Entrepreneurial Insecurities

Let’s go exploring. Let’s explore the mind of an entrepreneur. What types of thoughts are entrepreneurs thinking? The answer may surprise you. Many people see entrepreneurs as self-confident, assertive individuals who always have it “all together.” Look at the roster of famous entrepreneurs – Sir Richard Branson, Mark Cuban, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg. Certainly no shrinking violets in this bunch!

So, we’re all like this star-studded list of entrepreneurs – right? Well . . . maybe not so much. All that moxie and nerves of steel gives way to self-doubts and uncertainty. Am I a fake? Am I not good enough? What if I fail and lose all my money? No one likes me or my idea. These thoughts are insidious and destructive. And yet we think them anyway.

We’ve all heard the “fake it till you make it” mantra. This implies that an entrepreneur is continuing to perfect his or her product/service while still pulling out the stops to sell it. Products and services are iterative and there will always be newer and better models. Our entrepreneurial insecurities emerge when we worry that there may be flaws in the current version that cause such a strong level of customer dissatisfaction that our whole enterprise bombs. This is where the “fake it” part of the equation can spill over into our psyche and cause us to question whether or not we really know what we’re doing.

“What if I’m not good enough?” Often we’ll see other entrepreneurs who seem to be riding the wave. Everything is going right for them and we surmise that they are on top of the world. Perhaps we’ve just suffered a setback of some sort. We look at the competitive landscape and begin to wonder if we’re losing the race. This feeling intensifies as this cycle persists – others seem to be winning and we aren’t.

It’s 3:00 AM and we wake up in a cold sweat. Our hearts are pounding and we’re a bit disoriented. We’ve just launched a major project that by our assessment, involves more risk than we’re used to taking. Then the mind games begin. We see the endeavor cratering which will cost us a lot of money . . . not to mention reputation. This is followed by the thought that we’re losing our mojo and our business will eventually fail. Ultimately we declare bankruptcy, lose our house, are divorced by our spouse and end up living under a bridge!

Finally, some of us may be feeling rejected. Again, we may have been told “no” so many times that we begin to wonder what is wrong with us. Is there something about our personality, the way we look, the things we say or the way we act? Maybe it has something to do with where we live, the car we drive, the people who are our friends or even where we went to school. Our natural reaction is to feel hurt and maybe even victimized.

Entrepreneurial insecurities are understandable but unproductive. It’s important that we recognize them; resolve them as quickly as possible, and move on. Allowing them to fester can be a slippery slope to some serious career or life-threatening behaviors. Drug and alcohol abuse, deteriorating health, extramarital affairs, gambling, physical and psychological abuse of loved ones and even suicidal tendencies are some of the more prevalent examples.

We entrepreneurs thrive when we have a healthy self-image. Developing great resilience is critical to our success in this arena. Smoothing out the ups and downs of our fast-paced lives is also a step in the right direction. Earlier in my career I would experience the euphoria of winning to the fullest. But similarly, I would experience the depression of losing to the fullest as well. These wild emotional swings would result in my feeling on “edge” much of the time. The feeling of victory was fantastic, but I always wondered when the other shoe was going to drop.

I’ve learned to moderate my emotions. When I am part of a winning experience, I know I’ve been there before. And it’s the same with the losses. I know what it takes to achieve victory and I know what to do to avoid defeat. Some of this is simply age and experience. But I believe most of it is the mindset I have chosen for myself. The key word in the previous sentence is “choice.”

We can avoid the pitfalls and traps that are set when we have entrepreneurial insecurities. This is accomplished by celebrating our success not by spiking the ball in the end zone, but through understanding exactly how we won and replicating it over and over. Steadfastly focusing on our vision for the future is paramount to warding off negativity and self-doubt. Above all, we build our resilience by maintaining our optimism and positive attitude, no matter what.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 71 – Civil War.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Alarm clock on night table showing 3 a.m.

“No” Flippers

Here is a fascinating subject for all entrepreneurs (and everyone else for that matter). It’s the world of auto-antonyms with a focus on one particular word in the English language. What is an auto-antonym you ask? Don’t worry; you didn’t miss anything in school. Until I looked it up, I had no idea about auto-antonyms, sometimes called a contranym. Simple answer – it’s a word that can mean the opposite of what it appears to mean. Now that the picture is completely confused, let’s focus on the word . . . NO.

“No” seems like a pretty simple word to understand – right? Not so fast. In my world “No” can actually mean “Yes.” Let me explain. Remember when we were kids and we bugged our parents for something? Often times the default answer was “No.” But we became conditioned to realize that “No” could be changed to “Yes.” I remember a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, California when I was five years old. There was one particular ride that I wanted to try as soon as I hit the park. My parents – in unison – said, “No” (emphasis not added). They reasoned that I was too young. But I continued to harangue them throughout the day and wore them down to the point that before we left the park that afternoon, they finally said, “Yes.” In fact I was too young for the ride and had no clue what to do – one of the attendants had to come and rescue me – but I was victorious in my quest to flip “No” to “Yes.” I guess that was the launch of my persuasive powers on the road to becoming an entrepreneur.

Too often, we hear “No” and accept it as gospel. We interpret the word as a form of rejection; feelings may be hurt, and we may become dejected and deflated. This next statement is very, very important. NO. DOES. NOT. ALWAYS. MEAN. NO. If we simply accept the word for what we think it means then it’s Strike Three and game over. But if we see “No” as the starting point for getting to “Yes,” there’s still a chance for extra innings. And who knows – we might win the game in the bottom of the 12th!

Entrepreneurs who hear “Yes” when they are told “No” are “No Flippers.” They understand that being told “No” just means that they need to become more persuasive and work harder to build their relationships. By doing so, they increase the odds of flipping the “No” answer to a “Yes” answer. When we are told “No,” we have a chance to zero-in and learn something. If we’re helping someone buy our product or service, it’s imperative that we find out why the other party has declined. By politely asking for feedback we might discover that a minor change in the product or service could result in a totally different outcome. Had we simply accepted the “No” answer, we might not have had the chance to make the tweak that led to a sale. Sometimes we are told “No” not because the other party doesn’t like us or what we are offering, but the timing isn’t right for them. This is where relationship-building is critical. We remain in touch and work to serve the relationship in whatever ways possible while staying in front of the customer in a positive manner. But remember – there’s a fine line between the obnoxious childish whining we did as kids to get our way, and doing what it takes to be in the right place at the right time to serve our customers.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve been told “No” whether it was in raising equity from investors to acquire properties; securing a loan for an acquisition; negotiating the purchase or sale of a property, or trying to hire a particular individual to join our team. Maybe I’m just thickheaded, but when I hear “No,” it’s just a signal to step-up my game.

As entrepreneurs we need to become accomplished “No Flippers.” It may take a while and we will need to be creative, but eventually we’ll get someone to say “Yes.” Maybe it’s the person we have been trying to convince all along, or perhaps it’s someone else. We use the knowledge we gain from hearing “No” to make the changes necessary to get to “Yes” and achieve success.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 3 – Visually Unimpaired.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

yes