By Kristen Bowie
Early startup founders may find themselves stuck. Stuck in avoidance- avoiding hiring staff, avoiding executing on a major marketing initiative, stuck on planning their next major fundraising event.
Whatever you find yourself ‘stuck’ on, know that it’s not uncommon to experience early on. Decision paralysis is a legitimate experience for developing leadership. There are only so many decisions you can make in a day and if you’re already battling fears of failure and anxiety, it can be exhausting. Also know that while it’s a common experience in newly minted businesses, it’s absolutely destructive to your efforts. It’s incredibly important that new business owners develop a keen sense of self awareness and emotional intelligence so that they can recognize when their fears and roadblocks are holding their startup back.
From imposter syndrome to a fear of failure, it’s important that your self-progression progresses along with your business. This is a skill that separates leaders from the mere managers. Opening yourself up to new challenges and experiences will take your business further and drive your personal satisfaction with the work you do to new heights.
All too often, developing this personal awareness is difficult. Where can you start? The easiest starting point is to start recognizing specific instances that you may be avoiding. One that’s commonly seen in new businesses is the avoidance of planning your fundraising event. New founders find pitching their idea so personal that it’s difficult to be that vulnerable with a room full of strangers. Fear of failure or in some cases, rejection is incredibly powerful, so this is an easy task to avoid. But if you want to scale your business quickly, acquiring capital is the only surefire way to do so efficiently. How can you get over this hump? A whole lot of internal work, that’s how.
There are deep consequences to avoidance, but not all is lost. There are things you can actively do starting today to win the battle with yourself to push your business forward.
The Consequences of Waiting Too Long
We’re going to cover the hard, uncomfortable part first. It’s easier to meet the villain of your story in the beginning, we’ll talk about how to be the hero in a minute. Waiting too long is a rookie misstep, and it’s easy to make. But the great news is that it’s just as easy to avoid making. We’ve all been there. At this point, it’s easy to overestimate our abilities while underestimating the difficulties associated with an event and the hidden challenges we’ve yet to unearth.
All of a sudden, the date we want to host an event on is 60 days out and we’re in a position where we have to throw something together. The one thing you need to do before you reach this point is ask yourself “What does my organization hope to accomplish with this event?” In this case, it’s easy. You want to throw a fundraising event with a goal of raising x dollars to get capital so you can do n.
This provides you with the scope you need for your fundraising event. If you’re hoping to raise a large amount of money, you will know at this point that you’ll have to put serious elbow grease and man hours into making it successful. The more time you give yourself, the more time you can work through any problems that pop up as you move forward. It’s important that you allocate six to 12 months to plan any fundraising event you might have in mind. You will always need more time than you think you need.
What to Do When You Found Yourself Stuck in Avoidance
The first step to overcome avoidance is to learn how to recognize it (hey, there’s that self awareness we were chatting about). Avoidance often rears its ugly head when we’re confronted with difficult thoughts or feelings and more often than not, these feelings are rooted in fear.
There’s a fantastic acronym for FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real. When you start moving your business goals forward, as a new founder you are going to experience a lot of feelings of fear. Your mind will come up with endless false evidence, all of which feels very real and valid in the moment. In this case, you may find yourself asking these questions:
What if I’m not able to do it? (This is a fear of failure)
What if I do it and it winds up being a ton of extra work? (Indicative of a fear of success)
What if they say no? (That fear of rejection is strong)
Why do I even want to risk this? (This is a fear of being uncomfortable)
Every single one of us has thoughts exactly like this at some point. It doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO of a monolithic corporation or just starting out. We call combat fears.
How to Be the Hero
Coping with change and adversity is hard, but it must be done if you’re going to be the hero in not only your story, but the story of your organization. We, as a species, are often forced to persevere and learn.
Wellness that assists our business is all-encompassing. It’s important that you acknowledge these fears. You should have a support network. Talk to someone you trust and ask them if they’ve ever felt the same way. You’ll be surprised at that moment when your mentor recounts when he was just getting started and struggled. Fears are just part of the process and so is moving past them.
