17 Sep Ep. 35: 8 Common Startup Jitters
I can remember when I started worx in 2007 like it was yesterday. It was such a profound time in my life because so many things shifted and changed at once. Our family dynamics had changed, my career had changed. I mean, let’s just do all the things. Let’s have a baby and launch a business all in the same year. That’s a super awesome idea *insert girl slapping self in forehead emoji*.
When I look back at my 22-year-old self and the extreme naiveness that I had about running a business, the fact that I not only stuck through it but persevered and pushed through to get to where we are as a team today is the very reason I want to share this episode with you. Because when I look back, I didn’t have any friends that owned businesses. I didn’t know anyone that had gone through business. I didn’t have a role model or a mentor or really anyone to lean on.
I was kind of like a toddler.
You know, a toddler will ride their bike off of the front step and not even think twice about it. Why? Because they don’t have anything to compare it to. They don’t have the fear or the pain associated with it, but they learn along the way. When I look back, I was like that three-year-old toddler. I was just like, “Well, people start businesses all the time. It can’t be that hard. It can’t be that big of a deal.”
Well, well, did I learn some things along the way. One of those things being: There are common startup feelings. It can leave you feeling very overwhelmed and wondering, um, is this normal? Do other people feel this or have I completely lost my shit?
A couple of years ago we started The Green Couch Projects because of this very reason. And if you look it up on Youtube, you can see lots of interviews with startup businesses or businesses that have made it through that stage and are now onto different phases of their careers. They talk about their journeys and some of the feelings they had — the worries and concerns and oh my gosh is this normal — humanized some very common thoughts and feelings. Which further allowed us to remind others, hey, you’re not alone; you’re not the only person up at midnight because your brain and body are like guess what — it’s time to do things chop-chop.
There is such power in knowing other people have experienced these things, pushed through, and gone on to achieve some of the greatest success.
Now, we’re going to get into what I would consider the eight most common startup jitters. Yes, you’re going to experience an array of emotions. And this is not only a startup as far as I am literally starting a business, sometimes this is when you’re introducing a new product, expanding a team, adding a service, moving your office — anytime you make big changes or movements in your business, these thoughts and feelings are gonna rear their heads in a lot of different ways.
So the first one is awesome, fun, and it’s my particular favorite: extreme excitement. Like, I kinda wanna piss myself type of excitement.
You get an idea, you get a thought — If you look back and listen to the episode on The Mental Cycle, this is what we would consider the Aha! Moment. This is when all the clouds have parted, all the seas are calm, and you can clearly see the end result. In this moment, you’re thinking about your business or idea at every waking hour. Like, literally, no matter where you go — something inspires you and you can’t wait to get back to the office to get to it.
This is such a powerful, powerful emotion that’s gonna really drive you through.
The one thing I want to caution you on, though (and I have fallen into this trap myself), is sometimes you get so excited that you become blind to everything else and the chances of you making a rash decision or putting something else on the back-burner becomes a lot higher.
It’s completely normal to be insanely excited about your business. It’s NOT normal to basically stop everything in your life; to only focus on it (and I’m talking about long periods of time here). There are definitely going to be seasons where your business is going to need you and your undivided attention, but being able to sustain always being in extreme excitement is exhausting.
So just be aware that when you’re excited, give it that time, give it that energy. But know behind the excitement then comes the work, the planning, the strategizing on how to bring that beautiful, big, incredible, amazing idea to life.
The next jitter that likes to show up is comparison. Oh, comparison. I like to say comparison is the thief of joy and I will back that up until the day I die because you could be the best writer on the planet, the best seamstress, interior designer, retail operator, clothes designer — I mean, you could be the best in your industry — but once you hop on the internet, run into someone, or go to their website and they appear to be doing it better than you, you’ll automatically knock yourself off of the pedestal you’ve worked so damn hard to build.
And the crazy thing is it can happen in a split second.
You can go from feeling on top of the world like you’ve got your entire shit together — all of it. You’ve worked really hard. It’s all together in a nice little package bow with a perfectly branded box. Then you go onto Instagram and one of your competitors pops up now all of a sudden you feel like a piece of shit.
Comparing ourselves and automatically devaluing the expertise we have, the success we have created, and the relationships we have are just silly. No one can do it the way YOU do it, plain and simple. If I got caught up in what everyone else is doing amongst branding, podcasting, and speaking . . . I could go down a rabbit hole and you would never hear from me again. But I’m not servicing anybody by doing that and no one will ever, ever deliver it the way that I (or you) deliver it.
Someone else’s success does not take away from yours. Their success does not mean you are failing.
The next jitter: Oh, let’s overthink EVERYTHING. Can I do this? Should I do it? Is it really any good? Ah, I don’t really even know if anyone’s going to buy it. I was stupid to think this. Who do I think that I am?
You’re gonna make yourself sick some days wondering if you’ve done the right thing. You are literally going to make yourself physically ill. I’ve puked, like literally woken up and puked from worrying about this damn business. Guys, this emotion is, uh, not such a great one and can be so debilitating it stops you in your tracks.
Worrying is one of the most wasted emotions, yet also one of the most real. And I say it’s a wasted emotion because it’s creating scenarios and hype within ourselves that a lot of times don’t even exist. Now, I’m not saying those things don’t exist because those thoughts and feelings — whatever circumstances are happening around you — can be very real. But worrying yourself to death on how you’re going to handle it, how you’re going to manage it, what are you going to change about it, how are you going to get things done . . . not helping.
ANXIETY + DEPRESSION
If you don’t get a handle on worry, it can lead to anxiety and depression. I’m talking literal anxiety and depression. Guys, this is a real fucking thing. When you work at a job, most of the time you’re leaving for the day. But when you run a business, it doesn’t go away. It’s part of you. It becomes part of your life.
I often compare it to having a child. When you have a child, now you have a responsibility 24-hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. That’s what a business is like as well. Yes, you can take vacations. Yes, you can leave it temporarily sometimes. But ultimately? If you want to keep going, you have to put systems and people in place for that to happen.
I have suffered from anxiety and depression throughout my journey of this business more times than I care to admit, but I’m admitting it so if you’re feeling like that right now, you know 1. you’re not the only one and 2. you can overcome it.
I have these sprints that like to show up of anxiety and depression. I get overwhelmed, I snap back into my worry and comparison. There are so many variables that come along with owning a business. It can be very easy to slip into a dark place you know you don’t want to be in, but circumstances have led you to.
This is where I really want you to reach out.
I worked with a therapist for a year to work through some of the gunk I had been experiencing. I have mentors I lean on heavily. I have family members I love and trust. My husband, AJ, God love the man. He is my rock. He gets me through so many things and he truly, truly listens.
I want you to find those people and I want you to be willing to open up because you would be amazed and surprised at how many people want you to succeed. They literally want you to win. But it takes you opening up and reaching out to let people know, “Hey, I’m really struggling right now. Could we talk about this?” And the people that will pour into you will completely blow your mind.
Another common jitter is having fear-based reactions. We all have a natural instinct to survive, right? We need to. So, oftentimes, when you start a business you’ll take on whatever you have to to provide security for yourself and your family. And while this works for a little while, I just want you to know and encourage that this shouldn’t be your longterm plan. Eventually, you’re going to get to a point where you get to be a little more self-selective.
You start learning the characteristics of great clients, you start learning what works and what doesn’t work. As you build a business, you get to start molding, shaping, and turning it into what you really want it to be.
It’s very common to just start grasping for straws, literally just grabbing whatever you can. So just be very mindful of making fear-based decisions and asking yourself, am I making this decision because it’s right or am I making this decision because I’m scared?
The sixth common jitter is what I would consider the idea of a fireworks show. So, a very common thing you’re going to have when starting a business or starting something new is having these ideas and thoughts that pop into your mind literally like fireworks on the 4th of July. I mean, you’re going to have so many ideas you’ll want to act on but not enough time to do them all.
So this is the perfect time to really align your ideas with your goals and mission.
This is where really building a strong foundation of knowing who you are, what you do, and how it makes a difference really matters. Because if I acted on every single idea I had — you would never see me. Not every idea needs acted on. Sometimes an idea is a stepping stone, a stepping stone to get you closer to the true idea you need that will actually move your business forward.
QUESTIONS QUESTIONS QUESTIONS
The seventh one I find actually kind of comical, but it’s also really frustrating, and that’s the questions you’re going to get from people that come out of the woodwork when you make a change in your life.
For instance, let’s say you’re starting this business. Are you also gonna like apply for a real job? I mean, how are you gonna pay your bills and what are you gonna do? Are you gonna like work in sweat pants all the time?
Guys, the questions people come up with . . . all of a sudden everyone’s got a personal interest in your career path as if you not being able to pay your bills has a personal effect on them.
Well, here’s the thing, the reason people ask you questions (and especially your family members, parents, siblings, cousins, your neighbor) is, yes, because they really care about you, but it’s also a reflection of an insecurity on their end that you’re doing something they can’t see themselves doing; which makes it automatically seem like a threat to them.
You don’t have to take everyone else’s worries and concerns home with you. You’re already feeling enough of these emotions on your own — you don’t need everyone else’s help to put fuel on that fire. Not everyone in your life needs all the details of what you’re doing. It’s okay for them not to understand and it’s okay for you to not overexplain it, either.
And last but not least, and this is such a beautiful one, a common jitter is pure joy. Now you may say, why is that a jitter, Laura? Well, pure joy will create an intense amount of energy in your body.
I can remember the very first time I designed a billboard for a client of ours and I went driving down the highway and saw it . . . that intense amount of pure joy, it was like satisfaction.
When you do what you do best and it affects someone in a positive way, it puts all those other worries and all those other feelings to rest because it’s gratitude and satisfaction on a level that can’t be explained. It also serves as a reminder that you are in the right place at the right time doing the right thing; that you are talented enough, smart enough, capable enough, and absolutely ready to face those dreams and desires that have been swirling around in your head for months or even years.
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