As a designer, I work with clients during the most FUN and EXCITING stages of launching their businesses: the strategy sessions where we dig soul-deep and the creative process where their ideas become a tangible reality…
The “Ohhhhh my god! Squeeeeee! It’s real! I’m so excited now!” moments are what I live for.
But, invariably, there comes a moment—usually sometime close to launching—when I can sense a bit of turmoil brewing. It sometimes manifests as project delays:
“I know I need to get stuff to you, I’m so sorry! I’ve just been insanely busy!”
Other times it’s more direct and comes up in conversation,
“This is so overwhelming, I’m nervous as hell! You can be honest, what do you really think about what I’m doing?”
Sometimes I feel more like a therapist than a designer (and I love that). Being a business owner myself for over 15 years, I know exactly what they’re going through. Here’s what I share when I see entrepreneurial terror rear its ugly head:
1. Trust Yourself
When I first launched my business in 2002, my younger self was wise enough to reach out to successful entrepreneurs and ask for their advice in exchange for picking up their lunch tab. (It’s amazing how much value people will give you if you ask for help and buy them a sandwich.)
I’ll never forget one such mentor who told me, “Just jump off the cliff. You’ll figure out how to fly on the way down.”
And she was right. This metaphor appears on the surface to be about taking risks (which we all know is what entrepreneurship is about), but if you read between the lines, it’s really about staying in the present moment.
Anxiety is caused by thinking too far into the future and letting your brain swim around and around in circles. Stay present, and trust yourself that “whatever it is,” you can figure it out or fix it.
There are going to be challenges, and you can’t predict and plan for all of them, so just trust yourself that when you get there, you’re capable of figuring it out.
You can read all the books and take all the courses and think things through for months or even years, but the reality is, you’re never going to be truly prepared. Mostly, you’re going to figure all this stuff out as you go along. And you can absolutely do that. You’ve made it through life pretty good so far, right?
2. Accept That Perfect Isn’t Possible
The other day I had a discussion with an insanely talented and very accomplished client who is preparing to launch something OH-MY-GOD-IT’S-SO-FREAKING-EXCITING! into the world. It’s going to be big, she’s going to do great, and it’s going to change her life and change others’ lives too.
As we near launch, the pressure is mounting: “I’m having a hard time finishing some things on my list because they’re not perfect yet.”
And while I’m aware that important people are going to be watching and a lot legitimately IS riding on this, the reality is — it doesn’t need to be perfect for it to be fucking fantastic.
Perfectionism is fear. Fear keeps us invisible. It’s better to have something great IN THE WORLD than to have something perfect tucked away on your hard drive somewhere.
People who are really successful aren’t perfect, they’re just doing it.People who are really successful aren't perfect, they're just doing it.Click To Tweet
Embrace imperfection like it’s your best friend forever because that’s what separates the visible from the invisible.
3. Make Fear Your New Best Friend
Fear is part of every entrepreneur’s story. Most of them won’t tell you about it until they’ve reached some degree of success, and tell me if you haven’t heard this a thousand times: “I was so scared at first, but I did it, and you can too!”
Once you get over your initial fears, more fears will crop up. It’s like playing one big ol’ game of fear whack-a-mole. If you ever STOP feeling anxious or fearful, you’re probably not pushing the envelope enough. Without risks, there’s no reward, and whenever you take risks, it’s human to feel nervous about it.
There are many, many types of entrepreneurial fear (success, failure, et al) but what matters is that you’re AWARE when fear is holding you back and you work that shit out.
In fact, when you learn to LISTEN to your fears, they can be your greatest ally in doing the right things. There’s an old saying, “If it terrifies you, you should probably say yes.”