Balancing emotions and decisions: The life of an entrepreneur

March 2016 has marked a special time and milestone in my career

The clearer the road the stronger emotions get.

This is possibly the first year I’ve made a big deal about International Women’s Day. There are two reasons behind this. This week we organised our Lean In group’s 14th ‘Women in startups’ circle and shared our individual successes and how we got there. A lot of this came from my conversations with other female entrepreneurs at Rowena’s delicious and inspiring #FemaleEntrepreneurs dinner parties hosted via Social Belly.

Rowena’s #FemaleEntrepreneurs dinner party — next one 8th April!

Lean In is a book written by Sheryl Sandberg, currently COO at Facebook about supporting women into achieving their ambitions. The key of ‘leaning in’ is not pushing harder but about remaining focused on the opportunities that emerge from your professional and personal life. If you know what you’re passionate about, it will help you to be bolder in taking calculated risks.

“The goal is to work toward a world where expectations are not set by the stereotypes that hold us back, but by our personal passion, talents and interests.” — Emma Watson

The success that I’d like to share has been the realisation of how to move a step towards balancing my emotions especially whilst growing and building a startup, Social Belly.

Why I started Social Belly?

I felt the pain of not knowing many people when I moved to London in 2013 and the idea about bringing people and food together made me feel good. I was motivated to start something new, to start a movement. The ability to make a difference in people’s lives is what made me tick.

Transmitting a passion into a product or service

Every first time entrepreneur’s business especially starts from a passion of building something they want. Especially at the beginning, the heart is a big part of how you do things and the decisions you make. If it wasn’t for the entrepreneur’s gut instinct and vision, we would all be following a guide book on how to start a multi million dollar business (unfortunately, no such book exists). The hardest part is transforming this passion into a product that people will want to use (all the time).

Entrepreneurs become emotional

Paul Graham officially defines a startup as ‘a company that is designed to grow fast’ and this process does not only take a day, nor a month and most times not even just a year. Throughout the journey of an entrepreneur, one becomes emotional. I feel it too. Every day and every decision we’re making involves huge amounts of uncertainty, risk and exposure to actions you’ve never wanted anyone to notice. Dealing with uncertainty = mental strength. And one of the ways of dealing with uncertainty is to analyse it into components.

“Most people who are reluctant to do something have about eight different reasons mixed together in their heads, and don’t know themselves which are biggest. Some will be justified and some bogus, but unless you know the relative proportion of each, you don’t know whether your overall uncertainty is mostly justified or mostly bogus. — Paul Graham

Emotions effects all of our decision making

Emotions result from everything we go through, at work and outside of work. Emotions play off the present, past memories and hope for the future. Just a couple of weeks ago, someone told me, ‘women are more emotional than men, and that holds them back.’ OK, I agree, we are. But that does not mean that we can’t handle the emotions better than them, does it? Why is there still so much gender imparity in business? Why are people, even women generalising that women cannot take as good business decisions as men? Anyone can learn to control their emotions if they want, but all it takes is time and practice.

Knowing how to separate your emotions from the logic in front of you and from the components that make up that uncertainty is not just a better decision making skill but a leadership quality that I set myself to improve in the last few months. It’s key to know when to use emotion and when it just negatively affects judgement. And this is not a matter of gender, it’s a matter of self-control.

Keeping the lights on mentality

London keeps me on my toes

Over the past year I’ve met some inspiring entrepreneurs that have influenced me into focusing on my personal development as well as growing my business. And that’s the challenge. Going through these ups and downs (sometimes, from one minute to another) whilst growing a startup is not easy. Welcome to the world of an entrepreneur. Handling emotions, knowing when to use your ‘gut’ and when to use your logic is not something you can learn in a month either. Again, it all comes with time and practice. Here are a few tips that have helped me move one step closer towards balancing these emotions that all entrepreneurs go through on a daily basis.

1. When you hear someone say you can’t do something, ask yourself: ‘What would I do if I weren’t afraid?’

This quote is from Sheryl Sandberg and it stuck to me the first time I saw it in Facebook’s London offices. If you believe you’re the right one to do this, then do it and don’t be afraid of anything that comes in your way.

2. Every night, I write down three things that didn’t go so well (failures) and what I learnt from them.

Imagine, in a week, you’d have 21 learnings and in a year you would have over 1,000 things you’ve learnt. Writing things down helps me process my thoughts, that’s what works for me. It might be different for you.

3. Exercise.

As an Indian girl, even though I was born and brought up in Spain, sport was not meant to be a priority (won’t get into detail in this). I’ve always underestimated the power of exercise until a few months ago. Exercise boosts my brainpower, my productivity and has made me become somewhat like an unstoppable machine.
So while I’ve written what has been working for me, I would love to hear what’s worked for you, thoughts?
Food for thought

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