You’ve had a rough day. Every conversation you’ve had has started off rocky and ended with “No.” Your top line and your bottom line aren’t talking to each other, and you’re starting to think about the benefits of having a J-O-B again.
All the pro-entrepreneur magazines and articles remind you that confidence is one of the key ingredients to your eventual success. That people, whether they are customers, strategic partners, or suppliers, can smell your desperation, your lack of hope, and your fear. Oh, and they can tell when you’re being “inauthentic” too, so even though you’re absolutely scared shitless, don’t act like it - and be entirely honest at the same time.
No big deal, right?
Wrong. That’s tough. Come on - let’s be serious here. You’re having a rough go. You’re riding that emotional roller coaster, and currently you’re at the bottom of the hill. You’re doubting your business model. You’re doubting your partners, your staff, your customers - and yourself. Today is a day when everyone around you should just GO AWAY, and you should go hide under your bed sheets.
Maintaining any kind of confidence is extremely hard work no matter what kind of human you are, no matter what you do for a living. Maintaining confidence in the face of building a business can seem impossible. So how do all those Richard Bransons and Elon Musks and Steve Jobs and that guy/gal down the street who clearly is more successful than you and always seem to be so calm* keep going?
(*We know that guy/gal down the street. They’re scared shitless too, and they think you’re smarter and more successful than they are. Trust us. We’ve talked to them.)
We can’t really speak to how those big name entrepreneurs maintain their confidence, but we can speak to our own experience. At Admin Slayer, we like to locate and leverage our super powers, and one of our founders - if you’ve met us, you know which one - has had hers identified by the rest as Self Esteem. As a result, we know a thing or two about feeding that fire.
Confidence does not come in a handy little package at birth, along with the colour of your eyes and the size of your hands. Confidence does not suddenly arrive at the attainment of that one big goal. Confidence does not come from the admiration of others.
We don’t blame you if you have ever thought that any of the above is true, even if in secret. We’ve been taught through the school and employment systems that large goal attainment and the admiration of others are exactly where we find self-worth. That worth itself comes from an external place. As students and employees, if we work with great leaders, we will be provided with the external feedback that might keep us in a positive place.
But once we release ourselves into the wilds of business ownership and entrepreneurship, we discover that the kind of external feedback that we have been living off of is almost entirely missing.
Our partners, friends, and family sometimes think we’re crazy. They might tell us that we don’t have a good idea. Or that we did have one, but it’s the wrong time, and having a regular paycheque now is more important, more valuable, less destructive than building towards that thing that we’re doing with that business.
Our customers, if we’re lucky, appreciate what we do, and they pay us for it. That’s some external validation we can build on. But what if our customers are few and far between right now, or maybe they don’t always appreciate what we do in a way that we can feel? (Money, we’ve discovered, is not an emotion, and it does not actually boost your self-confidence - but it can increase your sense of stability.)
What we’re missing is a Gold Star, a Performance Review, a promotion, an A+. External validation that we’ve been taught to strive towards, and achieve, and as business owners, that type of validation is too little, and often, too late.
At Admin Slayer, we like Gold Stars a lot. We try to give them to each other as much as possible because we know exactly how important being appreciated is. But we also give ourselves gold stars, and we do it every week.
What We Do
So this might feel stupid. If you’ve never done anything like it, it will definitely feel stupid. If you’re a nice, self-deprecating Canadian, it will feel self-aggrandizing and immoral. Ignore that. You need this.
You need fuel. You need to stop feeling desperate. You need confidence - and you need it to be authentic. Here’s how.
- Carve out time at the beginning of your week. For a lot of people this is first thing Monday morning, but hey, your week might look different than everybody else. About 30 minutes should do it.
- No, you are not planning the week ahead. Come back here, cowboy/cowgirl/cowperson
- Open up your calendar/task list/whatever you use to stay on track from last week.
- Find 3 things - just 3 - that you did last week that you are proud of/were achievements.
- Write down what each of those 3 things were.
- Write down why you feel proud of those 3 points of pride/achievements. Note: They don’t always have to be business related. Having one of those items be personal is probably a good thing. Practicing being a whole person is another key ingredient to entrepreneurial success.
- Write down what else you will do to further this achievement, and think of a final goal. For instance, let’s say you wrote a cool article and you’re proud of it. You posted it to your blog. This might be part of your bigger goal of driving more traffic to your site and developing new business.
- Write down what you will do this week to further that achievement. In the above example, you might be adding this to your newsletter and social media channel this week, or sharing it with specific people and asking them if they’d be interested in reposting (perhaps in exchange for you posting one of theirs)
Keep this in your work space. Keep a copy of it in a binder or digital folder in week-by-week order, so you can see each achievement on your journey. Take it out and review it regularly. We like both quarterly and annual reviews, as these help us drive decisions for the next large chunk of time.
Doesn’t sound hard does it? That’s the thing: it’s not hard. It’s really easy. So easy you might imagine that it’s not effective and give up on it. But it is incredibly effective. It’s what makes seemly impossible things possible. Because of this one little 30 minute activity once a week:
- You start every week feeling really proud of yourself.
- You realize that you’re not a hack after all, and you do some damn good stuff.
- You’ve connected last week’s wins to this week’s actions - and created a foundation on which to build your greatest achievements.
If you count each step as an achievement, you’ll have the wherewithal and the confidence to see yourself through to the end of those 1,000 miles.