The 1 Thing You Must Believe In if You Want to Succeed
Why belief in yourself can be the hardest belief for entrepreneurs–or anyone else–to have.
The story of the successful person is one we all know well. It might be Steve Jobs, who (we are told) singularly pursued his vision even as he was cast out of his own company. It might be Stephen Curry, who (we are told) always believed in himself even as others told him he was too short for the NBA.
I am definitely no Steve Jobs, or Stephen Curry.
But this week I experienced a few small victories. I started my company about a year and a half ago, and I just purchased computers for our office (rather than having my 2 employees bring their own), expanded one of my employee's hours, and bought my wife the first nice car she has owned in our 12 years of marriage.
That's right, no more 10-year-old minivan that makes me think of the Sir-Mix-A-Lot song "My Hooptie".
These are small victories. I didn't start or reinvent Apple. I didn't win the NBA MVP.
But, small victories are still victories.
And did I doggedly pursue my vision of being able to afford a car for my wife that didn't have a backset smeared with a crusty film of Play-Doh, old French fries, and melted Otter Pops, all while no one else believed in me?
No, that's not how it happened at all.
My wife believed in me, and supported me during a moment when my PR and marketing business had lost both of its initial clients, and I considered becoming an Uber driver just to help fill in the income gap (luckily for riders in the St. Louis area who would have been exposed to the minivan described above, that didn't happen).
A mentor that I really admire and respect believed in me, and told me to stick to it.
People I care about believed in me.
I just didn't believe in myself.
We are fed narratives of heroes who ignore the doubters and the critics, driven by self-assurance and the knowledge that no one can stop them. And, maybe all of those narratives are true.
But for me, the biggest doubter and critic during my first year of being an entrepreneur was always me. Yes, there were moments when I felt like I had what it takes, or was making forward progress.
But there were many moments when I felt like a human version of Sir-Mix-A-Lot's hooptie.
In those moments I thought about going back to work for someone else. Many times I felt like there were people who just succeeded as entrepreneurs, and people who didn't, and that I was just born on the wrong side of that line.
So what did I do to overcome that feeling?
I started by ignoring it.
After all, the voice that tells you that you probably won't succeed (at least as an entrepreneur) has data on its side.
So I chose not to engage.
When ignoring it didn't work, I listened to music that inspires me, like Bruce Springsteen. His song "No Surrender" can be great for moments when you feel like quitting.
When ignoring it didn't work, and "No Surrender" didn't work, I watched episodes of shows that inspire me, like Breaking Bad. When Walter White is being treated for cancer, and tells another patient that he will not feel bad for himself because until he's gone he will decide how he lives his life, it inspires me.
And when ignoring it, listening to Bruce Springsteen, and watching Breaking Bad didn't silence the doubt, I just had to wait for the voice of doubt to get tired or bored.
If you are one of those people who never doubts themselves, congratulations.
But for a lot of people - me included - the hardest person to believe in is the one looking back at you in the mirror.
However, you will have to figure out how to believe in that person.
And know that you are not alone.