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The Dark Side Of Entrepreneurship: True Entrepreneurs Have These Four Traits

By Ivan Meakins with Justin Breen

This blog has been taken from Episode 1 of the CLIMB podcast, a show that took place over the CLIMB23 event, hosted by Gordon Bateman and Investor Ladder.

Find the full conversation with Justin Breen here. 

A connecting superhero

Justin Breen sees the world in numbers and key words as a collection of patterns and shapes. As the founder of BrEpic, a communication and PR consultancy working exclusively with the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, this makes him the ideal candidate for finding answers and connections where other people might see chaos. 

With Justin’s unique perspective – the grand, visionary, passionate energy of the true entrepreneur can be organised into a story that will show the world who they are and what they have to offer.

Justin: “The purpose of my life is to be a connecting superhero for every visionary who shares their stories with the world.”

But, away from the sparking lights of successful entrepreneurship, there’s a dark side. One where loneliness is an epidemic and close relationships are hard to come by. Working with entrepreneurs for as many years as he has, Justin has seen this dark side more than most. 

The dark side of entrepreneurship 

At the end of 2018, Justin had made more money in one year than he ever thought possible.

And he’d never been more miserable in his life.

Justin: “That was an excellent learning experience. Because I learned that money is not the driver. That’s not the motivation.”

The formula for success 

Justin: “The formula for creating successful global companies is very simple. You see a problem and create a solution.” 

Even his book, Epic Life: How To Build Collaborative Global Companies While Putting Your Loved Ones First, follows this formula: there’s good reason Justin dedicated his bestseller to this topic. He talks to multiple entrepreneurs every single week and has spotted a pattern. Many of these highly successful business owners have all suffered huge losses in their personal lives. His book speaks to this problem – and offers a solution. 

This ‘problem’ Justin identifies goes far beyond surface level issues when it comes to entrepreneurial life: there are many who have gone through something much more sinister.

The ‘true entrepreneur’ 

Justin: “A true entrepreneur is the most damaged person with the best coping skills.”

As he delivered this slightly chilling line, there was something inside me that wanted to probe further, and understand exactly what Justin meant.

Justin goes on to explain that true entrepreneurs have at least three of four traits that separates them from the general population as thought-leaders and visionaries. They are as follows:

  1. Bankruptcy or potential bankruptcy
  2. Depression
  3. High levels of anxiety
  4. Likely and/or possibly traumatic experiences as a child 

Justin: “Entrepreneurs have an extraordinarily high IQ, EQ, or drive. Things that regular people don’t have, which can be a challenge for them when they interact with the world. This is the reason why they develop coping mechanisms. They are able to create incredible things, like Gordon Bateman has with the Climb event. However many times, these things get created at the expense of family, or spending time with their loved ones.”

Is innovation a coping mechanism for entrepreneurs?

Reflecting on this comment got me thinking about how entrepreneurs innovate. If most entrepreneurs innovate and create as a coping mechanism to deal with something “broken” inside them, we could look at innovation as a by-product of highly talented entrepreneurs trying to cope with these four attributes.

Is it this dark side of them, these coping mechanisms, that allow them to not just ideate, but to follow through with their ideas and to bring them to life.

Justin: “Ideas are meaningless to me without execution. The folks that don’t have the ‘coping skills’ – or the EQ or the IQ – they’ll talk about something and they won’t do anything about it.”

But, this particular skill – creation – can compound the problem when not backed up by better habits. For Justin, the answer seems to lie in family. He emphasises the importance of a “stabilising human” for the true entrepreneur: a partner, a close friend, or a family member – someone to slow the entrepreneur down, to hold them accountable, and to ground them. Justin finds that having a stablising human at home helps to promote a grounded and grateful mindset. 

Which, as he goes on to say, is key in how he deals with his own dark side. 

The power of gratitude

This word ‘grateful’ comes up a lot in Justin’s approach to business – and life in general.

He keeps a daily gratitude journal for his wife, writing down all the things he’s grateful to her for in the last 24 hours. He keeps one on LinkedIn, too – as a sort of commercial for other people advertising the power of gratitude. 

Justin:“If you’re constantly grateful it’s hard to be ungrateful. Gratitude attracts gratitude. It repels arrogance and people that aren’t grateful and people that make excuses… I don’t understand someone who makes an excuse. It’s illogical to me. There are no excuses at the highest level. That’s what separates entrepreneurs from everyone else – you just figure it out” 

It seems that for Justin, gratitude and being able to practise gratitude is the number one way to ensure you can stay at the highest level of entrepreneurship. 


Justin’s book, Epic Life: How to Build Collaborative Global Companies While Putting Your Loved Ones First, is available on Amazon. If you’re interested in more of Justin’s work, head over to his LinkedIn or check out BrEpic Communications.

To hear Justin’s full insight, find him on Episode 1 of the CLIMB podcast, sponsored by Investor Ladder. To find out more about Investor Ladder and upcoming events, click here.

If you enjoyed this blog or listened to the Climb podcast and wanted some advice on how to create regular thought leadership content for your business, get in touch with Write Business Results today.

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