A few weeks ago I sat in an audience of 40 other business CEOs and founders and listened to Mike Jones of Science, Inc. say the words, “Are you doing something right now that makes you money?”. This quote ended up on my whiteboard as a constant reminder to stay on track and work on tasks that make me money instead of make me busy. Which is ironic, because right now I’m writing a blog post instead of calling a hundred small businesses to spread the word about Handlr. The truth is, starting a business is completely overwhelming. It’s like staring up at a massive mountain and thinking, “How the hell am I going to scale this thing?”. The answer? One step at a time. Mike shared with us that success rides on two basic principles: sales and an unfaltering belief in your business’ potential for growth.
The bottom line is that fear is the enemy when it comes to sales and believing in your success. It’s scary as all hell to cold call people or to walk up to strangers with your card in hand. It’s nerve-wracking to put your idea out into the world. It’s scary to hear the truth and the truth is, not everyone is going to love your idea. It’s scary to put your whole life savings (and wedding fund if you’re like me) into a new crazy idea and it’s scary to think that there’s a possibility that not a single soul will want to sign up for your new app. Fear is a bitch. It can paralyze you and make you want to crawl up into a ball.
Owning my own business for the last 9 years and starting a new one, has been quite the roller coaster. It’s the best feeling in the world to be financially independent and to grow something from nothing, but it’s also scary to see your bank account near zero and to have so many employees relying on you to pay their living wages. It’s sometimes terrifying to shoulder so much responsibility for your business, your employees, your business’ reputation and your own living expenses. But it’s so worth it and the last 9 years have taught me so many lessons in bitch slapping fear in the face. I’m not going to lie, I have moments of panic, every entrepreneur does, but I now know how to stand up to my fear and most importantly, I know how to change my mindset.
The only thing that we have control over in life is our own mind. We have the power to choose the way we want to think about things. Dog training has taught me to train my own brain. I can train myself to approach difficult matters confidently, objectively, logically and without fear (ok, most of the time). Today we aren’t running from saber tooth tigers or wolves to survive, but we are still experiencing varying degrees of stress to make it in the modern world. You can think about stress as something negative, or you can change your mind about it and think of it as a motivator to keep you moving forward. Some stress is good, it keeps you going. It’s just important to keep it in check and not become paralyzed by it. I’ve found that 1) perspective, 2) progress, and 3) balance, keeps stress in check and fear at bay.
#1 Perspective in life is everything. It’s really the only thing that we truly have control over in life. You can choose to think about things any way that you want. You choose to be scared, unknowledgeable, ungrateful, panicked, or clueless, or you can choose to be confident, knowledgeable, grateful, poised and clued in. You can be these things by taking action and taking control of your thoughts. To do this you must be self-aware and reflective in order to make a conscious effort to cancel out the negative and change it to a positive. Being scared or panicked is caused by a stressful response based on something that happened to you in the past or because of staring at the unknown future. Being in the present moment and taking one tiny step at a time toward your goal is really all that you can do and is completely do-able. You can look at a giant mountain that needs to be climbed, or you can look at your own two feet and put one ahead of the other. This perspective will propel you forward instead of become stuck in a quagmire of fear. Being grateful for being on your own two feet and being thankful to be on your personal journey of learning and growing will keep your perspective healthy and manageable. Like the old saying goes, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” Where you think you’re going to end up isn’t always the case and worrying about the future just slows progress.
#2 Progress is another key to keeping fear in check. Checking off little goals and tasks gets you one step further on your hike to the top. Everyone starts somewhere and overnight success is a rarity, not the norm. I have a tendency to look at the big picture and end goal way too often and fear sets in. Changing my perspective to what I can do today, keeps the fear in check. I have to remind myself that DogZenergy started as Wagz n’ Wigglz on my street with just a handful of dogs and that it took a few years to walk a dog on every single street in all of La Jolla and greater San Diego. We all start somewhere and progress is made when we keep on moving.
#3 Keeping life in balance is an art form and is the key to staying calm, brave and laser focused. Even though I can’t juggle, I have an imaginary Brittany in my head who is a fantastic juggler. She juggles a lot of balls. There’s one for my family, friends, Handlr, DogZenergy, pets, fitness, fun, health, mindfulness and learning. I am happiest and most brave when all of these balls are up in the air. If I drop one, a few others start dropping and then I’ve lost all my balls and marbles. Luckily I have ball obsessed golden retrievers who help me pick up my metaphorical balls. This is sounding weird and somewhat dirty. Getting back on track here… it’s tricky to keep your life in balance, but especially as an entrepreneur, it’s essential to take care of yourself to be the best version of yourself. You are your business and your business needs you. You don’t have time to be worrying and fretting about the future or whether or not things are going to turn out the way that you want them to. You just need to keep it all in perspective, make progress and stay balanced.