Reader Response: Overcoming Negative Thoughts About Starting A Business

This particular reader was feeling a bit discouraged about her situation so I thought that I would try to lend a few words of encouragement. A, Thank you for emailing me. This post is for you.

I have been following your blog for about 3 months now, I work retail so I absolutely love the customer stories(I can relate). I have been working on starting my own business (it is very hands on in that includes sewing and screen printng) both of which I love. So much so that this has actually lead me back to school, and I know exactly what I wish to do. However I keep butting my head against the wall, now thanks to you I understand BHAG and have been working accordingly.

However I still get those nagging, you should be happy to have a job, you’re a bit old to start(really I’m 35!), you don’t have a college education, you should go back to school. Now most of this comes from others, but some actually are my own thoughts. How do you work past all the negative back talk external and internal? The company I work for is not bad, it takes good care of us, but I am not fullfilled and if I wish to do anything creative I would have to move back east. Do people really expect anyone that goes against the grain to actually fail?

Doubt Is Normal

I just want to start off by saying that everyone has negative thoughts. Everyone doubts themselves from time to time. Everyone has people and friends that doubt them. Hell, I was a complete basket case when we first opened our online store. I would sit there and stalk our customers online and then throw a fit when they didn’t buy anything. When we went for months without a sale, I started wondering whether I had wasted all of that time and money on a stupid venture. I started doubting whether I was competent enough to pull off running a successful business. I even had close friends tell me flat out that our online store was a dumb idea. What you are feeling is perfectly normal.

To put things in perspective, I’m 34 years old. We started our online store when I was 32 and in a little over a year was making over 100K in profits. It’s never too late to pursue your dreams. It sounds cliche but it’s true. You just have to change your mindset to think longer term. I’ll try to address some of the points of your email below.

Should I Go Back To School?

The answer to this question is really up to you, but I would say that going back to school is not in your best interests at the present time if you want to start your own business. This statement is especially true if you’re thinking about going to college just to get a degree. Sure, a degree might help you get a higher paying job, but 90% of what you’ll learn will not be applicable to what you eventually want to do with your life.

The only reason to go back to school is if you have a specific purpose or focus, know exactly what you want to study and you are positive that the education will directly benefit your future plans. If this is the case, I would consider going back to take specific classes only. I believe this is what you are doing already with your graphic design curriculum.

How Do I Deal With External Doubt?

I know exactly how you feel when it comes to dealing with people who doubt your business ideas and future plans. It especially hurts when it’s a close friend or family member. Some of them may mean well, but you have to ask yourself whether they are the right people to be taking advice from.

Have any of the people who’ve doubted you ever gone out on their own? Have any of them ever taken any risks or tried to take control of their life? Have any of them tried to start their own business or company? My guess is that the answer is ‘no’, otherwise they would be encouraging you instead of disparaging your efforts.

I’ve never met an entrepreneur who was not supportive of someone else taking the plunge. The people who doubt your capabilities are the ones who are afraid to start a business on their own. Deep down, they hope you’ll fail just so they can validate their own fears and insecurities.

So what is the solution? Hang out with people who will give you positive vibes. Hang out with people who are encouraging and helpful. Stop asking for advice from people who aren’t aligned with your end goals. A good place to start is by getting involved in various entrepreneurship communities. Find like minded people who have started a business, are thinking about starting a business or already own a business.

I guarantee you that they will be far more encouraging than your friends and coworkers. They will help provide you with the motivation to succeed when those negative thoughts creep in. Feel free to contact me anytime when you need a pick me up.

How Do I Deal With Internal Doubts?

I have found that the best way to deal with internal doubt is by building confidence. And confidence can only be built up through experience and knowledge. The good thing is that gathering knowledge is completely under your control.

When things with our online store were not going well, I had major doubts about the viability of our business model. What was I doing wrong? Why was our site not showing up in the search engines? Why were people not buying anything?

