If you place a pearl in vinegar, it melts. When embarking on a project alone, the mind can often work like vinegar. A good idea can be surrounded by acidic thoughts like self-doubt, skepticism and frustration until you find yourself questioning your concept.
The brigade of self-starters, entrepreneurs, artists and writers I’ve been lucky enough to talk shop with have all cited the same struggle and have come to the same conclusion: It just comes with the territory. But what if it didn’t have to?
The majority of us answer questions fueled by doubt or skepticism — not alone but by council. As I’ve tackled projects small to large and personal to professional, I’ve relied on a cast of characters that counterbalance the areas where I tend to hesitate. And it’s worked. Each potential side-step turns into a step forward. Even better, sharing your idea with others doubles up as powerful foundational research.
So don’t expose a pearl to vinegar. Instead, try soliciting advice from five unlikely perspectives that count — or rather, the five places you might need to phone a friend down the line.
This person will poke holes in your plot — let them. There will be no shortages of unknowns, tradeoffs and risks. The best thing you can do is to strategize, stay curious and work hard. Closing the door to a skeptic means making something that’s not inclusive or educational. Keep a completely open mind and use their questioning to strengthen your project’s positioning and key messaging.
Instead of letting your mind wander on a question like, “Am I wasting my time?” or “Will anyone care about this?”, let someone who will speak their mind answer for you. Talking about the insecurity out loud will help, and you can rely on them to tell you the truth and lay your uncertainty to rest right there on the spot.
The Seasoned Self-Starter
Someone who has traveled a similar road to you, preferably more than once, will probably have pretty good directions. I’ve found a lot of comfort in discussing fires with people who have put them out in the past. Their retrospect is often calm and collected and makes it easier for me to be.
During the launch of a new direct-to-consumer brand, a client had a best and worse case scenario unfold: They were selling so much product that they projected to sell out in the first few weeks. I knew from experience that supply-and-demand issues this early on could result in unfavorable press, so I called a friend who had been through a similar scenario. His hindsight was able to help me realize that this was an opportunity to build a direct line of communication with early adopters. We got ahead of the curve and designed a special gift with a shorter lead time to sweeten the deal just in case they ran out.
They did run out, but it wasn’t a setback. The gift resulted in pleasantly surprised customers who maintained enthusiasm despite the hiccup — and even a few positive, organic reviews on blogs and social media channels.
You can get ahead of your own curves by telling a seasoned self-starter your go-to-market plan early on. Their experience gives them valuable insight to see any road bumps that may lie ahead.
The Target Audience
Feeling like you’ve hit a stalemate? Loop in someone who’d love the idea and use their energy as inspiration to push forward. Imagine designing a toy but never introducing it to a child — you’d miss out on their natural positivity around play, which could motivate you to make it even more exciting for them. Whether you’re working through something as big-picture as product positioning or a simple marketing concept, find someone with natural enthusiasm for the subject matter. It’s important to always remind yourself that you’re making this for good reason.
Our goals are what drive us to challenge status quo and risk failure. The commitment to them is just as key to creating meaningful or one-of-a-kind experiences as creativity and communication. But building something is often emotional, filled with highs and lows as you press against the challenge. That road will inherently never be easy. Make sure the person who is a big part of your day-to-day is also a part of this so they can remind you of where you’re going, how far you’ve come, and understand just what you’re going through on the low days.
As an entrepreneur, each day brings a scary but exhilarating opportunity to learn. Embrace it with a council that both bolsters your resolve and allows you to problem-solve while in the creation process. Resilient curiosity is perhaps the most important leadership attribute today and can exponentially fuel the exploration and momentum of whatever challenge you’re running toward.