Entrepreneurship and emotional intelligence

Exploring the link between entrepreneurship and emotional intelligence with Rafael Urdaneta, DACH Head of Finance at Antler.


Rafael Urdaneta

Rafael started his career as an entrepreneur in Barcelona, shortly after completing his IMBA. Startups and Finance have been his passion all along, so he has started a number of companies in Europe and Asia. After living and working in China for 8+ years, he moved back to Europe several years ago and has since then been actively involved in Startups.

Entrepreneurship and emotional intelligence

We take better care of our teeth than our minds. We have been taught to brush several times a day since we were little, but how many times do we stop to check on our brains? 

Optimal mental hygiene is necessary for a happy, healthy, and balanced life; it is also an essential part of any entrepreneurial journey. 

So, what is emotional intelligence? I see it as the ability to navigate our emotions, which helps us decode and understand what they may be trying to tell us, and how it might impact those around us. 

‍I was never taught about understanding my feelings and emotions, nor the important role this plays in life. Growing up with 7 siblings, you can imagine it was difficult to find the time or space to give emotional intelligence the time and attention it deserves. 

‍Why is it relevant? 

We can all agree that entrepreneurship requires confidence, self-motivation, and the ability to take risks and handle a high amount of responsibility and stress. You need to hustle daily and motivation has to be constant.

Success could be achieved by continually operating at full speed and barely having any sleep, but is it viable in the long run? How long could we keep this up before burning out? I used to ask myself these questions. 

In his book titled "Emotional Intelligence - Why It Can Matter More Than IQ" Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist, developed a framework of five elements that define emotional intelligence. Since we are not in school, I'm going to explain it in my own words.

1. Self-awareness: Internally, this points to our own values, passions, and reactions–including feelings and thoughts. Externally, this explains our understanding of how other people view us. For example, learning your emotional triggers can prepare you when dealing with strong emotions, or even help you recognize a bad habit and the effect it has on you.

2. Self-regulation: This explains the ability to control our emotions and impulses. This allows us to not get overly angry, jealous, or worried. In practice, it can look like refocusing your attention on something positive after something negative has happened. This can come in handy when dealing with strong emotions like disappointment, regret, or rejection.

3. Motivation: When you feel good where you are, you’re almost always motivated. When you accept or change your current circumstances with ease, motivation comes naturally. The key here is to find this sweet spot even when the situation is not desirable. 

4. Empathy: This is the capacity to understand the wants, needs, and views of those around us. It is to actively listen and care for what others have to say. We need empathy to successfully manage relationships.

5. Social skills: once we spend less time in our heads, suddenly we have mental space to care for and think about others. We open ourselves up and become good team players. 

So on paper, this all looks good, but let’s see a real-life example:

Imagine you’re in a meeting discussing a term sheet and it starts getting heated. Your investors want one thing and you want another, it’s difficult for you to understand where they’re coming from and you start to get the feeling that things may not work out as you expected. You already had a long list of things running through your head: the glitch in your MVP, onboarding your newest team member, getting back to that other investor, calling your mom, and now this. Anxiety kicks in, and your mind takes you to a place of failure. You feel all your leverage vanish, and you end up taking the deal. On the way home, your frustration only grows, and you spend the next few days ruminating about the events that took place in that meeting. Even worse is knowing that you’re locked into a relationship with someone who you frankly should have said no to. 

Are there any other options? What if, at that moment, you were able to understand and gain control over what was happening in your mind? Maybe then you would be able to control your anxiety instead of letting it control you. 

Here’s where emotional intelligence can come into play. When learned, it can be leveraged to make not only your life but also that of those around you, better.

I’m happy to be working for a company that understands the importance of mental health in our daily life and is willing to invest in and support the entrepreneurs that want to spread this knowledge. One of our portfolio companies, Clare&me, is offering AI-powered therapy with the mission to support people to overcome anxiety and mild depression. Antler has offered this service to its own team, which I see as a true commitment to promoting a culture that recognizes the importance of mental health and well-being. 

By helping founders launch and scale ideas that address mental health, we are creating a better tomorrow here at Antler.

From day zero to greatness, and beyond.

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