Blogger Matt Becker discusses building confidence and momentum when starting a business.
A few years ago, I felt like I was on an episode of True Life: Starting a Business. Getting my financial planning practice off the ground sure felt like a whirlwind. But since then, I’ve managed to build a client base, launch an online course that anyone in the world can take at any time, write for some world-class publications, and contribute to stories for NPR, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.
Those are the trappings of someone who’s self-assured. Someone who has confidence, and knows exactly what they want out of life and how to get it.
But the truth is that I carry a tremendous amount of insecurity and self-doubt. I regularly question whether I’m good enough to build my business and whether I even have the expertise to offer and gain clients’ trust.
When I first started out, I thought that feeling inadequate was a trait I alone held. I looked at other self employed business owners I admired and thought it looks so easy for them. I was envious of their success and wanted to get there, too, but they seemed so far ahead of me I honestly didn’t know if I could do it.
Now that I’ve been at this for a few years and have met many people running similar businesses (including some of the people I admire most), I’ve learned something really important:
We’re all insecure when we start something new and important.
There’s no such thing as the person who has it all figured out. The only difference between the people who succeed and the ones who fail is the work they do in the face of that insecurity.
Mind the Gap
It doesn’t matter whether you’re starting a business, starting a family, or starting to get your financial life on track.
You’re going to feel insecure when you start something new. You’re going to doubt whether you’re good enough to do it. And the bigger and more important it is, the stronger those feelings are going to be.
Ira Glass, the host and producer of NPR’s This American Life, sums this feeling up perfectly. He talks about the gap we all face when we’re a beginner at something and how the only way to close that gap is to work and fill it up with experience.
See, we usually start something because we’re inspired by someone who has done something similar to what we want to do. That inspiration is a gift—it shows us what’s possible and pushes us to be better.
It’s also a curse—because there’s no way that we can immediately be as good as the people who inspire us. There’s a gap between where we start and where we aspire to be, just as there was a gap between where the people you’re inspired by started and the things they’ve accomplished since.
That gap is the cause of our insecurity, and it’s not just something that beginners deal with. I’ve talked to plenty of successful people who still have doubts about their work because (in their opinion) there’s still a gap between the quality of the work they are doing and the quality of the work they think they should be doing.
In reality, doubt is simply a consequence of ambition. The bigger and more ambitious your goals, the less certain you’re going to feel about reaching them.
Which means that if you’re feeling a little anxious about the journey you’re about to start, you’re probably on the right track.
Getting Past the Doubt
I still doubt myself just about every single day. My guess is that it will never completely go away, but there are a few things I do to keep making progress anyways.
Recognize that it’s normal
I’ve talked to enough entrepreneurs to know that insecurity is par for the course. It’s helpful to remember that I’m not alone in these feelings.
Define my own success
I usually feel most insecure when I’m comparing myself to another person’s achievements. I find the most satisfaction when I clearly define what success means to me and measure myself against that instead.
Focus on process
I can’t control the results of my actions, but I can control what I do. Focusing on the process of writing each day, helping my clients solve their problems, and marketing my business without worrying about the results helps me make consistent progress.
The failures often feel bigger than the successes. When I actually take the time to track my progress and look back at the things I’ve achieved, it’s almost always better than I expected.
By far, the biggest key for me has been finding people who believe in what I’m doing, support me when I’m down, and celebrate my wins. Those connections have kept me moving forward when it would have been hard to do so on my own.
You Are Not Alone
Being a Grownup means doing a lot of things you’ve never done before:
- Starting a family
- Buying a house
- Saving for retirement
- Starting a business
- Be your own boss
All of those things are significant and scary. And all of them can certainly cause you to doubt yourself.
Take refuge in knowing that you are not alone. We all experience insecurity when we start and we all have doubts about our ability to get where we want to go.
Give yourself permission to feel it, and then keep moving forward.
Matt Becker is the founder of Mom and Dad Money, a fee-only financial planning practice dedicated to helping new parents build happy families by making money simple.
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While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.