While acknowledging your fears is a great first step, this is an ongoing process and it’s important that as a founder you learn how to take a step back and evaluate experiences to make sense of your life and the progression of your business. Taking it a step further requires complete dedication to yourself and your goals as a new founder. The four dimensions of wellness that can help you win the battle are:
Acknowledging this list and implementing the following is an invaluable way to start evaluating your life from different perspectives. In order to develop your self awareness, it’s incredibly important to break down the way you think and the way you feel so you can better program yourself for success.
Developing this kind of self-awareness is an ingenious way to position yourself to overcome the struggles you encounter and keep powering through to get those outcomes you desire in your organization.
We’re going to break down each area in a way that will provide context and show you a roadmap to maximize your potential and overcome these roadblocks.
We’ve been talking about how to be the hero of your own story. This bears repeating: wake up every day and tell yourself that you’re going to be that hero knight that conquers the day as if it were a dragon. We are creatures of emotion and fall into the trap of mood swings, highs and lows, self-doubt, anxiety, and worry.
Outside of standing mental illness or chronic depression, this is an easy trap to fall into. You owe it to yourself to remind yourself every day that you are going to do great things.
This can drive you. Drive you to develop a hunger for knowledge and a desire to succeed. Intellect thrives off of anticipation and excitement! Take the time to develop your intellectual desire to grow. It’s vital that you keep learning and building upon each day as you go.
Focus on the long-game strategy, as well. Your persistence will help you be resilient and keep you going when you think you can’t– when you begin to wonder if it’s worth it. Keep focusing on the end goal. Stay open minded and have a voracious appetite for new ideas, new opportunities, and new approaches to problems.
What we see with new founders is that they often think that they have to put everything on their own shoulders. Their relationships fall by the wayside and they soldier on towards the goal. This is a mistake.
It’s important that you take the time to build and maintain positive relationships as a new founder. It’s also important to invest in the people that you work or go to school with. Don’t be shy! Let them know that you care.
Break out of your immediate circle. This works like a ripple in a pond. Once you’ve built great relationships with those in your day-to-day, start interacting with the people in your community. This can present you with a wealth of great ideas and new opportunities you never knew you had. It doesn’t matter if you’re an extrovert or introvert. We’re creatures that are designed for connection and it’s in our DNA to grow those connections to love and grow with people in our life.
This is a pretty important one to new founders, perhaps the one that most founders already have an awareness of. Occupational wellness is about the personal satisfaction you get from the work you do. And the way to become a hero when it comes to occupational wellness is something we’ve already discussed at length:
Take more chances.
You have to increase your risk tolerance. The world delivers to those who take the opportunity to choose what they want. There’s something about speaking your goals out loud that does something to drive you towards them. If you start working towards your goals, it will happen.
If you believe in your idea, take the necessary steps to plan for fundraising, and then execute it, it will become a reality. You, as the founder, have to take chances. You have to challenge yourself when you hit these problems that feel like mountains.
And most importantly, you have to be willing to risk something in order to get what you really want in business.
The connection between emotional intelligence and wellness is an incredibly complex topic to cover, but we can break it down. The most crucial thing that you can do for yourself is to stop taking rejection personally. Easier said than done, right? Rejection always feels incredibly personal. However, you will face rejection in business. You will be disappointed with outcomes. You’ll have struggles in sales, marketing, operational issues, and a lack of capital at some point. We’ve all been here.
As a founder, you have to be willing to strengthen your resolve and overcome the adversity that’s presented to you. If you find yourself struggling with anxiety, worry, fear or the other uncomfortable emotions that pop up with running a business, you need to find an outlet to express these feelings. An outlet can take the form of counseling, writing, physical exercise or relying on your support network that you’ve developed. The more you make sense of the things that you feel, the more you develop your emotional intelligence and the better leader you become.
Spend serious time focusing on the way you feel. You can even keep a journal to track how life ebbs and flows for you so you can better understand yourself. This is absolutely transformative when gaining balance in your emotional life.
Working through your internal struggles will make you a better leader and a better business person. You’re a more effective manager when you act on emotional intelligence and you will find yourself executing tough tasks easier. Your business is young, but it can grow with you!
Author Bio: Kristen Bowie is a marketing leader, forging the path with data-driven decisions. When she’s not writing for thought leadership and creating sponsorship proposals at Qwilr, she’s hanging out with her two urban dwarf goats, painting, or is out watching a local band.