how do you deal with the doubting days?
So you have spent many months thinking about ‘your idea’; you are half way towards having an up-and-running company; it is hard – your brain literally never switches off – but your personal energy keeps you going. You have a feeling in the pit of your stomach that this is ‘worth doing’… that it will work. So what of those doubting days?
Every person I have ever met that has set up their own business or left the security of a full time job to do something completely different has them. So what does it?
After several somewhat animated discussions on the subject of late, consensus is that when starting-up you exist on a more emotional plain: A great deal of time and emotional energy is committed to starting-up, and inevitably the boundary with your personal life blurs. Often you are trying to start-up in your ‘spare’ time around full time work, and conversations with friends and family inevitably turn to your ‘great plan’. The adrenalin is what keeps you going – but the slightest hint of challenge or defection has a greater impact than normal – and you ride the emotional-rollercoaster every day.
Sometimes the defector is you: “What on earth am I doing?”, “this is madness”, “I can’t afford to do this”. More often it is someone else that tips the balance as you are going around ‘networking’ everyone you know. In fact the only danger with networking is that not everyone is going to share your vision, or bravery.
Motivational speaker Adrian Webster wrote the book ‘Polar Bear Pirates and their quest to reach fat city’ in 2002 and it has remained one of my go-to books on a doubting day since I met him in 2004. He characterises all the different stereotypes you might meet on your adventure (whether you are starting-up, or leading the way in a big company). My favourites are Webster’s Neg Ferrets – “intrepid warriors of doom… highlighting the negative side of life, as they machete their way through all things positive” whose sentences tend to start with “It’ll never work… I’ll give them three months… we’ve tried it before.”
I also like Chris Guillebeau’s idea of the Gatekeepers whose purpose it is to control or withhold the flow of information like “old-school security guards”, hindering the progress of innovation or change. Chris’ ‘A brief guide to world domination’ is also a good snippet to have to hand in times of need.
When you now encounter a Neg Ferret, or a Gatekeeper, let a wry smile grow with these images in mind and try not to get mad at them. 99.9% of people you confide your plans in will have the best intentions at heart – but may find the idea difficult to imagine, or fear for you. If you get an underwhelming response from someone, just consider it from their perspective and try your very hardest to take some constructive feedback from anything they say. I think there are nuggets of helpful hints from everyone I have ever spoken to – even if hidden in concerned noises!
So muster all your energy not to lose your balance for too long – take solace in the words of serial entrepreneur Sara Murray “the longer you are in a conventional career, the harder it is to go” and keep going! And if you need a bit more to keep you going – here are a few things that others have found useful when those doubts start creeping in:
- Focus on the bigger picture
Take a moment to remember why you are doing it – and visualise the future as you want it with a successful venture running in the future.
- Crunch the numbers
Many of us hate it or fear it – but not knowing just feeds the fear! Give yourself the peace of mind by knowing just how little you can actually live off – and use that to work out how much you need to sell to hit that.
- Scenario plan – what is the worst that can happen
Not one that suits those fond of hyperbole, but if you are feeling fearful of a decision or action – it can help to think through what the worst end result could be. Often the result is not as bad as you think, and you can consider contingency plans that make you feel better in case they do go wrong.
- Take time out
Finally, one I love shared by Natalie at WomanzWorld – It feels impossible to think clearly when you are flooded with fear or anxiety. So stop for 15 minutes to walk around the block, dance to your favourite tunes or make a hot cup of tea to clear the mind. It makes a world of difference.
Keep calm and carry on!
Please share your ways of coping – or funny stories of your doubting days.
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