The Fear Never Ends
Second and Cents, Seconds and Cents episode seven. Today is something that we're going to talk about that's really at the top of my mind. It's at the top of my mind all the time. And the reason why is because I am now three-ish, almost four years into my entrepreneurial journey, there have been lots of ups and downs. There have been lots of failed projects, and there have been some successful projects. And kind of like Jeff Bezos says, "the successful projects pays for all of the failed projects, the successful ideas and companies pay for all of the failures." And the larger your failures also, probably, hopefully, the larger your successes will be. But today, we're going to talk about something that is kind of sitting in my mind right now every single day it has for the last almost nine months. And it has since I've started to really build out a strong team and we've started to get more consistent revenue, more consistent cash flow. We've started to kind of develop a longer term strategy and start working for the longer term. And that is that seems to be quite simple anxiety and fear never stops. And looking at kind of the way that entrepreneurs operate, especially if they start the the way that I did, which was I started with $1,000 sitting in my bank account, I had no clients, I had essentially no marketable skill sets for the business that I wanted to be in. And I didn't even really know where to start. And so with every new level of success that an entrepreneur has, I think it's really important to know that the challenges are new, the obstacles that entrepreneurs face come new and are new and the challenges that I face now I was not facing 90 days ago. The challenges that I was facing 90 days ago, I was not facing 90 days before that, and what I tend to do personally is I tend to look backwards and kind of think about the good old day And think about well, when times were like this, and when times were simpler and Mo Money, Mo Problems, things like that, I think it's important to know that at those times as well, I had the same fears, I had the same anxieties. As I do. Now, they were just at a different scale, or they were concerning different things. And, you know, one of the things that's really important to understand is that whenever you figure something out, you've so you've solved it, right? And it's kind of solved once and for all, and it looks very clear, it looks very simple. But in reality, when you're in it, the journey of getting to that once and for all result is extraordinary, extraordinarily difficult. And so I want to break that down a little bit from my perspective and just kind of talk about well, what is that fear and anxiety? How do I handle that fear and anxiety and for for entrepreneurs who are struggling, kind of what, what are some ways to think about it and struggling can mean you're just growing You're continually growing and you're looking for that new level of success. Struggling can mean you're just starting out and you're looking to get your first 20 customers struggling can mean that you have a million dollars sitting in the bank and you're trying to figure out how to get to 10. But everybody faces the same challenges, just a different scale. And they are kind of different minute details, but ultimately, everybody faces the same challenges. And so I think the first thing to start with here is the idea that when I started my business, everything was looking ahead. And that was because I had nothing. I was trying to build a foundation and set myself up for success here. And so everything that I was selling was the future. I was selling a story I was selling, why should you work with me? What future Can I bring to you I was selling well, who can I become and not only was I selling that to other customers, right because like or prospects because I was trying to get those first customers. because I was selling it myself. Like who can I become? What should I become? What do I want to become? What are the things that make me happy? What are the things that I would like to do every single day? Everything about that is future tense. And then what I found was, well, as success started to come, so you know, you get a couple of customers, you convince a few people to start writing you checks. And that's literally what it is when you're starting out. And they're at that point, there becomes an opportunity for real failure, right? And so you have this fear that sets in and I had this fear set in, and at that point, that fear never went away, which was, what if I lost everything, and I still do my budgeting based off of what if I have zero revenue this month? Or what if I have zero revenue for 90 days? That's still how I budget it's still how I handle my cash flow, because I know what it's like to get zero revenue for a month. I know what it's like to be struggling trying to find the next series of customers because you've run out of customers. Um, and I think the important thing Here was for me to realize that the fear that once you start, when you decide that you're going to start, all you're doing is looking ahead in the future is rosy The future is right. And you haven't figured out yet, kind of where all the issues are gonna rise? And what are the things that you don't know you don't know. And as you start to have success as you start to have experiences, right. And success