After years of working for someone else, when you finally get the opportunity to start working on your own project, to actually be the entrepreneur that you wanted to be, it is a joyous day and also a downright terrifying one. Chances are you didn’t just decide to quit your day job and do so without any planning or forethought. Most of us nurture a business idea for months, if not years, strategising on how to make a living doing what we love, saving money to keep us afloat whilst setting up the business or creating a side hustle, before making the leap to cut ties with our employers and go it alone. Regardless of how much planning and thought go into your new venture, it is likely that at some point, possibly many points along the way, you will feel the pressure of cash flow and other entrepreneurial stresses when things do not go entirely to plan.
Entrepreneurial stress can take the form of mild gloom and self doubt, ranging to full blown heart palpitations and panic, resulting in paralysing procrastination and fear. Not fun. And it is easy to cycle through a vast array of emotions on a daily if not even hourly basis, because being a solopreneur is lonely and you spend way too much time in your own head with your own thoughts and no one around rein in the crazy.
Starting your own business takes a vast amount of confidence, self belief and courage, so it is not surprising at all that even the most seasoned of entrepreneurs can waver in the face of inevitable obstacles and start to feel less than on top of their game. A great thing to do if you haven’t already tried it, is to seek out or form a Mastermind group. Simply a group of other entrepreneurs who you can bounce your ideas off and use to help hold you accountable to your goals, in a gentle but firm way. Everyone needs a measure of guidance and support, and like minded individuals who know exactly how you feel, can be a source of tremendous strength.
It can be difficult to discuss your doubts and anxieties with your friends and family because as much as they want to support you, there is a good chance that they think you are half crackers anyway, simply because you left a safe, solid job to pursue your dream. As nice as it is to have people you love concerned for you, it can be downright unhelpful to deal with the unique stress of entrepreneurship.
But like it or not, you are the entrepreneur and this is your gig. And like it or not, you can’t always find a way to escape the thoughts that whiz around in your mind. I’ve always found that confronting my fears and reasoning through them, is the only way that I can overcome them. It is not as easy as saying it and at times it takes far longer than I would like before I can reason my way back to productivity, but there is no other way so it must be done. I find journalling can be really helpful and keeping a record can be useful if the same demon rears it’s ugly head again. Here is a short list of unhelpful, but not unusual negative thoughts that have plagued me and the rationale that I use to defeat them. Your conversation with your inner voice could sound different to mine, but I sincerely doubt that there isn’t an entrepreneur out there that hasn’t harboured at least one of these nasty thoughts in their heads at some point.
1. Everyone is better at this than I am.
Ok brain, it is time to stop looking at other people and comparing yourself with them, because it is not helping. It is never going to help because you know absolutely nothing about them or what they are doing or what circumstances led them to be where they are. You have no information or facts to support anyone else being better than you, so you are just telling yourself this to feel bad.
In reality, everyone has some times of struggle and some times of luck and you can’t determine that they are ‘better’ than you, any more than you can tell the future. It is time to stop benchmarking yourself against imaginary targets and reach out for help. If ‘they’ are in a place that you would like to be, ask some questions, learn from them. And above all remember, that they were where you are now at some point and they got past it, so that means you can too.
2. If I was smarter and more capable, I wouldn’t make any mistakes.
Oh really? There is no one on the planet that hasn’t made mistakes no matter how smart or capable they are. You know that. And you also know that the smarter and more capable people tend to take bigger risks, which can result in more epic mistakes with long ranging consequences. It is scary, it is terrifying, but the innovations and advances in the world would not have taken place without the people who tried and failed and then tried again, until they got it right.
There is no doubt that mistakes suck and make you feel bad. Everyone in the world would like to coast through life without making a mistake and never feeling bad. But you know that isn’t going to happen. So you are going to make mistakes and part of the journey is learning how to deal with them and move on. You can deal with the mistakes. You have been making them your whole life. And you know the bad feeling passes with time and you will get past it. This is just another one of those times. So wait for it to pass and figure it out.
3. If I fail at this dream, I will have thrown my life away.
Firstly, before you were doing this, you were doing something else, and you were good enough at it to make a living out of it. You have skills and you have talents which are not going to evaporate no matter what happens with your current venture. The only thing that will stop you from using your skills and talents is fear. So if you do fail, and I’m not saying you will, but if you do, you are still going to possess all the abilities you now have and more, so you will be able to use them to do something else. It may hurt your heart, but it is possible to move on because you will still be you.
Secondly, you don’t know that you will fail, any more than you know that you will succeed. And if you can’t guarantee your success, then your failure is not guaranteed either. So give it your best shot. And if it doesn’t work out, refer to first point.
4. I will never be able to make a dent in the universe because I am too inconsequential and irrelevant.
You are not inconsequential or irrelevant unless you want to be. By the way, how are you measuring your ability to make a dent in the universe? You can make a dent by affecting just one person or you can make a dent by affecting millions or billions. It is not any less of a contribution to help just one person or more of a contribution if you are helping millions. Why? Because say you save the life of one person, help them, make their life better and that person goes on to cure cancer. Will you regret what you did or think you didn’t make a dent? Of course not. You don’t know what sort of a snowball effect your dent will have. And you may never know. And that is why you should commit to it.
What you need to focus on right now is doing the best job you can do and being passionate and loving your dream. You need to nurture your work, make it grow, give it life and then you have done all you need to do to put a dent in the universe.
5. Everyone must be looking at me and thinking how stupid I am for even trying to do this.
Maybe, but how would you know unless you asked them? And let’s just say you did ask them, and they did say you were stupid, does that make them right? In fact, how do they really know about what you are doing at all? If your entrepreneurial dream takes all your time and all your effort to succeed in, it has far more complexities than any person can guess by a casual observation. So are you really going to walk around feeling down because of opinions you can’t be sure exist, you can’t control, or if they do exist, would be missing many of the salient facts needed to make the right judgement call on what you are doing anyway.
And here is another thought for you to mull over. Just like you fantasised about your dream before you started living it, other people wish in their hearts to be following their dreams too. There is a good chance that people looking at you are wishing that they had your courage, so they could pursue their own dreams. So rather believing the worst, think of ways to inspire them. That would be a gift worth giving.
So what next?
It is not an easy thing to stop the voices in your head from making you the worst version of yourself. The fact that you have doubts and insecurities means that you are not a fool and you are sensitive enough to the understand nuances and complexities of being an entrepreneur. And that is a good thing. So keep the dialogue in your brain two sided and even when it is tough and you are feeling at your worst, try to find a small measure of light and hope to keep you going. You may be on the cusp of success or even greatness and the world needs entrepreneurs and innovators just like you to give it your best shot.