People, even aspiring entrepreneurs, are profoundly averse to being uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter how motivated they are or how excited they are about a potential idea — when the moment comes to move, to do something, most people wring their hands and stay firmly planted in their seats.
I’ll illustrate. During speaking events, I sometimes like to tell audience members — who have typically spent the last few hours dutifully scribbling notes on their notepads and nodding along to entrepreneurship advice, by the way — that if they run to the back of the room right now, they’ll find something great.
Immediately and invariably, almost every face in the room picks up the same deer-in-the-headlights expression. Dozens of people squirm in their folding chairs, looking over to their equally stagnant neighbor and clutching their pens. Some people awkwardly clamber to their feet, craning their neck to the back of the room to see if there truly is anything worth getting up for. Finally, one person — or maybe two, if it’s a good crowd — jogs over to the table at the back and returns with their prize: a bottle of champagne.
As the single runner sit back down and puts the bottle into their bag, I ask the audience members if they would have gotten up if they had known that there was champagne waiting for them at the other end of the room.
A small forest of confident hands goes up.
“Okay,” I usually say, “So you’re telling me that you would only bother getting up if you knew for absolute certain that something was waiting for you on the other side.”
A few hands waver and sheepishly go down.
“Yeah,” I say, “The business world doesn’t work that way.”
I love this exercise for a couple of reasons. First, it requires participants to take the initiative to stand up. Second, it hammers home the point that if an aspiring entrepreneur can’t take action despite uncertainty, they’ll never achieve anything.
This isn’t to say that taking action is easy. The very neurology of our brains is wired against us; to our minds, it’s safer to stay with the crowd and blend in than try to walk a new path. This trend manifests across the field of psychology. Consider the Bystander Effect, wherein people will ignore or defer responsibility to help a victim if they think someone else will see and intervene. Look to Groupthink, where people stay quiet and go along with ideas they wholeheartedly disagree with to avoid causing contention.
We don’t like to be uncomfortable. We don’t like to face uncertainty. We don’t like to encounter pushback from our peers. As an entrepreneur, though, you have to be prepared to do all three near-perpetually. You have to be willing to be uncomfortable, inconvenienced, and unsure of your audience and outcome. You have to be committed, instead of merely interested in an idea.
Here are a few strategies to help you get out of your metaphorical folding chair and over to the champagne prize table.
Stop Letting Fear Hold You Back
Fear holds us back. We’re so anxious about what our friends, colleagues, or even strangers might think of us that we lack the courage to give them something to think about. Here’s the truth of the matter: People are going to judge you. As soon as you start a business, launch a project, or even write a post on social media, there will be at least one person willing to trash your work. It does not matter how much blood, sweat, and tears you put into an initiative; for someone, it won’t be nearly enough — and that’s okay. Accept that some people won’t be satisfied, because if you can’t face criticism, you’ll never be able to move beyond it.
All this said, moving beyond negative feedback isn’t easy. Sometimes, it may feel insurmountable. This, too, can be traced back to neuropsychology — according to recent research published in the Harvard Business Review, the negative mental feedback criticism creates can “inhibit access to existing neural circuits and invokes cognitive, emotional, and perceptual impairment.” In other words, you don’t think, feel, or perceive in the aftermath of negative feedback as you would during times of support. Be prepared to have a thick skin; otherwise, you may never manage to take a business beyond the idea stage.
Find a Mentor
It does not matter how clever or motivated you are; every entrepreneur needs a mentor to provide insights and accountability. You don’t know what you don’t know — so stop acting like you do! Moreover, finding a suitable mentor can have a significant impact not just on your performance, but on your business’, as well. According to one 2015 study conducted by Endeavor, companies whose founders have the aid of a top-notch entrepreneur are 300% more likely to go onto be top performers than those who try to navigate the business world without a mentor.
Don’t be too proud to learn — find a mentor.
Take Massive and Immediate Action
It’s a cliche, but the first step is truly the hardest. Every decision you make and action you take in life will determine the course of your future. If you can get over the paralysis of inaction — to stand up, and run for the prize at the back of the room — you’ll be able to set the foundation for future accomplishment. Take massive and immediate action to make your ideas a reality; once their potential is made even preliminarily tangible, you will have the basis you need to apply yourself wholly to the project.
Don’t be a deer in the headlights. If you’re committed, you can accomplish just about anything you set your mind to. If you’re just interested, well — you might find yourself sitting in a flimsy plastic chair, clutching a notepad in your lap as someone else runs off with success.