Credit: Domenico Gentile.

The Struggle is as Hard as You Make It

7 life lessons for the entrepreneurs who don’t yet know the power they hold.

Lisa Atia
Lisa Atia
Jun 7 · 9 min read

You’ve always known there’s something different about you, even something special - about where you are destined to go. Whether you do or don’t know what you’re called to do, as humans, we still let fear and anxiety hinder our progression. Join the party.

Come to terms with it.

We need to learn how to come to terms with being human. What does that mean? You’re going to have thoughts of fear. You’re going to have feelings of anger, and frustration, and confusion. It is a part of you, that part you can’t get away from. But you don’t have to partake in it. Look at it, acknowledge it, laugh at it, and still yourself to get the answer you need. Focus your energy forward in the direction of faith and certainty that things will become exactly what they’re supposed to be, even if it’s not what you think it’s going to look like. I’ll let you in on a secret — it definitely won’t end up how you want it to look. So let it flow and ride the wave!

Only when you can learn to embrace the unknown instead of letting uncertainty of the future eat away your joy can you truly be on this roller coaster of being an entrepreneur. Because here’s the truth: this walk as an entrepreneur will get heavy at times. There will be so much you have to do in a given day that you’ll not want to do any of it, but you know you have to keep going because your purpose is bigger than just you.

It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. This walk isn’t for everyone though and that’s ok. Some feel it’s too heavy a burden. Some allow fear to keep them stagnate. This article isn’t going to make you feel good, but it’s good for you. You’re going to have to really look in the mirror and face all those feelings because it’s only you that’s limiting yourself. And if you don’t, you’ll use the energy of those negative thoughts to feed into your emotions, which will become toxic for you and those around you because you’ll go deeper into that rabbit hole that has no way out but up.

It definitely won’t end up how you want it to look. So let it flow and ride the wave!

I can say it because I do it. It’s called being human. When you learn to master yourself, you’ll understand that temporary pains and discomfort are just a part of the growth process and when you come at it from that POV, you’ll be able to see opportunities and perspectives that you previously blocked from yourself.

If you feel like you’re drowning, these are some of the big lessons I’ve learned that help me put things back in perspective.

Lesson #1: BELIEVE.

Belief in self is the most powerful tool you can possess. Whatever your belief on how you got on this Earth, you at least know you didn’t put yourself here, which means your existence is for a purpose greater than your understanding. And if you have a desire in your heart to create something (e.g. the business you’ve started), even if most people don’t yet see the vision, it was put inside of you for a reason, which means you have something inside of you only you can bring into full manifestation. And there is a purpose for it on this Earth.

When you actually take the step forward in faith toward that thing, all the resources you need to get you to the next step will come to you. It’s a divine principle, a universal law. You still have to do all the things though! Don’t think I’m telling you sit back and chill. Nah, bro. You have to take action. But strategic action, with clarity and focus. That’s how you know all the things to say ‘no’ to. That’s how you learn how to prioritize your energy. It’s in the space of flow, which is a space of surrender and trust, in which time slows down and you see things happen before they happen. It’s how you can discern who is for you and who just wants to ride your wave. It’s where you learn what you stand for and what you’re not willing to compromise. See, when you believe, you trust. And when you trust, you are guided into the right opportunities and the right people come into your life at just the right time to provide you with what you need. That’s why you can’t do this alone. That’s why what you are building has to be bigger than just yourself. Or else you’ll get just enough for you.

But it starts with belief, and that can only come from you. That is the place where you’re going to find your freedom, your joy, your peace. Your peace is your power. Nobody can give you peace. That is something you must claim for yourself. And it is already in you. You have to believe that though.

Note of caution: Pride will take you down if you’re not careful to distinguish between believing in yourself versus giving into the desires of the ‘lower self’ — the things you want selfishly — a big payout, accolades, recognition. The higher self will always guide you to the things that benefit everyone, not just you. Be humble and hustle smart.

Lesson #2: You get what you give.

Here’s the other half of that equation: you must give to receive. If you’re only focused on what you can get, nobody will want to help because they feel like you’re taking something from them. But when you can walk into a room — any room — especially when you’re fundraising — with the intention not to get but to give, watch what comes to you. I’ve lived it, I’ve seen it. That’s true power. To give. Because when the things of this world have no hold on you, when you aren’t worried about getting anything from any one person but instead trust that the things and people that are for you, will come to you, you are free. And you also aren’t desperate. This is as much spiritual as it is mental. Your true work is to be discerning about building your tribe by giving to the people who you know are also building beyond themselves what they need, and in turn, you will be given you what you need. Maybe not by the same people, maybe not in the same manner in which you gave. But what you receive in return will be exactly what you need, when you need it. It just may not look the way you expect, so you must be open to the unexpected. We each have different gifts and talents. We’ve been created equal, but different. Each one of us needs the other to unlock our full potential. That’s why to give is to get. You are more powerful as a community than you can ever be as an individual.

Lesson #3: Every lesson is a blessing.

