The 3 greatest enemies of an entrepreneur (and how to fight them)
‘You are your worst enemy.’ Nothing is more true when it comes to the struggles of the ones who are starting their own business. It is not easy to start a business from scratch, there are a thousand obstacles that you will have to overcome on your way to success, but the biggest one will be yourself. You see all those people online, building brands, becoming influencers in no time. This has created an illusion that entrepreneurship is easy, you just start doing what you love and *poof* in a few months you are sipping cocktails on Ibiza, while the money keeps flowing into your account. What is happening behind the scenes, is not shown most of the time: all the hours of hard work you have to put into your business to make it a success, all the tears, and moments where you are on the verge of quitting… There is no ‘luck’, you have to build your success on hard work, patience and dedication.
So, back to where we started, the first thing you need to work on, is yourself. You are the foundation of your business. Some people have a talent for entrepreneurship, certain personality traits that work for their benefit, but even they need to overcome internal struggles if they want to make things work for them. So many people are seduced by the idea of freedom and happiness, and dreams of a life as an entrepreneur, but stay in the state of ‘wantrepreneur’ for ever instead. Always dreaming of having their own business, but never taking action. Based on my own experience, these are the 3 biggest challenges that you have to overcome, to actually start making things happen.
How often do you ask yourself ‘How can I call myself an expert in this?’, or ‘Why am I doing this anyway? It will fail anyway’, or the classic ‘What if no one will like my new product/book/video of mine and think I’m a failure?’
Starting from a very young age, you were used to ‘report’ your successes and failures to someone: your parents, your teachers, your boss… You would get a medal for doing better than others, and get yelled at if you had done something wrong. One of the main reasons, for me at least, to start my own business, was not having to ‘report’ to anyone else but yourself anymore. What a few of us realize, that being ‘the boss’, and being in charge of everything, not only frees you, but also puts a great weight on your shoulders.
Self-doubt and insecurity is all about taking control. A lot of people do not even realize how badly they need to hear opinions of others in order to be able to make a choice. You have to stop waiting for someone to tell you whether you are doing it right, ‘cause there is no one but you who can do that. And even if you do have a 100 friends who are more than happy to tell you in which direction to go, what are the chances that they actually know what they are talking about? Here are a few tips that actually got me through the obstacle of ‘self-doubt’, and I hope will help you, too.
Find your own voice and listen to it.
‘What if everyone will think that what I do is stupid?’, stop thinking that! You have started your business for a reason. Intuitively, you know what the right choices are. Stop distracting yourself with opinions of people who have no idea what they are talking about, are miserable and want to make you feel just as bad about yourself as they do. Learn to listen to your own voice and filter out the negative noise.
Learn to deal with mistakes and feedback.
From a very young age, you have been programmed that making a mistake is bad, and you will be punished for it. You might be terrified of failing, as it might seem that everything will be destroyed if you do something wrong. Except for, perhaps, failures that will get you killed, any mistake on a micro scale is something that can be fixed. The trick is not to get upset, or quit once something goes not the way you want, but to learn from it and move forward. Everyone makes mistakes. Stop dwelling on it. Learn a lesson, and don’t do it again in the future. It’s as simple as that. Once you do that, just keep going. The same with negative feedback. ‘Oh, Suzy hated my new picture, she said my arm looked fat’. So what? Are you going to hide from everyone now? No! Learn from it. Perhaps take another picture from a different angle next time, and move on. I am not saying that you have to become delusional stop listening to anyone at all. Do listen, but learn to eliminate an emotional response. Analyse the feedback, and learn from it, so that next time you can do even better.
Stop making excuses.
You know those people who always blame others for everything that is happening to them. Don’t be one of them. Again, insecurity and control are very closely related. It is easy to shift the responsibility on someone or something else and thus declare your lack of control. ‘It’s not my fault, I’m doing everything right, it’s just that Facebook’s algorithm has changed’, or ‘That one brand is lucky to have been featured in the news, that’s why they’re growing so fast, and my brand isn’t’, I bet you have heard yourself say things like that to yourself, you probably have much better examples. Escaping the responsibility might make you feel better for a while, but it won’t get you anywhere. So man up and start asking yourself this instead: ‘What could I have done differently to get a better result?’, or ‘What makes this one person so awesome, and how can I improve my business to get the same kind of attention?’.
This is something I have personally been dealing with all my life. How often have I heard someone say: ‘But being a perfectionist is great! Why do you say that it’s your most negative trait?’. Well, because it is something that has been slowing me down in so many ways. How often have I spent 3 times as much time on something than was needed, just because I wanted it to be perfect? And the funny thing is, it never reached perfection. It took me 1,5 years to finish my own website. This is ridiculous, when I think that building a website for a client normally takes me 1 to 2 weeks. I have built and re-build probably 10 different versions of it, and it was never perfect. At a certain point, I realized: IT WILL NEVER BE. I had to get over myself and just finish something. Here are some tips if you also struggling with perfectionism
Done is better than perfect.
