How to take the pressure off

In July I opened up my calendar for free check-in calls for clients and readers at the midway point of the year. It’s been fun to hear where you are and what you’re working on. If you took advantage of that opportunity, please keep in touch, and if we haven’t spoken yet, please reach out!

One of the biggest stressors I kept hearing was the amount of pressure being put on new businesses and career leaps to make money right away. And not just some money, but the same amount made at the established roles you were in at other companies.

If you’re under five years in business, and definitely if you’re under three, that is too much to ask. In fact, you’re setting yourself up for failure and burnout.

Why? Because putting pressure on your new leap to ensure your financial security means every step you take MUST WORK at a time when you’re still figuring out what this new venture will be.

When you’re building a business, even a couple years in, you very much need to be in Research Mode.

Among the things you’re learning are:

  • Who your customers are

  • What they want

  • What they’re willing to pay

  • Where to find them, as well as

  • How to run a business from quarterly taxes and choosing a legal structure to if/when to hire help, setting hours and more

It’s like worrying your baby isn’t speaking in full sentences yet while you’re still getting a hang of their feeding, changing and sleeping schedule.

As you collect more information in these vital areas, your confidence as a business owner (or parent) increases, as does your ability to effectively attract and retain happy paying customers (or happy babies).

You need research time!

What you don’t need? The pressure to know all of these answers before you’ve done the research. You can’t figure these out without trial and error, and you can’t do that with “you have to make enough money right now” playing on repeat in your head.

The same is true for more established business owners going after new markets, professionals looking to make a major mid-career leap, and writers, artists and performers putting themselves out there.

We have to take the pressure off in the short-term in order to have more long-term success.

How to take the pressure off

1) Create the long-term plan.

If you have a business plan, that is your long-term plan. If you don’t have one yet, then take a few minutes to imagine and list out your ideal work life, including the specific amount of money you want to make, the number of hours you want to work, the kind of physical environment you want to work in, and the kind of people you want around you / how much focused alone time you’d like.

When I do this with clients, it’s a full coaching session or two of us brainstorming all aspects of your work life, but a smaller, targeted list will work in the interim so you have something to refer to.

Once you have that, lay out what you’ll do today, this week, this month in order to build toward that goal. The smaller the steps the better so you can check them off and feel your own progress.

(By the way, long-term can mean six months, two years, whatever you want. You define it.)

2) Create the short-term one.

Given what you’re building toward, and that it will take some time to get there, what do you need in the meantime to feel calm, secure, like you can keep going?

Make another list answering that question, which can include a certain amount of income to cover expenses and have a nest egg, the kind of health insurance you and your family require, the number of hours set aside per week to devote to your new business, etc.

Similar to above, this list allows you to determine what you do today, this week, this month in order to achieve these short-term stabilizing goals which in turn serves the long-term vision.

3) Make empowered choices for yourself.

What does it mean to have these two lists?

You may get a part-time job.
You may move in with your family.
You may stay working with your less-than-ideal employer for an extra six months.

Things you may have been considering before, but the difference now is that with these lists you can make an empowered choice in service of the life and work you’re building for yourself.

So instead of, “I either make enough money now by following my passion or risk failing and having to return to work that doesn’t feel inspiring,” you can say with confidence: “I’m proactively choosing this short-term option because it gives me the security and time to build what I really want.”

You’re still working on that long-term plan, so please make sure you have a to-do list from it that you’re checking off daily. The only thing that’s changed is that you’ve removed the pressure of everything having to work immediately and allowed yourself a chance to find your bearings. To do the necessary research.

You haven’t failed, or stopped, or given up. You’ve built a plan that can really work and in a way where you can feel healthier and happier at every stage.

Like a boss.

Why it's better to fail than to quit

9 out of 10 A-students agree: quitting is safer because at least you won't FAIL. 

Failing is scary!

What's even scarier is the thought of failing, which is why most of us quit way before we're anywhere near actually failing. It's easier to head things off at the pass and save face. 

You stop promoting your workshop before the deadline or don’t go to that second job interview, because seeing it through puts you in the precarious position of everyone seeing you. If you succeed or fail is out there, and it’s uncomfortable.

Let's avoid any risk of that.

When asked in the past about my own quitting, I used to say, "I'd rather get it right or not do it at all."

What kind of leeway does that provide for trying new things and learning? The whole point of owning a business and leaping of any kind.  

If it's not clear why this is important, consider that taking the safe route, never approaching even the possibility of failure, means staying in an unfulfilling career. You could keep doing what you're doing for the rest of your working days and just being okay about it. Another A-student nightmare. 

If you want to do what you love, you need to not quit when it gets uncomfortable.  

Because, while quitting means you won't fail, it also means you won't achieve your goal either. Many people sign up last minute for workshops, maybe they are waiting to do the same for yours. Maybe they want to make you an offer if you can just meet one more time. You don't know, and the only way to find out is to keep going. Keep putting in the consistent effort as if you WILL succeed.

Because then, it works.

You deserve to succeed and learn and grow and leap and get back up again supported by the rest of us who feel just like you. Gulp.

How do you stick with it when you want to quit? I look for ways to take a fresh perspective.

  • Ask for help.
  • Take a couple of deep breaths.
  • Play outside.
  • Read words that inspire you.
  • Listen to upbeat music.
  • Do the opposite of what you'd normally do.
  • Treat this like a game, and take the pressure off. 
  • Be scared & do it anyway.

Or, you can hang out the window, but I wouldn’t recommend it. 

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Whatever you do, KEEP GOING!

I believe so much in you.

What helps you risk failure and keep going?