I was completely clueless and that was the main source of my self doubt. To overcome these feelings, I spent all of my time doing research on the web and reading books on the various stages of business building. I immersed myself in case studies and constantly asked my entrepreneurial friends questions about their businesses. Gradually, I gained enough knowledge to formulate a sound strategy. I developed the confidence that the path that I was taking was the correct one.

Overcoming doubt is a different process for everyone. But knowledge and experience trumps everything. Everything is under your control. You can gather knowledge by reading and you can gather experience by trying. If you don’t do either, then you’re stuck. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, then who else is going to believe in you?

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7 thoughts on “Reader Response: Overcoming Negative Thoughts About Starting A Business”

  1. Hi Steve,

    You’ve got some really practical and solid advice provided here. From my personal experience, I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to hang around with like-minded and supportive people. Negative people are as dangerous as the swine flu and they will suck all the life energy out of you like a vampire. They should be avoided at all costs, even if they’re your friends.

    And I absolutely agree with your view in going back to school. Too many people are just too concerned about getting a paper qualification. They fail to realise that it is the knowledge that they should be pursuing, rather than a stupid piece of paper. I’ve learnt that many top CEOs in the UK don’t have a college education, but they’re still being put in charge of multimillion dollar businesses.

    If anyone is familiar with The Apprentice, they should know that Donald Trump don’t hire based on paper qualifications. Even if you’re a college drop-out, but you’re able to show you have what it takes to be a great leader, you’re hired!

    You mentioned, “Some of them may mean well, but you have to ask yourself whether they are the right people to be taking advice from.” This is also something I always tell people about. I always use the example, if you want to learn to swim, ask a swimmer, not a runner. If you want to start a business, ask an entrepreneur, not an employee.

    Cheers~

    Mark

  2. Fantastic advice here! I think we get to focused on safety in our current situation. So you have a job and if you try something and it fails then what? Try something again. What’s the worst case scenario? That you end up with another job? There is little downside and a huge upside to taking the risk and plunging into what you really want to do.

  3. I agree with your point about going back to school. When you go into business you are way beyond that now. There are skills and understandings that you can pick up via short courses, reading and speaking to the right people.

    I will advise you to never get down because of what people say especially if they have and never will have a business . I would try and use their comments constructively to make changes.

    There’s a saying “winners never quit and quitters never win” try to keep focused. Yes, at times it can be hard but that sometimes is the difference between winners and losers.

  4. Google Reader should just make itself turn into a universal giant RSS reader the way Tumblr does.

  5. Taking the plunge can be scary, it’s true. But most things worth doing are a little scary.

    Lisa’s story is a great example of this. She had a Fortune 500 job but was miserable. Her husband gave her a little nudge and now she has her own business and a career she LOVES.

    Check it out here:
    ahamoment.com/pg/moments/view/3434

    I hope you enjoy it!

    -Mike
    mike@ahamoment.com

  6. bleupanda says:

    Steve,

    Many thanks for sharing your encouragements. I agree with your points and relish in your common sense insights. For a while, I was following your blog and was motivated to pursue something on my own, but then the busyness of work and grad school got in the way. Honestly, they didn’t so much as get in my way as they more or less became convenient excuses; they were “practical reasons” to comfort the doubts I had about venturing beyond the gates of corporate dependence. However, I agree with you that doubt is normal, and IMHO necessary, but only insomuch as to provoke helpful/positive situational assessment: “What specific aspect of myself as it relates to this challenge am I doubting?” , “Why am I doubting?”, etc. In terms of external and internal doubts, I find myself repeatedly recalling the following quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt – “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. Perhaps that is a good place to start.

    We all hear that financial freedom is out there, but it is quite a climb over the high, steep walls of job security. However, this blog/site stands on top of that wall to remind us that freedom is possible. And Steve, thanks for shouting that truth so loudly, clearly, and honestly.

    - BleuP.

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