But What if I Succeed: How Fear of Success May Hold You Back

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We talk a lot about fear of failure and how it can impede the progress of an entrepreneur, but we rarely talk about the opposite barrier that can be just as difficult to overcome — the fear of success.

For some entrepreneurs, the fear of success can be even an more powerful barrier to moving forward.

During a recent conversation with several entrepreneurs, one of the group mentioned that she didn’t know what was holding her back — that the more things that fell into place, the more she found herself putting off and even unconsciously sabotaging the next step to reach her goal.

She had come face to face with the reality that what was actually holding her back was an unspoken fear of what might actually happen should she succeed.

Success doesn’t come in a vacuum — expectations are higher, demands are greater and failures are more visible.

If you succeed in growing your company and become part of a bigger team, your commitment is no longer just to yourself — it is to every individual who is trusting you to do everything humanly possible to deliver on the company’s goals. And as those goals are successfully achieved, the demands grow exponentially to meet the growing collective needs of the team.

Being completely committed to meeting the demands of success is the only way forward.

Success beats us up almost as much as failure, because it makes us dig deep, stretch past our comfort zone, face our fears, face our flaws, face the dysfunction in our personal lives.

If, for whatever reason, you are fearing success, understand that it is not necessarily a bad thing — it means you are aware that there is a price to pay for moving forward, that it will change your life, your thoughts, your days.

Fear of success isn’t a feeling that should be allowed in the driver’s seat — it is simply a checkpoint on the journey that allows you to prepare for what lies ahead.

If you are to move forward, you have to want success more than you want to protect yourself.

If that fear results in settling for mediocrity, you’ll never know that other side of that fear — the satisfaction and thrill of witnessing a vision of what could be when it becomes reality.

The joy of success is a far more powerful driver than the fear of what success might change.

So take the leap, commit to being all-in. While success has a price, the rewards are so much greater than whatever you are imagining it will require of you.

Originally published on Broad Insights via Inc Magazine

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Advice for Women Entrepeneurs

Since founding APPCityLife six years ago, I’ve often vacillated between guilt and gratitude – guilt over not being a stay-at-home mom anymore and gratitude for the many opportunities for growth. I’ve made peace (mostly) with the trade-offs, knowing that there is no real balance in life for anyone. Whatever we choose as our path in life, we lose out on something else – and if we spend our time regretting what couldn’t happen, we completely miss the value of what is right in front of us.

I think accepting this truth is such a big challenge for women who feel a deep sense of responsibility to their family but who also want to launch their own business or grow it to the next level. The guilt of what we can no longer give to our family can become a burden that prevents the very success we’re seeking. But a far more insidious barrier to success comes when we give ourselves permission to use obligations to family as an escape hatch when things get scary or hard.

If I had one piece of advice to give to other women entrepreneurs, it would be this: Don’t ever devalue your role as a mother, daughter, or anything else, by using it as the scapegoat for your lack of performance as an entrepreneur.

 

I recently attended a meeting where a brilliant young woman entrepreneur was called out for her lack of preparation. The accusations were pointed, public and, frankly, over the top. I learned afterwards from several in attendance that the lack of preparation on her part (as well as several others who weren’t so publicly challenged) had far more to do with miscommunication of expectations from the person who had gotten angry with her. And had she spoken directly to that failure to clearly set goals and expectations, she would have established herself as the leader that I know she is. But when she chose to use family obligations as an escape hatch to avoid the heat instead of taking it on directly, she devalued her role as a mother and her credibility as a leader. She’s a tough, driven entrepreneur, and I have no doubt that her experience in that meeting will help her make the more difficult decision the next time she faces a similar challenge.

Another friend of mine recently expressed how guilty she felt every time she had to tell her children no when they asked to do something when she was working on her business. But here’s the thing – unless our children are newborns, they don’t need our constant attention and time. In fact, it can stifle their ability to develop a sense of independence and self-reliance. And if a woman is going to take the step of becoming an entrepreneur and sacrifice some of her time with family to build a business, she owes it to herself and her family to take it seriously enough to make it worth the sacrifice. When we play at entrepreneurship, we not only severely reduce our chances of success, we cheat ourselves and our family out of our time without anything to show for the sacrifice. When we make the more difficult decision to believe that what we are building is important and deserves our full effort, we can feel better about the time we spend on our business – and about the time we dedicate to our family.

It is so tempting to tap into that calling of “family obligations” as our escape hatch. After all, who is going to call us out for doing such a noble thing as sacrificing the time we need to spend on our company to fulfill some family obligation? It’s easy to use as our excuse to step back from the edge of growth right before a breakthrough.

