Rothko, Mark. Blue and Grey. 1962. Oil on canvas. N.p.

A new entrepreneur’s thinking

I recently had a someone from the entrepreneur community reach out to me seeking some advice about dealing with the doubts and fears about being an entrepreneur and launching a new product.

I recently left the medical field after 6 years to start my own venture. I feel so un-contributory to society now. Granted, I’ve yet to launch. My self worth is in the toilet, my memory is absolute sh*t (seriously I’m 25 and can’t remember the most basic things day to day). I can just feel the stress coursing through my veins. I’m SO excited for my up and coming business to launch, yet I’m mortified, knowing I’ll wake up day 1 thinking “nobody is going to buy this sh*t. I’m doomed.”
Does any of this relate? I got so tired of being on the bottom of the totem pole in medicine that I thought this would be better. And I want it to be.
Also, I eat very well and run 1.0 miles every day, but still succumb to fear and doubt. Perhaps I need professional guidance?

This was my reply:

I can’t tell you whether professional guidance will help or not. It’s been cathartic just to be able to talk to others about the stress I feel. I typically form networks of entrepreneurs and set-up coffee meet-ups where we’ll go around the table, talk about what we’re doing, problems we’re trying to solve, and collectively solve them. This provides some iota of relief.

You’re going through a lot of transitions simultaneously and I can imagine it would be difficult to find the root of these issues to deal with them individually. What you’re experiencing is normal from what I’ve seen of both myself and other entrepreneurs I’ve talked with.

You’re under a crazy amount of pressure and stress, managing your expectations of your product, society’s expectations of yourself, and your friends’ and partner’s expectations. That’s fair.

Thinking “nobody is going to buy this sh*t” is also par for the course, and probably the most realistic expectation of a new product on market. Most likely nobody will buy your product, unless you have buyers lined up. THIS IS FINE. Products are made by discovery + iteration. You’ll incrementally improve your product with feedback from your audience, your partners, and yourself.

At first the feedback of your product will sear into your soul because of your desire for it to work and be great immediately. You’ll develop a thicker skin with time and it will be easier to take the feedback that matters, but leave behind the opinions that don’t. This road is hard. Birthing a new product into the world is hard. Affecting change is hard.

Managing your own psychology is 99% of the work of entrepreneurship, all other external tasks are simple. The reason we feel this fear and doubt is because we’ve spent a lifetime consuming with society and learning a particular mode of living. The mouse goes to work, the mouse is rewarded with cheese. We then create a habit around this because we’ve found our cheese. We are now safe.

Then something happens and we decide to take on a new adventure for some reason. Whether it’s for wealth creation, a chance for independence, or the call to lead, we find ourselves set out for the journey of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship, in the case of early product creation, has no immediate guarantees like we find in the normal working world.

Fear and doubt are the methods dying habits employ to urge us to get back on path, to find our easy cheese again. We’re so used to being told to perform a task, then expecting to get a reward for completing the task, it’s comedic. You look up and you see everyone else living that same mode so it must be OK, let’s reinforce that mode. This is your herd mentality speaking. It serves to preserve the species, and it’s very strong — heck it’s guided us through millions of years of evolution. This is also the same reason some people will project their own insecurities on you, and perhaps even tell you that you’re doing the wrong thing, and that it will have long lasting deleterious effects. These people don’t see what you see.

What causes some people to keep going despite this localized societal death? My guess is that we have some explore v. exploit algorithm within us that causes some people to break away and deal with trying to find something better, willing to risk the unknown despite the perils that most definitely await.

I’m starting to wonder what drives will, grit, determination, and faith. These are the only things I can see that separates us from others that don’t continue down this path. You need to start finding comfort in the unknown to let these things work for you. My coping mechanism is finding solace in the idea that I’m an instrument of the universe, given the ability to see and create things that have never been created, because the universe might exist for a reason, and therefore I exist on this path for a reason. (Part philosophical compatibilism, and part deterministic fatalism) This is where you need faith.

Believe in yourself. There will be danger, there will be trouble that you won’t have experience solving, there will be a whole world of new experiences that can make you feel good or bad. It’s ultimately up to you on how you let them influence you. These outcomes are all about perspective, and you will learn the tools to manage and cope in time. Your best course of action is to keep going and knowing that you’re still alive, which means you get another day to create, and that is something to be grateful for. Fulfill your purpose.

Don’t go back to the “I told you so’s” even if you have immediately failed, for you are now changed, different, and hold a new perspective on how the world can work, and that’s not something easily bought, or easily won through spectatorship. Keep building, pushing forward, and forging your path.

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