By rooting yourself in the present, accepting uncertainty and impermanence, you become liberated. When you stop focusing on just the results, but on the process— you become free.

Kornfield cites a powerful quote from Helen Keller: “Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature nor do children as a whole experience it.  Avoiding danger is not safer in the long run than outright exposure.  Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

Meditating On Gratitude Can Improve Your Performance

For many in the business world, meditating, especially on gratitude, can seem like New Age nonsense. However, science continues to show how meditation has numerous health benefits, including stress reduction and focus improvement. Making it a part of your daily routine seems worth a try.

In Kornfield’s book The Art of Forgiveness, Loving Kindness and Peace he explains how meditation on gratitude is not supposed to be something sappy or sentimental. It’s to put yourself in a positive mindset and to create confidence in life—insuring that it will bring you what you need.

Kornfield goes on to explain how Tibetan monks even meditate on gratitude for the suffering they’ve been given. A translation of a prayer is, “Grant that I might have enough suffering to awaken in the deepest possible compassion and wisdom.”

Be thankful for the things you have—for the successes of your venture, and even for the failures. Accept challenges and difficulties calmly. Keep your mind open when things get tough— it’s paramount when pulling yourself out of demanding situations.

Stop Avoiding Problems

One of the first things Kornfield learned when he became a monk was that there are two kinds of suffering: The first is suffering you run away from, which never stops following you. The second is the suffering you face directly—and in doing so you become free.

As entrepreneurs, facing problems and weaknesses isn’t always easy. Looking inside and confronting personal demons can be extremely painful. Analyzing and fixing issues with your business strategy can be frustrating and time consuming. Solving interpersonal issues between members of your team can be uncomfortable. Asking for help sometimes takes a humbleness that’s difficult to accept.

If you don’t face your problems and fears—in business and in your personal life—they will always be behind you. Kornfield and the entire Buddhist philosophy (not to mention countless other belief systems) clearly state that freedom and joy are possible in the face of suffering—so don’t be afraid.

In The Wise Heart, Kornfield cites this quote from Catholic writer and mystic Thomas Merton: “In a world of tension and breakdown it is necessary for there to be those who seek to integrate their inner lives not by avoiding sorrow and anguish and running from their problems, but by facing them in their naked reality and ordinariness.”

Give Your Mind Time To Heal

If you’ve ever meditated, you’ve probably noticed the waterfall of thoughts that pass through your mind: memories, plans, judgments, expectations and regrets. Additionally, you might have noticed conflict in your thinking—that you have thoughts with beautiful feelings and also, perhaps dark or negative notions.

In Kornfield’s book A Path With Heart: A Guide Through The Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life he explains that although our thoughts can often be extremely useful and creative, often destructive ideas cross our minds unexamined. Most people don’t realize that we write and rewrite the story of how we perceive the world and how we perceive who we think we are.

Accepting all of yourself—even your negative qualities is essential to a calm mind. Taking time to reflect on your belief systems and perceptions can help to reduce unhelpful patterns of worry or obsessions. You can gain clarity and release destructive views and opinions.

It’s been proven that meditation can physically alter the brain. Taking a few minutes out of the day to listen to your mind and analyze your thoughts can be the jumping off point to set you on a more productive path.

The Bottom Line

Remember that there’s more to success than just the business side of things. Being in control of your mind gives you a major advantage when dealing with emotionally taxing situations that inevitably arise in entrepreneurship. Taking risks is often not as scary as it may seem at first. Being thankful can put you in a more productive frame of mind. Facing your fears and weaknesses means they can’t follow around behind you anymore. Taking time to listen to and analyze your thought patterns can lead to a calmer, more constructive mind.

I believe that finances don’t have to be stressful and that solid financial strategy and mindfulness are the keys to successfully reaching your business goals.  For more information visit

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About Dr. Roshawnna Novellus: As an Enrolled Agent, I am federally licensed to represent taxpayers in the IRS Court system. I’m diligent about helping hardworking professionals who have fallen behind on taxes and who are stressed about notices, fees, levies, liens and seizures. I am passionate about helping businesses and individuals resolve their problems with the IRS so that they can relieve stress and get back to focusing on what they do best. Feel free to schedule a time to talk here: