“If I had known what I know now, I would have never had the courage to go into business.”
As a business owner, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said that. Chances are if you are a business owner you’ve said that, thought it, or nodded when you read it just now.
You’re nodding right now, aren’t you?
Yep, the reality of business can be very scary. It’s filled with uncertainty, adversity, and constant competition.
We recently asked a group of small business owners what some of their biggest challenges were that were stopping them from achieving their goals.
We think that their responses resonate with many of us – business owners or not.
Constantly under the shadow of doubt and fear, our shadows seem at times so overwhelming that we feel we may become swallowed up in their darkness.
But remember shadows cannot exist without light — it’s important to focus on the light the shadow obscure and not the darkness they create.
While our doubts and insecurities may scare us into thinking that maybe we’re just not good enough or brave enough to get to the finish line take another look at that phrase:
”If I had known what I know now, I would have never had the courage to go into business.”
Did you catch it? It’s courage.
It takes courage to wake up every day, face the unknown, and still press forward.
So while we may not be experts in the art of courage ourselves, we compiled the most common fears business owners experienced and share some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way.
“I’m always indecisive about what action to take. I overthink the risks associated with my choices, and end up not doing anything.”
I think we all know that gut wrenching feeling of realizing that the choice we made ended up being the unfavorable one.
Although it’s certainly not a nice feeling, it shouldn’t scare you away from trying, at the very least.
When paralyzed by indecisiveness, it can help to turn to a trusted mentor or friend for their advice or opinion – preferably someone who is not a primary stakeholder in the matter.
Talk through your situation with them and listen to their point of view.
We’ve found that drawing on someone else’s insight has helped us be more certain in coming to a conclusion in different situations.
For many people stuck at a crossroads, the fifty-fifty odds of a coin flip might actually help!
I know this sounds crazy, but hear us out — try flipping a coin.
When there are two choices, chances are you will feel the tension to choose one over the other, so before you flip that coin see if you are hoping for one choice to reveal itself over the other.
When it comes down heads or tails, chances are you will feel either relief or frustration, showing you that you actually did have a preference for what decision you wanted to make.
This isn’t always the best approach — if you don’t feel yourself hoping for one choice over the other, then you really are torn and maybe choose a different approach, but if you do feel a sense of clarity that you wish heads more than tails or vise versa then thank you, Niles Crane.
“I am a perfectionist – I try and make sure that I always take the perfect action, and I’m afraid of being a failure.”
The only way to ensure perfection is to do nothing, for only nothing is perfect in its absence of something.
But is that really what you want? A celebrated perfect nothing?
Remind yourself… It is always better to have an imperfect something than a perfect nothing.
The only way to ensure perfection in your work is to never complete it. Completion is imperfect by its very nature.
Novelists often say this is the number one killer of the written word — the idea that it’ll never be good enough.
Sadly, there are volumes of amazing novels that no one will ever read because of this fear.
You can’t share your work with the world and let them benefit from your voice if you never reveal it, even in an “imperfect” state.
You won’t know if you’re able to do something if you don’t start.
You might not be able to see the true flaws until it is complete and, sometimes, like a two-dimensional image made three-dimensional by adding shading, you may not be able to see it for what it is at all until you add the final touches.
When I used to draw portraits I would always feel that they were horrible, but I pressed through, refusing to make major changes until I could see the whole thing finished.
The irony is that most of the time lines looked wrong when they were incomplete.
It wasn’t until I added the shading that I could see that many I thought were wrong were just right and, adversely, many I thought were correct actually needed more work to fit the shading I had added.
There are (most likely) always going to be people that tell you your work isn’t good enough, whether it’s an outside critic or that tiny voice in your head.
“That’s your best work?! You need to spend more hours fixing it up. It needs more work!”
“I’m never going to reach that goal, so why should I even try? I’m such a failure.”
These degrading comments and thoughts are just what they are – lies to hold you back.
There’s a difference between receiving constructive criticism that you can (and should) learn from, and words that bring no value to you.
And there’s nothing wrong with failing at something you’re trying.
Instead of thinking of failure as an end, how about looking at it from a different perspective?
More often than not, you are able to learn from your failures and grow from the experience, more than you would from succeeding at your first try.
Failures can be a badge of honor because, as anyone who has really ever tasted success can tell you, they have only done so because of the hard lessons and perseverance that can only come from failure.
Remember, it’s not a mistake if you LEARN from it.
We’ve certainly been through many failures of our own, but over time, we have learned to overcome them like we shared in this article here!
“I don’t have faith in my abilities. I think I’m not good enough, and I don’t feel qualified.”