This lesson depends on your perspective, so choose wisely. You will continue to go through the same pains, the same ‘failures’ until you’ve learned your lesson from it. And until you see ‘failure’ from the lens of it being a lesson, it will always feel like you’re losing. It’s that way from business to relationships. So take every seeming failure, flip it, and ask yourself, “what is this trying to teach me?” That’s why it’s important to not get attached to your feelings and, instead, look at what you’re being taught. That lesson is there to elevate you.

If there is something you feel like you’ve failed at, or are scared to start because you feel like you’re going to fail (and therefore never start it), that fear will end up dictating your actions and you cannot fully manifest all the potential waiting to be manifested on the inside of you. Why? Because in order to live in a space of complete freedom, loving your life, living out your purpose, you must be able to see that especially in the hardships, the lessons are meant to grow you, hone you, strengthen you, teach you, build you — not break you. So even if you feel uncomfortable, even if it feels like a failure, you have the power to choose your own thoughts and change how you see the situation and, therefore, how you approach the solution. Simple, but it takes practice and discipline.

Lesson #4: Practice with the small and the big will be easier.

When you can practice mastering your thoughts, when you can practice the mastery of a difficult situation (e.g. how to talk with understanding and kindness to a customer service representative for example — something I struggle with), then when a situation arises that brings up the same thoughts or feelings, you’ve already practiced it multiple times over and know the tools and techniques of how to approach it. So when a situation arises where the stakes are high and others are watching you, you will have already been through it. It may still be hard, but now you have a blueprint for how to approach it. You practice, you mess up, you learn, you try again. When you can handle tough situations or people with grace and humility, you show those around you what it means to live out the principles in which you believe.

Lesson #5: Purpose is bigger than just you.

Your real purpose that will bring you true joy is in that thing that also impacts the world around you, your community. Our time here on this Earth is not just about ourselves. We’ve been programmed to believe that our life is just about securing the bag, traveling all over the world, wearing fancy clothes, doing more more more. How many times have you seen those who seemingly ‘have’ everything truly be at peace? That’s because we are here to serve, not be served. Why did you decide to even start your business in the first place? To provide something of value to others because more than likely it was an issue you wanted solved, and if it plagued you, then you didn’t want it to plague others in the same way.

Lesson #6: Choose your words carefully.

You are who you say you are. Your words are powerful. When you speak something out loud, you are listening. Out of your mouth comes what is in your heart. Whenever you speak, be mindful to only speak truth, even if it’s not popular. Your integrity is all you have. If you can’t be trusted with words, who’s going to trust you with their money? With their time? With their livelihood?

Keep yourself accountable by surrounding yourself with other like-minded people. You will be challenged to become an even better version of yourself and only your highest thoughts will prevail because they won’t let you talk yourself into a hole. Your tribe won’t let you speak anything less than your best. Your tribe are those people who are also seeking their own greatness and want a community of people with whom they can level up together. Together, you keep yourselves accountable to what you say you want and the actions you take to get there.

Lesson #7: Balance is a Practice.

Here are some practical things you can do to center yourself when your thoughts race and your feelings get the best of you. Discipline is not a four-letter word. Find the joy in it, especially when it’s hard.

  1. Meditate (or breath). Just sit down and breathe. It’s seriously powerful and I can’t explain why. It’s like God, you just have to experience it.
  2. Exercise. This is a two-fer. It centers both the body and mind that allows you the space to think more creatively and problem solve more effectively. It also just makes you feel better quickly.
  3. Your Tribe. These are your go-to people that will keep you honest and humble. Make sure they’re the right people around you. How do you know if they’re really for you? If you didn’t have anything but the shirt on your back and they’d still rock with you, then rock with them.
  4. Rest. Completely underrated and powerful for your mind, body, and spirit. Rest is the other side of the productivity coin. Investing in rest could look like going out in nature or Netflixing and ordering in food. And if you’re sick, why don’t you actually just rest?
  5. Invest in your joy. Seriously. When you make it a point to enjoy this life, then anything that comes against that, you can more easily let go. Now, taxes and all the things you have to do (yes, you will still have to do those things), but find the joy even in those things (e.g. I’m thankful that I have the ability to pay my bills while the majority of the world struggles to have food.) You only get one life (that we know of). Live it.

I’ll say it again because it’s worth repeating because it’s a lesson I fought hard against: find the joy in all of it, especially the process, because after all, this is what you asked for.

Lisa Atia is a growth strategist by trade and storyteller at heart. She’s had over 15 years’ experience growing startups and Fortune 500 companies. She’s served as the Creative Brand Strategist for Blavity and Chief Revenue Officer for Backstage Capital. Her work at the intersection of culture, media, and tech have all come together for the purpose of creating access to opportunities for women and people of color. Leave a response or find Lisa on Twitter.

Green Room

Welcome to the Green Room blog. Go behind the scenes at Backstage Capital, where we're betting big on underrepresented tech startup founders.

Lisa Atia

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Lisa Atia

Running in purpose like….

Green Room

Welcome to the Green Room blog. Go behind the scenes at Backstage Capital, where we're betting big on underrepresented tech startup founders.

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