At some point or another, every entrepreneur suffers pangs of self-doubt: They question their capabilities, agonize over their choices, and wonder about their craft. No one is immune to the emotional turmoil -- just ask Brian Koppelman, a successful Hollywood screenwriter, producer, and co-creator of the hit television series Billions.
In a poignant Twitter thread, Koppelman revealed his own struggle with self-doubt -- and the way he managed to overcome it can be instructive to all entrepreneurs, regardless of their industry or background.
1) If you're looking back at 2018 today and feeling bad about the things you failed at, the things that didn't go as well as you'd hoped they would, at the ways in which you let yourself, your dreams, your ideals down, know this: you are not alone. And you are not defeated.-- Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) December 31, 2018
"Every artist I know has felt lost, beaten, let down by the business or themselves or both at the same time," Koppelman writes. "Every one has considered they might not be up to it, might not be good enough, smart enough, deep enough, tough enough."
Pressing through those rough patches can be the single greatest force that keeps entrepreneurs from folding. It takes courage, passion, and deep commitment to ride out the tumult and unpredictability of running a business.
The numbers tell the story. According to recent data from the Small Business Administration, roughly half of all small businesses fail to reach their five-year mark, while only one in three makes it past 10 years.
Line your path with small wins
After feeling like his work had taken a "fall" six years ago, Koppelman regained his groove with small steps and consistent effort. "I wrote a little bit each morning. And then a little more," he says, noting that "something in me knew I had to press on."
That commitment to consistency can give entrepreneurs the strength to stare down uncertainty. Success rarely explodes as a sudden burst. For most people, it's more like a slow drip. "Each physical step felt like hope," says Koppelman. "If I made it across, that meant I had gotten myself out of bed, that meant I was trying, that meant I hadn't yet been counted out."
But as every entrepreneur can attest, there's no guarantee those efforts will be fruitful. "I couldn't have known then that the thing we were working on (the Billions pilot script) would change my entire life," Koppelman writes.
Sound familiar? Whether you're pitching a new product, offering a new service -- or, like me, drafting a new book or keynote -- you can never be sure that things will turn out as you hoped or planned. You pour all of your creativity, time, and energy into something you believe in, desperately believing it will amount to success.
The key, according to Koppelman, is to stay focused on the process even when it feels bumpy and winding. Seen another way, setbacks are just lanes for future travel. They not only help you make your next move, they can also make them better -- something Koppelman felt personally as he rose from self-doubt: "Small steps forward erased the backward steps."
And that momentum can sustain you, even during dark periods. "I started feeling better while I was doing the work, not when the results came in," Koppelman says. That's a message every entrepreneur needs to hear. The undiluted effort we bring to our endeavors is the hidden force behind our success. Small steps. Consistent effort. When so much seems unpredictable, you can always count on that.