Remember These 3 Lessons and Banish Self-Doubt Forever

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In my last post, “Are You Ready to Leap?”, I shared with you the leap of faith that I recently took and why I think talking about taking the leap is so important. Whether your leap is quitting a job or beginning a new one, deciding to write your novel, or starting a company, taking the leap can be a very lonely and uncharted road.

The Barriers

We also talked about actual and perceived barriers to taking a leap and how the first step is knowing what those barriers are. For me (and for many people), those barriers were 1) doubting my abilities and/or experience, 2) fear of running out of money and 3) fear of failure. In my next three posts, I will break down these barriers – how to understand what they are, how real they are and how to overcome them. To start, let’s talk about confidence.

Confidence and the Looming Self-Doubt

Reid Hoffman, esteemed co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn, said “An entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down.” This quote has stuck with me because it epitomizes the essence of taking a leap of faith. There are no guarantees when you take a leap. There is no roadmap, no guide to follow. Taking a leap of faith is truly about realizing the risks to doing so are no longer greater than the risks of not doing so, and then going for it.

After I left my job, I spent about a week buoyed by enthusiasm for what was to come next, and then the dread set in. I wondered if I was good enough, smart enough, hard-working enough and talented enough to do this. I questioned my experience, my education, my direction. I decided that what I had accomplished so far was not good enough because it wasn’t everything, and so I “threw it away.”

But then, after a few weeks of swimming in self-doubt, I kicked myself back into gear. I was struck by a quote by Steve Jobs: “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” The more research and reading I did, the more I saw other successful entrepreneurs, executives and writers echo those words. At the end of the day, the consensus seemed to be that it wasn’t about your formal education, your professional experience or even the skills you gained along the way. What mattered most was how much you wanted it, and how much you were willing to push through the roadblocks and pull yourself out of potholes to get there.  

What To Do About It

Through all my research into those who have come before me, I’ve learned three very important things which helped pull me out of my self-doubt:

  1. Most people don’t know how to do what they are about to do. I know what you’re thinking – I’m just flat out wrong. There are some talented, experienced people out there, and when they go into new roles, they know exactly what they’re doing. Well, here’s the thing. If you take on a “challenge” that you know exactly how to handle, it’s not really that much of a challenge, now is it? Even at the top – whether it be a CEO, a world-renowned author or an expert in one’s field – there are always going to be challenges that those people do not know how to handle. If they did, it wouldn’t be a challenge to them, and they wouldn’t be interested in taking it on. What is that famous William S. Burroughs’ quote? “When you stop growing, you start dying.” So get rid of this idea that other people are fully equipped to take on the roles they’re in – everyone goes into their next adventure a few steps behind where they need to be. They take the experience they do have, their desire to figure it out and persevere to make it happen.
  2. The best learning happens on the job. I’m a huge supporter of formal education for many reasons, but I also believe that a lot of what we need to know happens in our day-to-day. As the CEO of a start-up, every day brings a new problem to solve, a new opportunity to consider. My background, experience and formal education can’t give me the answer to most of these issues. In these cases, I use the skills I do have (research, problem solving, analytical thinking) and call in my lifelines – Google, advisors, other entrepreneurs, etc. Before I started in this role, I knew very little about social media marketing, but now I’m knee deep in it. I knew NOTHING about website development, but now I’m writing code. I had no idea how to track inventory, but now I’m a pro at it. The best learning happens on the job.
  3. You can always learn. I’ve always been a sucker for learning – my husband jokes that I get excited at the prospect of a career change because it means I can go back to school! When I took my leap of faith, I knew there were some skillsets that I didn’t have but needed quickly (social media marketing and website development being two of them, see above). Don’t ever forget that you can always learn, and technology has made this so much easier – there are a plethora of online courses and resources that are free or inexpensive and don’t take much time. Check out my resources page for a few of my favorites!

I hope that you will start to realize that you don’t need to know everything to take your leap. You don’t even need to know most things. You just need to believe in yourself, want your goal so badly and be ready to persevere the heck out of it. I want to leave you with these words from Sara Blakely, founder and CEO of Spanx:

Don’t let what you don’t know scare you, because it can become your greatest asset. And if you do things without knowing how they have always been done, you’re guaranteed to do them differently.

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