Crash & Learn
Truth is that you don’t know until you know sometimes. When you test drive an idea, functioning with incomplete information is a given. The mistakes and failures—and the successes—are the one-way road to getting that information. To come out on the other side, it’s going to require listening, editing, and adjusting quickly when new information comes in. Otherwise, you’ll be caught in a closed loop of fear forever.
That’s why you should never linger too long on the planning stage. You’ll be happiest as soon as you start getting your hands dirty.
When you put yourself and your dream into the world, you need to have a brutally honest sounding board to tell you what is and isn’t working. If you’re not willing to get better, then why bother?
- Go in person. If you can’t, call. Or email. Or text. Or send an Instagram direct message. Make contact. With as much face time as possible.
- Don’t be afraid to ask in the first place.
- Be curious, not defensive.
- Show appreciation for all input, even the negative or off-point.
- When people seem unsure, try to help them home-in on what they actually think.
- Don’t just show the “before.” Show the “after”—how feedback has been employed.
The First Scary Thing
The first step should come from you. The world is not necessarily going to set your dream down in front of you with a nice shiny bow tied around it like a delicious fruit basket, and by the way, if it does, congrats to you.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable, and start making stuff happen around you.
The good news is, it doesn’t all have to happen in one day. So, no matter your circumstances, figure out the right amount of chunks of your dream to bite off, and work on each until they’re fully digested, and then, move on to the next. It’ll get done. It really will.
6 Starter Ideas for Building Your Confidence
- Decide to leave the safety of your comfortable roost/job/life and see what else is out there.
- Call someone you admire and (respectfully) ask them for advice or help in their area of expertise.
- Choose a mountain and climb it (this isn’t a metaphor).
- Get out of your comfort zone and barter your skills or services in exchange for learning something new.
- Take a class or listen to a podcast about a skill you’ve always wanted to learn. Do whatever you need to do to rise up out of your circumstances and prepare yourself with knowledge on how to deal with people, finances, communication, taxes, you name it. Take those hours you’re currently on your phone and spend them reading instead—I promise you, you’ll find you have more time than you think.
- Ask for the opportunity to intern somewhere challenging, where you have no experience.
If the Front Door Isn’t Open, Climb in Through the Window
- If you’re trying to sell someone on you or your dream, you can’t half-ass it. You need to be fully present, fully awake, and fully certain of the direction you are steering your ship. Show up in person. Lead with humble enthusiasm. Slam dunk your pitch. The basic formula is:
- Ask someone you both know for an intro, and if you don’t have an intro, go introduce yourself to whoever is in charge. Put yourself in a situation where you’ll be near them. Send letters, DM them. Be resourceful on how to get ahold of people. Track them down somehow.
- Find a way to make you or your product known to them.
- Once you’ve gotten their attention, introduce yourself (be quick and humble).
- Describe why you love this company/person so much. (Be sincere—figure out what makes you love it, and be able to articulate that.)
- Make yourself useful. Think about what you can provide by the bushel that they don’t already have, and offer it. Be helpful and solution-oriented, and you’ll get your shots.
- Give a super-quick example, demonstrating your worth. Prove your value and land the opportunity, instead of demanding your worth and maybe not getting it.
Understand the “No” So You Can Understand the “Why”
Sometimes big ideas stall before leaving the station because we take “no” too literally. If we can understand the why behind the “no,” we can often find a way to the other side. Turns out, just as often “no” means:
- “I’m in a bad mood.”
- “Not yet.”
- “I need more information.”
- “I need time to think about it.”
- “I’m not sure my boss will let me.”
- “I’m feeling lazy.”
- “The price isn’t right
Another thing to keep in mind. If people say “no,” that just means “no” right now, not forever. At least you’re now in their mental filing cabinet, and you’re also maybe now a friend.
NOT Taking Feedback Is NOT an Option
You should always be seeking feedback and using it to improve. In order to get game-changing intel, you have to draw it in. Here are some of the tricks:
- Sit down face-to-face, especially if the conversation is difficult. Or at least call.
- Park any defensiveness at the door and really be willing to listen.
- Don’t rush. Acknowledge and take the time to understand each point as it’s made.
- If there’s a reason to apologize, because something didn’t live up to its promise, do so.
- Dig deeper. Ask follow-up questions. Ask for the other person’s why.
- Sometimes it’s necessary to explain why their idea won’t work/could be stronger.
- Be as fully present as possible. This means sleeping enough, eating enough, getting exercise. Starting a new venture is running a marathon and the body and mind need fuel.
Ellen’s Master To-Do List
- Make a start, even if it’s scary, even if nothing’s in place. Figure out the rest from there.
- Put your idea out into the world, and be willing to learn.
- Do little scary things to earn notches on your confidence belt.
- Show up like a tank, but when the front door isn’t open, climb in through the window.
- Be your own cheerleader and share your idea with humble enthusiasm.
- Ask questions, seek feedback, listen hard, and apply the information you get.
- Own your mistakes—that’s what it means to be a business owner—and keep going.
- Be resourceful and make use of what you have to get what you don’t.
- Expect setbacks and leap back in anyhow.
- Team up with other dreamers and doers to get inspired and grow in new ways.
- Step out of survival mode—once you’ve made it, improve it, again, and again, and again.
- Find peers who you can be vulnerable with, and don’t try to do it all alone.
- Empower your team members to shine and then get out of their way to let them do so.
- Try, try again, in the face of every new challenge, always and forever.