Overcome Fear; Find ConfidenceDec 14, 2021
I won't lie to you because I'm a pretty straight-forward type of person. I'm also not going to start this blog off by highlighting how amazing I am and giving you eight-hundred-forty-three reasons you should take my advice because that's disingenuous and gross. I won’t try to trick you or sell you into my system.
What I am going to do is tell you the facts, and let you interpret it however you want. It took me five years of learning hard lesson after hard lesson to realize two things: (1) all entrepreneurs crave freedom, but (2) they let their own fear and insecurities get in the way, so they find themselves stuck in what I like to call the Quagmire Complex.
When I started my first business my troll would find me on the way to the office and while I ate my Ramen Noodle lunch. It would tell me that when I paid attention to my next big idea, it meant I was having a dream affair, basically cheating on my business. It would whisper goodnight as I laid down to catch up on sleep, right after it reminded me that compromising control within my business meant that I was accepting subpar quality and doomed from the start. It barged into my dreams, reminding me of all the reasons I should never trust others to execute important tasks. I woke up each day feeling as though I signed a legally-binding contract to be forever indebted to my business and all it asks for, signed with blood, sweat, and tears.
"Freedom?! There’s no such thing," said my pink-haired troll as it sat confidently on my left shoulder. It's not cute like the version you know from the 80's. It's hateful and mean and wants to crush my dreams and my spirit.
"Freedom is the epitome of the entrepreneurial lie. It’s the illusion we trolls create to lure unsuspecting victims like you into our quagmire, " it howled with a sinister laugh.
I beat myself up and believed it. I thought the reality of being an entrepreneur meant I would be the sacrificial lamb for my family to have vacations, a nice house, and fashionable clothing. I believed my time was disposable, and as long as I was doing the work, the work was free. I knew that I needed a team for support, but their ability to do the work to the same level as I could was a delusion. I thought I had to settle for a business that was needy, whiney, and demanding my attention 24/7. I never thought it was possible to have a life and a business because what I had experienced so far in my business told me otherwise.
I spent a lot of time thinking there had to be an answer; there had to be a better way. As a retired mental health counselor, I put my irrational thoughts through the wringer and pursued a solution fervently. The process of discovery was a doozy, but it happened. I figured out the root of my beliefs. I was able to see the reason I was unable to grow my business without selling my time to the troll. I had been duped in the past. I had hired the wrong people with the wrong intentions and I was jaded. I thought I could do everything better than everyone, and that in an effort to save time, I would just do everything myself. And that was a lie.
I realized that systems were the key to consistency and the only way I could hold others accountable for the work I would actually let them do.
That’s how I climbed out of the Quagmire. My belief that I was the only one who could operate my business was only a tarpit that threatened to suck me and my baby business under its suffocating blackness. When I realized that I could put myself — my brain, my way of thinking and problem-solving, my way of doing things — into a system and teach that system to an employee, everything changed.
Suddenly, I had the ability to get more done — because I wasn’t the one doing it all. I taught one employee how to do one task with a system that kept it consistent each time, and suddenly I was free from that task.
Was it easy? HA! NO! I was terrified. I couldn’t believe that anyone could do it as well as I could. I must have rechecked her work at least eight times before I believed that the task had actually been completed. The proof was in the pudding. She had followed the system and completed the work and I didn’t have to be involved.
That one task became two tasks, then three. I added new systems so I could hand off more things. I was excited about what I was building for the first time in a long time because I could see the light. I was building a ladder and once I reached the top, I could climb out of the tarpit and I could be free. I could walk away. I could have the time and the money and the ability to do all the things I had dreamt of when I first started thinking about creating my business. I could have my life back.
But first, I had to confront my fear. And boy, did this dredge it up.
- I worried that the second I took my eyes off the system it would completely collapse.
- I worried that the employees I hired would steal every good thing I had created and leave me with nothing.
- I worried that if I weren’t involved the quality would immediately decline and we would soon have no customers left.
- I worried that my control was the only thing that kept my systems running.
As a therapist, I know that that is catastrophizing. I know, logically, that I never had the ability to hold all of that in my hands. But practically, I felt it. I felt the scary, empty, unsteady, wobbly, off-the-axis feeling when I slowly, bit by painstaking bit relinquished my tasks to others.
These days, I stand back. My ground is sturdy. I am what Sam Carpenter calls “outside and slightly elevated.” I’m able to calmly evaluate what I’ve built as something outside myself. That’s as it should be. My people work independently. They go through their daily processes and the business runs. Without me.
Read that again.
My business runs without me.
Do they still need help occasionally? Yes.
Do they still need my direction and vision as the owner? Yes.
But I no longer feel the need to shove my receptionist aside when the phone rings or insert myself into the hiring process when I see the notification that we have a new applicant. I am free and I know my team can handle it.
You can do it, too, reader. You can find the freedom you’ve been searching for, maybe for years.
Will it be hard? Yes.
Will you have to confront all those catastrophic fears? Yes.
But on the other side, you’ll find your entrepreneurial confidence. You’ll find your entrepreneurial freedom.
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