Your first business might feel like your baby. Everything, from A to Z has to be perfect. You have this idea, that if it isn’t, you won’t be able to attract the right customers, or others will think you suck at what you do. But you know what? No one has those sky-high expectations that are dwelling in your head. No one cares. That’s the hard reality. So instead of working towards perfection, which you probably will never reach anyway, just finish the first version. You can always continue working on it, and improve it in the future.
Stop dreaming, start doing.
The thing with perfection is, it is a product of our own imagination. This perfect version of your business, the perfect client, the perfect lifestyle… These things live only in your head. Whenever something becomes tangible it is never perfect. Perfectionism can keep you from actually doing something in real life for years, or even perhaps for ever. Perhaps you have a picture of a perfect business in your fantasy, but unless you start taking action, it will always stay what it is: a dream. The fear that it might not be as perfect in reality, as we imagine it to be, is why so many are ‘wantrepreneurs’, dreaming of running their own business, but never actually succeeding in it. Stop thinking, planning and dreaming, start doing stuff. Take action. Execute! Take small steps at first. Stop imagining what your first blog will be about, write 200 words about what is on your mind right now. Stop wondering whether your product will sell, put it online and see whether anyone is buying it. Execute, and learn from your results, and slowly your dream will start taking shape in the real world.
Make a decision and stick to it.
Some of us are really bad at making decisions, me included. You keep thinking over all of the options, and all of them seem great. So how do you make a choice? Well, just choose what you feel is best and stick to your decision. Listen to your intuition. The most important is to stop thinking about it, once the choice is made. And what if it was the wrong one? Well, I just told you what I think about making a mistake. It’s not the end of the world.
Every day you see people online who seem to have it all: digital nomads, working from the most exotic places in the world, e-commerce experts who have built 6-figure drop shipping businesses, and stay-at-home moms with 500,000 followers on Instagram who earn money posting cute pictures of their kids. Numerous coaches and marketers are trying to sell you courses that will help you ‘scale your business to 7 figures’ in 2 weeks. You get the idea that you can start your business, and in a few weeks you will be just like them, traveling and enjoying life while money is dripping into your bank account from out of nowhere. Although there are exceptions, of course, but what these ‘successful’ people do not show, is the long way they had to travel to reach the point where they are now. You start your business, 1 week passes and you haven’t decided on the name of your business yet, 1 month later you still have no clue what it is exactly you will offer the world, 3 months later you only have 237 followers on Instagram and have no idea why no one is commenting on your posts. ‘Why could they do this in 2 weeks, and I can’t?’, you ask yourself. Well, probably because you haven’t realized yet how much it takes to actually reach the level of success you had in mind. So what now?
Set realistic goals.
If you don’t have specific, and realistic, goals in mind, you will never be able to reach them. A while ago, I read the book The One Thing (it’s there on my recommended books list), which was a great inspiration for me to think about my own goals. The authors explain how to set long-term goals, and break them down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals (read the book if you are interested in how to do that). This is when realized that by putting specific goals on paper, and working on them every day, is also a remedy for impatience. First of all, you will have a clear picture of everything you have to do to reach the desired situation, and, secondly, you will have a concretely defined time frame.
Take small steps.
This is something that is actually very close to my previous point. Once you have the growth plan written out, you start understanding how stupid it was to wish for, I don’t know, 100,000 active followers on Twitter, when you don’t even know what to post every day, or earning 10k a month without having a clearly defined product. By ‘realistic goals’ I don’t mean holding yourself back, and ‘playing’ it safe. I mean setting goals you know how to reach. Start small by taking steps you are sure you will accomplish. You won’t believe the joy every time you reach the smallest of goals, and the motivation that will energize you and push you to the next one. Make sure that your every step leads you towards the end goal.
Don’t quit too soon!
Impatience is a dangerous thing that might push you off the right apath. You might be going steady towards your goal, but at a certain point you can’t wait any more. You think: ‘Ok, I don’t get the results I want, I’m gonna quit this shit, and go for this other idea I had. With this new idea, I’m sure I’ll be earning as much as I want in no time’. I’ve been at this point once too many times in my life. And I can honestly tell you that nothing good came out of it. You drop what you have been doing for a few weeks or months, and go chase a new idea that you think is sooo much more promising. And then you realize that this second idea needs just as much time and energy invested in it, as the first one. So think twice if you decide to quit something, and remember how much you have already invested in it. Perhaps you should just go on for just a little bit longer, and you will reach the success you want so badly.
Anyway, don’t think you are the only one who is struggling with your inner self. Entrepreneurs are not born, but made. The most important thing is to keep your head cool and keep moving on to living the life you truly want to live.