Aaron Houghton had won.
Before his 30th birthday, he had sold two companies for $169 million.
Yet, he was miserable.
“As my professional success was on the rise, my personal life was crashing,” Aaron said over a Zoom call. “During the company building process I had created some bad, unhealthy habits. And just because the companies sold, it didn’t mean those habits changed overnight.”
And thus the myth was broken. The myth that at the end, somehow, everything will be worth it. That all those corners cut in your own physical, emotional, and personal health will be magically resolved.
Aaron Houghton hit rock bottom after he had all the money in the world.
He knew he needed to change. And so he spent time thinking about how to do that.
“I tried everything,” Aaron said. “From the most extreme approaches to basic breathing exercises. I wasn’t going to rule anything out.”
In the end, Aaron realized that the process that helped him build massive companies might also help keep him sane. And so he started Founders First.
Founders First is a set of evaluation tools that will improve your business by strengthening its most critical asset: You. Aaron and his team went about creating an operating framework, not unlike Six Sigma, to help with founders’ self-care. Instead of tracking revenue goals, you can track your personal health scores and make sure you are staying on track.
There is a free community you can join, which is a network of entrepreneurs dedicated to helping each other succeed in business and in life. The underlying ethos of the community is that business leaders can lead healthy and happy lives while leading their companies to success. If you want to step up your efforts, there is also a paid, digital ten-hour self-paced learning program called Peak Ability Training, which is the premier mental health and performance program for entrepreneurs. With that, you also get placed into an accountability group – a network of other entrepreneurs who also value building big businesses without losing themselves.
“We are just starting out but so far we have a lot of public company executives who are using our model, as well as retired military special forces operators turned entrepreneurs,” Aaron said. “They are used to discipline, therefore they craved our framework.”
As one entrepreneur is quoted as saying on the Founders First website, “As a former special operations aviator with experience serving on high performing teams, I learned a system to mitigate stress and further maximize performance. The Founders First System is an outstanding tool for maximizing human potential.”
This past year has been a challenge for the potential of all humans. As a result of the loneliness inflicted during COVID-19 quarantine, the struggle with mental health is an issue that has come into the national spotlight. A recent survey by the Center for Disease Control shows just how many people are struggling.
But the additional stress brought on by running a startup is also something more and more people are talking about. In fact, the frequency of these conversations has led to an entirely new audience base for Founders First.
“Most surprising to me, however, is this entire other group of people I never expected: people who want to be entrepreneurs but are unwilling to quit their day job because they are terrified of the personal toll startup life will take on them,” Aaron said. “They have heard about this challenge and are afraid of the impact it will have on them.”
This is where Founders First can help both first time entrepreneurs and seasoned veterans. It creates the framework and accountability that helps make personal health a part of the company building process.
And there will be no better living, breathing case study for the company than Aaron Houghton himself. Just as he has done several times before, he is starting a new company. He will once again be riding the highs and the lows. No doubt, as always, publicly he will be the perfect spokesperson and the envy of other entrepreneurs. But, this time, how will he feel privately?
So far, so good.
“I am sleeping well at night,” Aaron said. “It is fun to be working on something that has good potential as a business but also to help people.”
The last year has taught us that there are big, meaty problems that need to be solved. It is exciting to see a talented and successful entrepreneur tackling one of them. Knowing that perhaps we can all sleep better at night.