can either be success in getting customers or it can be understanding why you failed and certain things it can be like that's called tuition. Success can be a whole bunch of different factors. But once you start having success, then you start realizing what opportunities there really are for failure. And you start realizing, well, I could actually go backwards here and there could be a fall where I am now could be where could be the peak of where I could be in whatever space I'm in or however I'm working or what skill set I'm utilizing right now. And that sucks that fear does not Go away. I remember when I had first gotten my first long term client long term being at least a year long agreement, it was a terrifying thing. It was absolutely terrifying to have. Now somebody where I could get fired, you know, you start to have consistent cash flow. So you start to budget for cash flow, and you're an entrepreneur. So you're trying to grow a team and you're trying to grow your business. So you start investing in other things. And you're taking the cash flow from your existing your long engagement, and you're putting it into other things. And so now, you could have your year long engagement fail, and you can have your other things fail, right. There are lots of different ways that this could this could backfire. But when I got my first long term engagement, which was for a mobile app called align mindfulness, I had taken the money from the Align mindfulness product, and I was coding the product. And I had started to code a an app for pizza restaurants to be able to take orders over mobile I thought, you know, Domino's has to add Pizza Pizza. has an app Papa John's has an app. And they're processing something like $3 billion a year through their app at the time. And I said, well, mom and pops can't compete, they can't have a really sound tech team to be able to build them the perfect app. But what if I could build one app and then just make a copy of the code every time and I could sell it to a lot of pizza restaurants. And we had gotten a customer to sign up. So we'd gotten a customer sign up, and we got two customers to sign up. And then the pizza app simply failed, we could not get a third customer to sign up. On top of that I didn't really like working with that customer segment. It just wasn't the segment for me. But I was reinvesting the money from align mindfulness. And so now, I had a failed project. And this pizza app, and I had aligned mindfulness, which was kind of just the first arrangement. What if I had a failed aligned mindfulness and a failed pizza? Right, that could be really bad. And so that fear does not leave and I think that's a really important thing to do. Note, I think the second thing that's a really important thing to note is simply that when new challenges arise, old challenges mentally become easier, they are re-framed to become easier than they were. And that's the once and for all mindset. So when you've solved something once and for all, you have solved a sales funnel once and for all, you have solved a product challenge that you are having once and for all, you have solved a marketing campaign once and for all. Whatever it is, that's been solved once and for all. And this happens in your personal life, this happens in your entrepreneurial journey. That becomes the good old days, the moment where it was solved becomes the good old days. And the adjustment period where you know, that it was solved becomes the good old days. And that becomes something that exists in your head as mentally far easier than it was. I know the challenges that I'm facing right now and some of these challenges I've been facing for nine months. Some struggles that I've had, I've had for nine months, actually even longer than that. those challenges seemed far more difficult than finding my first set of customers was or proving out the concept of the product was or anything like that. And in reality, that's not the case. I mean, I remember there were times where we had customer complaints on customer complaints, we had product problems. We Were up all night trying to fix these product problems. We were trying to balance work and time off so that we weren't just working while we were tired the whole time and it was just absolutely miserable. But now, those times are mentally re-framed as being far easier than they were, when in reality, they probably weren't easier. They're probably the same level of difficulty, or even more difficult. But I think it's really important to know that and to for myself to recognize for other entrepreneurs to recognize that when you solve a problem once and for all, that challenge that you just solved, is mentally re-framed as being easier than it was. Part of the reason for that is just simply because you now know how it turned out. Right? And if you're living in the future, you're trying to solve problems in the future and you don't know how it's gonna turn out then And that problem is a lot more anguishing because there's kind of this uncertain future. And when you have an uncertain future, then your mind is able to go in all sorts of different directions. A third or fourth, I've lost track of things that I think are really important here. But I think about looking ahead quite a bit now, especially now that I've had a very, very, very small level of success. I've gotten to the point now