We’re so used to seeing top entrepreneurs delivering speeches, closing lucrative deals and achieving great heights that we might forget they are people like us. Surely, some of them have groundbreaking ideas, and some of them have an unusually high IQ. But many people with those characteristics don’t get there, so what’s the difference? Well, one of them is that they’re confident to the core. And that makes a great difference.
Confidence is one of the key characteristics that anyone in the entrepreneurial world should develop because if you don’t work on yourself first, the work you create won’t be the best it could be. Confidence makes you feel prepared to solve problems; it makes you feel like your projects are worth trying; it makes you resistant to negative criticism; it makes people believe you know what you’re doing and want to follow you. Aren’t those ingredients necessary to succeed?
Now if you aren’t one of those people who are naturally inclined to self-confidence, don’t worry. Even if you are inclined to doubt yourself, there’s no reason to worry. There are changes you can make to develop the right attitude and thrive as an entrepreneur.
Perhaps the easiest way to fight self-doubt is not to give it any time to grow. And the way to do that is to start operating as soon as the initial preparations are complete. In fact, we’ve discussed the danger of overthinking in a previous post, so you know it’s a confidence killer.
Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia (the founders of Airbnb), for example, launched their initial idea as soon as they could provide the service. According to their own story, they identified the opportunity: the city hotels were fully booked for a large event. They acted quickly: they bought air beds and launched their website offering a place where people could stay the night and have breakfast for $80. Planning and marketing adjustments came later.
While that immediate start is not always possible (and nobody’s saying planning and marketing don’t matter), it is possible to learn a lesson: moving quickly is crucial. If Chesky and Gebbia had planned and debated beyond necessary, they might have given in to self-doubt. After all, how could two young and moneyless entrepreneurs compete against well-established hotels chains? The real answer is: they could as long as they didn’t doubt they could.
So as soon as you have covered the basics, go for it before you can even question yourself.
Start the loop
When you’re faced with a task you know you can perform you don’t hesitate. You simply complete it because you know you can. If you’re an extrovert who can communicate easily, for example, pitching your business idea to an investor might not be as intimidating as it would be to a shy entrepreneur.
With that in mind, you can start the “confidence/competence loop”. Basically, the more knowledge you have about something the more capable you feel of doing it. So by improving yourself through knowledge and skills, your performance will be better (mainly because you’ll feel more capable). These are the moments you look at your own output, smile and think, “I actually can do this!” Nothing boosts confidence like winning.
That confidence will help you try harder achievements, and by trying to accomplish them, you’ll acquire skills and feel confident enough to do more. Can you see the loop? Begin with smaller challenges and watch how you propel yourself forward. Soon you’ll be able to risks you had never thought you could.
Make your tasks easier to complete
An easier way to feel competent is to make your enemy easier to defeat. In other words, figuring out how to make your challenges smaller. Bamidele Onibalusi, an entrepreneur from the writing industry, puts it this way:
I believe the most effective way to go about this is by breaking down each task into the smallest possible task that will take the smallest amount of time necessary.
In practice, you look at the whole task before you and identify the steps necessary to complete it. Are you considering launching a new product, for example? Then designing it and explaining to yourself how it would look like is the first step. Then comes identifying whether you have what you need to create it. Then comes testing the idea by talking to people. Individually, none of those things sound as scary as “launching a new product”.
To help you visualize it, create a timeline and see yourself advancing through it and realizing you can do it one step at a time.
Don’t let negative experiences shape your mindset
A negative past experience can become your greatest obstacle because it makes you afraid of trying again. We know it to be true about friendship, for instance. If a person you trust disappoints you, you might find it hard to trust people again. The same happens with our self-confidence.
It might be the case that you aren’t confident because you still see yourself as the one who underperformed in college. Or maybe your career has been underwhelming so far, and you don’t know if you have what it takes to succeed in business. Whatever the case, don’t forget we all evolve. We learn, develop skills, and expand our professional network; the market changes too. In the end, our context today is entirely different from what it was when we failed, so trying again actually makes a lot of sense.
Besides, it’s always good to remember how inevitable (and necessary) failing is. In business, we all fail at some point. Some fail less, while some fail a lot more. But even the extraordinary businesspeople you look up to have a list of defeats in their CV that no one can see. Or sometimes we can.
Nicholas Woodman, for example, launched a failed startup that made him lose more than $3 million… but now he is the GoPro founder with a $2 billion+ net worth. The secret is taking from the failures nothing but the knowledge, while leaving the feeling behind. It’s hard but possible.
Being an entrepreneur involves having occasional setbacks and not letting them permanently hurt your self-confidence, so get ready for them. In the end, your self-confidence can be your most powerful tool as an entrepreneur, and as such, it deserves your attention.