When we don’t hide behind our personal obligations and actually face our fears, the growth that happens is exhilarating. And whether we succeed or fail, we learn something about ourselves – that we can make decisions as a leader and still be okay with our relationships with those around us. In fact, those varying parts of our lives can co-exist far easier when we know we aren’t using one as an excuse to avoid the other. Entrepreneurship for women isn’t an either/or proposition. It’s about finding what works and being honest with ourselves about the journey so that we can embrace the changes and the growth along the way.

On Anger and Thriving in the Startup Pressure Cooker

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As the founder of a tech startup, I’ve certainly had my share of experiences where the choice to let go of anger has been the only way I could maintain the emotional and mental resources needed to weather the extreme highs and lows of entrepreneurship. Anyone who has been involved in a startup understands that the pressure to deliver on a vision with limited or nonexistent funds, personnel or supplies brings out the best – and worst – in each of us.

We say things we don’t mean. We say things we absolutely mean but might have had the wisdom to keep to ourselves under other conditions. We do things we regret. And, at some point or another, we end up on the receiving of those same experiences.

Sometimes the blame for the fractures in our relationships lies squarely on our own shoulders, and when it does, feeling angry is wasted emotion. It’s far more productive to serve ourselves a slice of humble pie and offer up an apology.  When it comes from an honest place, an apology opens the way back to peace. Building a startup is emotionally draining, even in good times, and making sure we aren’t weighted down by unresolved issues – especially when we hold the power to make amends – is vital. But it is the wounds which are result of others’ betrayal or wrong behavior, the ones which we cannot repair, which often disrupt our peace, cloud our judgment, and distract us from our goals.

One of the most important traits we need as an entrepreneur is the inner calm to persevere amidst the intense emotions of the startup pressure cooker, especially if our journey is made more difficult by the actions of another.

If the damage to our reputation or company rises to the level of needing to take action against it, then we shouldn’t waste our energy on anger. Immediately consulting a lawyer will clarify the available options, but the decision to take legal action is a serious one. While it may feel empowering to fight back, there is a high financial and emotional cost attached to public court battles, and every moment spent on resolving conflict through the courts is time not spent growing the startup or supporting our team. Sometimes legal recourse is the right course of action, but it is a decision that should only be made after very careful consideration to all factors involved.

But, by and large, most of the difficulties we experience with others do not rise to this level. That in no way changes the amount of pain and anger we experience. Whatever the conflict, whatever the cause of the anger, if we hold onto it, we will be the loser, because anger drags us down, changes our perspective, diminishes our drive and energy, depletes our hope for the future. If we allow it to grow, anger will eventually cloud our own vision and destroy our ability to lead our team forward to success.

So just let it go. Every single time anger once again surges to the surface, make the conscious decision to just let it go. We can choose to focus on the future, on the positive and not allow our painful experiences along our journey to cloud our own vision. We owe it to ourselves and to everyone else on our team to preserve the emotional resources needed to achieve success.

And when we make the choices that allow us to preserve our inner peace, the reward is that the sweet savor of success isn’t marred with the bitter aftertaste that comes with lingering anger. And isn’t that why we began this journey of entrepreneurship in the first place?

Finding a Job vs Finding a Calling

 

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Never wait for your calling to come find you.
It won’t.

A calling is borne of passion, and passion is a spark stoked into flames only by doing, not sitting and waiting.

So do something.

Read.

Take a class.

Volunteer.

Get a job doing something that matters – even if you have to take an entry-level job to get started.

But don’t wait on something to come your way that makes you happy, gives you purpose. Life is not like that. If your job is sucking the joy out of every day, then decide to take steps to change your reality. It may take time, but that time will pass whether you’re preparing for something better or just marking days off the calendar.

You don’t have to lead to be a part of a bigger vision, so if you don’t want that role, don’t take it. You can find a great deal of happiness and fulfillment in simply filling a small, but vital cog in a larger purpose. 

And if you are a leader, don’t settle for less. When you muster up the courage, commitment and vision to lead, you’ll enjoy growth of character you never knew possible. 

But whatever you do, don’t wait for your calling to find you.

It won’t.

The Trait That Ruins Entrepreneurs

file4911265967621I don’t believe there is one single trait that, absent all others, can deliver success for entrepreneurs. It’s really a unique blend of traits and talents within each individual – as well as many outside factors – all converging at the right time in the right way. If it were as simple as a specific trait, then those individuals possessing that trait would be successful every time – and that is certainly not the case. Many a successful entrepreneur has gone on to live through colossal failures. And while there are just as many reasons for a startup’s failure as for its success, I do believe that there is one trait that, if given room to grow, will ruin an entrepreneur. When an entrepreneur stops being willing to be coached, their days are numbered – and understanding the underlying root of this resistance is vital, because the solution often depends on what is causing us to shut out the advice of others.