where I feel like, you know, it's time for me to pop my head up and start talking about what are the things that I've learned and how did it go over the last four years? And I think what I've discovered is that Looking ahead, to make sure that I avoid the failure or that I avoid going backwards in my entrepreneurial journey is caused for anxiety. So looking ahead to say well, what happens if I do lose all of my customers or what happens if I do have to have or if I do run into cashflow problems, and I have to To let people go, right that is cause for a lot of anxiety and I define as anxiety a stress over the future. What happens if COVID-19 crushes Mainstreet and now a significant percentage of my customer base goes out of business? What happens if we have an extended lockdown and high school sports aren't being played? And so
lede AI isn't publishing any articles for the high school football season, what happens? What happens? What happens? Well, that's cause for an enormous amount of anxiety and, and I think here when I look at happiness, I had to find happiness from Wait, but why Tim urban where he says, Listen, happiness equals reality minus expectations. I think that really kind of boils down to in an act in an entrepreneurial actionable sense, where I'll be in 90 days, where I'll be next quarter is a result of my present and past actions. And all I can affect are my current actions. Therefore the anxiety of the future should not be a thing that's taking any place in my mind because even It will, it will continue to my job is to accept it. But ultimately, the actions that I take now will put me in better success or in a better place for 90 days from now, which will put me in a better place for 180 days from now, etc, etc. But all I can do is affect right now. And I think lastly here, and it's kind of building on this previous point where my present actions are a result of operating in 90 day increments. Where every three months, it's just how have I done? Where do we make progress? Where do we not make progress I have had for 90 day increments in a row four quarters in a row where I have set a goal a specific goal and I have not reached it. But every single time we've gotten closer to reaching this goal and as long as I can, as my team and I can get one to 3% better at any of the priorities that we currently have. You know, over time, that's going to really make a large difference. And I think that one to 3% as long as you know what one to 3% means you have specific and actionable results that that can kind of guide you through that. Ultimately, that's going to help eliminate a lot of the anxiety and a lot of the fear that never stops, as soon as your entrepreneurial journey starts, and as soon as my entrepreneurial journey starts. So for me, kind of how I utilize it is I say, Well, where do I want to be in 90 days? What does one to 3% better mean? And then every single day, I'm checking in with myself, and I'm saying, well, in the present, am I doing what I need to do in order to be able to be one to 3% better in 90 days, and then one to 3% better after that, and after that, and after that, and that compounding effect will take place. And here we are. And so I think, really the best way as an entrepreneur to really appreciate the journey, and not always be looking at a new destination, or always be moving the goalposts for what success looks like is to be have the peace of mind to live in the present and to be able to say I'm in the present right now. I'm going to get one to 3% better in the next quarter, and I'm going to be in the present in the next quarter. I'm gonna get one 3% better there. Those two Challenges are going to be challenges no matter what stage of growth you're in, no matter what stage of your entrepreneurial journey you're in, there will be new challenges. Right now, my challenges could be in new market segments and new niches. And then in a quarter, I could have a challenge that as well, now I'm spending all of my time dealing with customer service issues. Or now I have a product that wasn't able to scale well. And then after that, I could be spending my time with accountants and with lawyers, and I could be spending my time trying to figure out how to create the largest moat, right, and how to expand our current customer segment. Or I could be spending my time trying to figure out financing options or take on investors, all these different things that are new challenges to me, that make the old challenges seem like they weren't as large as they are. But in reality, the challenges that I'm facing right now are the hardest challenges that I've faced so far. And the challenges that I was facing 90 days ago are the hardest found challenges that I was facing 90 days ago, etc, etc. And so I think the real key here is to stay in the present. The key for me here is to stay in the present, to enjoy where I'm at, to enjoy the challenges that I'm facing and the overcoming of the challenges that I'm overcoming. And ultimately to know that my success and every entrepreneur success comes in small increments every quarter or every six months. And that should not invalidate in my opinion that should not invalidate the 90 to 180 day segments that came before this. All the previous 90 day segments were just as challenging as they are right now. They're just challenging in different ways and at different scales.