Successful entrepreneurs enjoy financial freedom, flexibility of schedule along with social recognition. But behind all this is sheer hard work.
In the beginning stages you might be working 12 -18 hrs a day and financial success at this stage seems like a distant dream. This sustained period of struggle breeds all kinds of fears and negative thoughts. Some more common than others.
I have listed below are the 3 most common fears that first time entrepreneurs face along with tips to overcome the root cause of those fears.
Beat the Fear of Unknown:
There are more unknowns than knowns in an entrepreneur’s journey. It’s the normal. This is the life you have chosen.
We make sense of chaos. We walk through dark tunnels not knowing if there is light at the end of it. We do what others choose to avoid. That’s why we lead and others follow.
But this journey doesn’t have to be a lonely one. It becomes a lot easier and fun when you have a co-founder to walk along with you.
When you get a mentor it becomes all the more interesting. They have walked through where you are about to traverse and they can tell you what to look out for and what to grab along the way. They tell you the shortcuts they missed that you can take advantage of.
Every major business or life decision I have made till date has always been under the able guidance of world class mentors. I have spiritual mentor, marketing mentor, investment mentor, hardware mentor, academic mentor, political mentor and the list goes on and on.
Beat the Fear of Failure:
Here is the deal. No business plan survives first contact with the market.
It’s not failure, it’s just normal. So just expect it as part of the product development life-cycle.
The point is to test various iterations of your minimum viable product (MVP) with your target market. The concept of MVP allows you to fail cheap and fail fast so you can focus your time, money and energy on the features that your target market demands.
That’s how you build a product/service that people are willing to pay for. You care to know and help solve their dire problems and they care to pay for your solution.
But market demand changes constantly so you need to constantly iterate (BUILD-TEST-LEARN). That way you can evolve your product/services in tune with the market.
Nokia and Kodak failed because they failed to evolve with the changing demands of the market. When Nokia was getting sold to Microsoft, in the last speech, the CEO of Nokia made a statement:
“We didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost” – CEO, Nokia
So let’s not repeat the same mistake. Here is a 1 min video on how to Build-Test-Learn:
You stop adapting you die.
But product development is just one thing in the life of an entrepreneur. There are so many other obstacles from team issues to legal issues to financial hardships. There will be problems all along the way. But don’t let fear cripple you.
Understand this, you have a lot more to gain than lose (unless you stupidly invest a bunch of money before validation through the above mentioned build-test-learn cycle). The knowledge and experience you will gain through your struggles as a entrepreneur will push you decades ahead of your friends and peers. That means you get a job any day with a pay-grade way higher than your peers.
I constantly get job offers from companies like Google, Microsoft and others because they value the experience of entrepreneurship and constantly want to bring in talent with the entrepreneurial mindset.
I love this quote:
So you actually never fail unless you decide to stop trying. So perseverance is key to go beyond the so called failures in order to witness success.
Beat the Fear of Social Rejection:
By default entrepreneurs are people who pride in being superlative being high achievers. So mediocrity or is almost never an option and it shouldn’t be.
But in the path towards excellence, mediocrity of lifestyle might be a phase that one has to go through. You see your friends and cousins buying their first cars, buying their dream houses and you might still be struggling to pay your phone bills.
People might say hurtful things to you or even choose to not recognize you exist when in social gatherings.
It’s normal. That’s how most people are.
But you know what? As soon as you get your first media coverage, your fifth award and a little bit of Facebook fan following, these same people wouldn’t mind bending over backwards for you.
So ignore what people say and think of you and develop this one quality of Grit.
Grit is having passion and perseverance for long term goals.
Grit is having stamina. It’s common among all successful entrepreneurs.
Grit is ONE single quality, scientifically proven to separate successful people from others. Talent doesn’t make you gritty, neither does IQ.
Grit is a quality that comes from a persevering mindset.
Success is waiting for you on the other side of your struggle through mediocrity or sometimes even poverty.
My initial struggles
I started entrepreneurship at the age of 19 while still a student at Illinois Institute of Technology. Edward and I were successful from day one, winning business plan competitions, getting media coverage, progressing with patent filings, working prototypes, everything was going perfectly. And then we graduated. It was 2009. Economy was at its worst in the US. People were losing homes and jobs. No investors were investing.
Given we were a hardware + social networking startup there was no question of launching our business without significant investment for manufacturing, software development, marketing and sales. Work never stopped. We raised money by winning business plan competitions. We leveraged our relationship with our mentors, developers, designers and lawyers to keep building our business even though we had no money to pay them.
We lost support from the entire Chicago startup ecosystem as most people thought it was impossible for us to succeed given the economy. There were a few exceptions of a couple of good mentors, our attorneys and our team who kept inspiring me and Edward to keep trying and pushing forward. This situation extended for more than a year. Edward and I were at the brink of being homeless when we started a weekend food business to pull us through till our first major investment kicked in. Overnight we were again all over the news and people realized we were back on track.
Guess what? Those same people who refused to recognize we even exist put us back on the high pedestals of celebrity entrepreneurs. Life has never been the same but Edward and I learned very quickly some important life lessons.
The reason why I am sharing this story with you is to help you understand that all the fearful things you are scared of are expected and very normal in the life of an entrepreneur. Don’t let them hold you back.
Right-size your fear. It’s not so bad. The mind just tends to magnify what can go wrong. Let me tell you it’s adventurous and loads of fun. I am saying this after having gone through 7 startups.
- Get a mentor who started where you are and who is where you want to be.
- Be ready to fall flat on your face and get right back up and keep going.
- Never mind who is laughing and who is leaving. Let your market and mentors guide you.
- Lastly don’t hope for success. Expect it, and take the necessary steps to get there.