There was a phase early in my own journey as the founder of a startup that I was far too resistant to the feedback and ideas of those around me, and for me, it was my inexperience that was getting in my way. I had clarity on our ‘big idea’ and knew it was my job to protect our focus so that we, as a company, didn’t end up chasing every shiny thing and every dollar that looked like a possibility. But in my very worthy goal to protect my team from being pulled to and fro by contrary paths and indecision, I become implacable. Thankfully, I had the good fortune to survive those growing pains without losing momentum, and I’m grateful that the experience helped me become much more willing to hear the cautionary words of others and to entertain opposing views. I’ve learned that while it’s right to protect the goals and vision of a company, a founder must also be open to advice and correction from others and synthesize that feedback into a more refined path forward.

Entrepreneurs can also become uncoachable simply because we are so afraid of taking the step we’re being prodded to take. We can easily confuse fear with intuition and believe that our inaction is actually being wise. Intuition tells us the truth when we are missing warning signs that something is not right, but fear is a liar and operates from our weaker selves. As entrepreneurs, fear is often the thing we experience right before a breakthrough. When we start rejecting advice that is pushing us past our comfort zone, we become paralyzed by inaction and ruin our chances for success.

But when being uncoachable is driven by hubris, that is really the most destructive reason of all. Hubris is defined as excessive pride or self confidence. Hubris turns almost any trait’s value into a detriment. It changes confidence into cockiness, single-mindedness into disdain. When that happens, the very traits that initially resulted in early progress become the very traits that lead to failure. It is the difference between someone forging ahead into the unknown and choosing the road less traveled and the individual who drives over a cliff, despite the multitude of warnings and cautions along the way.

While an entrepreneur absolutely must possess thick skin and the ability to filter through doubts, fears and bad advice, there better be an understanding that in the midst of the cacophony of feedback, there may be invaluable insights and guidance that could make the difference between failure and success. When we are coachable and receptive, we increase our chances of success.

Perhaps a good test is this: if you think everyone around you is an idiot, and everyone who shares advice with you is a fool who just doesn’t get it – especially if your own vision isn’t leading to your expected outcomes – then maybe it’s time to serve yourself a slice of humble pie and realize that they may not be as much of an idiot as you thought. You may well be in that same category yourself for summarily rejecting all feedback as beneath you. You have to want success more than you want to be right, and when that is your goal, you’ll find the humility and grace to accept difficult advice and hard truths that can help you succeed. I know from experience that hearing difficult advice that goes against what we want to be believe is painful and difficult, but I’ve also seen the results of it and know that without finding a way to be coachable, there is no way to get where we want to be.

Learning To Lead: advice to startup founders

image1-e1403467816939A lot of times when we launch a startup, we’re like a duck out of water. We have no clue what steps to take to launch a business. We ask help from others who are more experienced, and we depend on their guidance to help us meander through the challenges of getting a business off the ground.

But at some point, a founder has to stand up and decide that it is time to be in charge.

When I was selected to pitch in front of investors from across the United States during an investor’s summit, I was still figuring out how to be a leader. I had a lot of confidence and believed passionately in what we were doing, but I’d also just brought on a team of developers and co-founders who were far more experienced than me. I was feeling a bit uneasy about how to lead us forward.

For several weeks, I met with a team of mentors from varying areas of expertise who were all tasked with helping me prepare for my presentation during the summit. Week after week, I received divergent advice, sometimes even completely opposing instructions from my team of mentors:
Less words and more photos on the pitch deck.
More words and less photos on the pitch deck.
Scrap the images; don’t scratch them.
Ask for more money. Ask for less.

During the early mentor meetings, I would try to please whatever looked to be the consensus of the group and would shift directions, change my pitch deck, change my talk … all in an effort to get the approval of this team of experts who I saw as more knowledgeable and experienced than me.

And then one day, in frustration, I pushed back and started telling them what my vision was, what I knew I needed to say, what I wanted my pitch deck to look like. The results were remarkable.

Once I truly embraced being in charge, it made all the difference. I realized that each of the mentors did exactly what they were supposed to do – give me their advice and feedback based on their own experience and knowledge. It wasn’t their job to give me consistent feedback. It was my job to take all of that feedback and use it to clarify my own position.

Once I owned my own vision and message, this group of mentors with very different opinions all came together behind me and expressed approval for the way the presentation was shaping up.

No one wants to follow someone who doesn’t know how to lead. If you are a founder, learn to lead. Learn to own your vision and have conviction. Stick a stake in the ground and declare what it is you’re doing. What problem are you solving, and why is your solution so important? Understand that and let it drive everything you do. You’re the boss, so when you need to, push back and draw a line about who and what you are as a leader. It won’t guarantee success, but not knowing how to lead will guarantee.