Entrepreneurs have a weakness.
When we look at a situation, we don't just see what's there--we also see what's missing. We constantly fixate on that gap, what could be better, and what isn't yet done. Face it, we're downright negative thinkers.
This is hard on us, because it means our work is never finished. Just when it looks like we're about to cross the finish line, it moves farther away. We never really arrive.
Not surprisingly, many entrepreneurs experience mental health problems.
In a survey of 242 entrepreneurs by Michael Freeman, MD, etal, 30% of respondents reported experiencing depression. An astounding 72% of the entrepreneurs disclosed mental health concerns, a proportion significantly higher than among non-entrepreneurs.
And in a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, more entrepreneurs than other workers experienced stress and anxiety.
We tend to take any failure hard. Even though intellectually, we know that failure is a learning experience and can be a jump-off point to success, emotionally, failing in business makes us feel like failing as human beings.
Journalist and author, Jessica Bruder, has called this the "psychological price" of entrepreneurship.
If you find yourself going on an emotional downward spiral because your business isn't living up to your expectations, remind yourself of the importance of the slow burn.
During a slow burn, it may seem like nothing much--or at least, not enough--is happening. But in fact, even small steps can escalate to big results over time.
Think of businesses like Disney, Microsoft, Apple, and Google. They're colossal companies now, so it's easy to forget their journeys were long and circuitous. They all struggled for longer than you might have thought.
For example, at age 30, Steve Jobs was left depressed and devastated after being fired from the company he founded. And Walt Disney was once fired from a newspaper because he "lacked imagination" and "had no original ideas."
And here's something else that can make you feel better: Domino Math.
Domino Math and What It Means for You
A domino can knock over another domino that's up to 50% larger. This means, if you knocked over a domino that's an inch tall, and each succeeding domino was just 50% bigger than the previous one, then the 20th domino in the chain could be the height of an 18-story building--and still be knocked over!
This illustrates how beginning with something small can quickly escalate into something much bigger.
4 Steps to Make Domino Math Work for You
1. Start from where you are.
You have a lot more to work with than you realize. Make a list of financial--and non-financial--assets you have right now. You're probably overlooking more than you realize.
At the same time, let go of past mistakes and failures. Forgive yourself for the road you should have taken in the past but didn't.
2. Build momentum.
Knock down that first domino. Take the specific actions and steps you need to get started and build momentum. Consistency is the key here, because every time you stop, you're starting from the smallest domino again.
3. Celebrate the wins.
Celebrating feels counter-intuitive, because there's so much left to do. But if you don't celebrate, you'll soon feel like giving up. Running your business will feel like running in a hamster wheel and never getting off. List all the wins, successes, and achievements you've had this year. Set milestones for the next year and celebrate when you reach each one.
4. Get out of planning and start doing.
You've heard about compounding interest in financial investments. It also applies to business momentum. Begin now to give yourself time to get there.
As an entrepreneur, your fixation on what's missing is your weakness. But it's also your strength. That's what drives you to bulldoze through obstacles, no matter how big they seem.
And when it all feels like too much, remember, knocking down a 184-foot domino begins with a one-inch domino.