Ah… it’s that voice in your head again, isn’t it?
You are often your harshest critic and worst enemy.
It’s easy to point out all the things we’re doing wrong and magnify the insecurities we have of ourselves. But what happens if we were to look at our strengths instead?
Focus on the value you do bring by considering what people already come to you for.
We often envy talents we don’t have, and even though the people closest to us are valuing our expertise by coming to us for help or advice, we often overlook those because we are too busy desiring what we don’t have.
If it’s a skill that you’re lacking, remember that a skill can always be taught, but the right character and attitude have to come from you!
If something is taking you longer than you hoped to learn, don’t give up on yourself just yet.
Everyone learns at different speeds, but studies have shown that you are more likely to master something if you put in at least one hour of deliberate practice every day.
On the flip side, remember that you don’t have to be a master at everything. People are stronger together, so build and foster relationships that can help you get to where you want to be.
“I just don’t have any time! I feel like I don’t know how to organize my tasks, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get things done.”
Many of us probably relate to that last sentence. We feel we need more than 24 hours in a day!
But here’s the key: proper time management and prioritization can lead to high productivity in your work and leave more time for you to enjoy your personal lives.
One thing we’ve tried that has worked is to set yourself up for success from the start of the day.
Before launching yourself into your first task, identify all you need to do for that day. If you need to, chart out a schedule and checklist for yourself at the start of the week.
Prioritize your more difficult or larger projects at the start of the week and earlier in the day when you have the most energy.
At the end of the day and towards the weekend, you’re left with the easier things that don’t take as much mental energy.
Space things out to give yourself time to breathe in between.
Work smarter, not harder.
Do certain tasks overlap?
Can things be combined so that you’re killing two birds with one stone?
When I was in college, I had two unrelated classes — or so it seemed. One was a Chinese Cultural Studies class and the other was a Media Capstone class.
I had to deliver a presentation for the Chinese Cultural Studies class and a video that made use of 3D or animated infographics in another.
I asked my Capstone professor if I could do my video on the Long March (when Mao took power in China) and then asked my Chinese professor if my presentation could be shown as a video documentary.
When both agreed, I found myself doing only one project for two classes.
Again, looking at everything you need to do before your events start and setting a course for yourself could save you from doing double work or scrambling to finish something at the last minute!
Another lifesaver? Planning and organizational tools! Some of the tools we recommend using are Monday.com and Google Drive for Business, but we have so many more great ones that we share in our Free Ultimate Startup Toolkit.
“I just don’t have the money to start my business or continue this project I’m working on.”
Finances can be a tricky matter. People often say, “You need money to make money.”
While there is some truth to that, successful people are those who know how to take what they have and turn it into a means to achieve their goal.
Something to keep in mind is that it isn’t how many resources you have, but how resourceful you can be with those you do have.
When we were having financial troubles of our own, food was a big uncertainty. Our grocery run had to last two weeks instead of one, and some days, it felt like there was “nothing to eat.”
However, we learned to not worry about how much food we had, but be resourceful with what we did have.
Many nights felt like the “loaves and fishes” story. What seemed to be just flour, water, and yeast, turned into loaves of bread.
And a pack of sausages goes a long way in a pot of soup.
In fact, here’s another example — when I was hired to do my first product video I didn’t have a single expensive piece of equipment.
I knew, when it comes to video quality, lighting is EVERYTHING. So I bought myself an inexpensive pair of softboxes.
You couldn’t tell from the end result that I had used $30 lights because I made the most of what I had learned and didn’t rely on the type of equipment to dictate how good the end product would be.
What can you achieve with the money, time, ideas, and relationships you have today?
It’s easy to get frightened by fear of doubt especially in such uncertain times.
But remember there are things that you excel at. Pay attention to what people value you for to find what those are.
Don’t get stuck on what you can’t do, but what you can do.
Listen to what failure can teach you.
Focus on relationships to gauge your success and lean on good people in your life.
When you need help.. Who ya gonna call?
No, no, not Ghostbusters…have you learned nothing? You’re going to call mentors and friends, silly.
When you learn to focus on your strengths and the wise leaders in your life, you will find the shadows lurking above your work desk, your bed, and your life are nothing more than false images cast by the light of a life you were made for.
All it takes is a little courage.
Life is not just about work, but work should be about life
In this monthly series, we’ll be exploring work/life balance and some hands-on ways to tackle it. Because let’s face it, life is always busy.
I’d Like to Hear from You
What’s your #1 takeaway from today’s article? Or what common fear have you experienced? Either way, I’d love to hear what you have to share so leave me comment below and let’s chat.