I put off the launch of my first online course for two years.
For two full years, I told myself a variety of things:
- "I'm not ready yet."
- "The material isn't ready yet."
- "The world isn't ready yet."
- "It'd really be better to launch in the fall rather than summer ... everyone's busy traveling right now."
The truth was far simpler. It wasn't that I wasn't ready ... it's that I was terrified.
I had a plan. I'm a coach in the field of healthy sexuality and relationships, and I'd created a course for men based on my original research on over 1,000 women about the men who were best in bed. I named it Please Her In Bed.
I planned to do a beta test of the 4-week course, my goal being to put five men through it live. I'd record the content as we went along, which would form the foundation of the course itself.
It sounded like a great idea. It sounded like it could work.
I just needed five men to say yes.
When I drafted the launch email, I almost threw up. Despite the fact that I had a modest email list (fewer than 2,000 people), when I actually imagined pressing "send," I got that twisting sensation in my stomach that some people refer to as butterflies.
They didn't feel like butterflies; they felt like bats. Angry bats.
In seventh grade, I attempted to switch cliques. I felt like the clique I was hanging out with wasn't very healthy (then again, what group of middle schoolers is?). Plus--if I'm being really honest--they weren't very popular.
So I tried to switch. As part of this, I invited twelve "new" people to my birthday party that year. These were people I was friendly with at school but who weren't close friends by any stretch of the imagination. Because I was afraid they'd say no (or that they were busy), I didn't invite them in person--I left notes in their lockers.
You can probably see where this story is going.
On the day of the party, I sat by the window of the den in our house, where you could hear cars coming down the street. At five past the hour, I heard no cars. Twenty minutes later, I heard a car but it drove past our house. Now I was nervous. I knew it wasn't likely that all twelve kids would show, but I thought maybe four or five would come.
After 45 minutes, I started praying no one would show up. Because if only one person came, that person would know about my humiliation.
Initiating a launch, whether of an online program, a product, or an event, is a lot like throwing a party in middle school.
Will anyone notice your offering? Will anyone care? Will you get any attention, or will everyone just talk over you, silencing your voice with their utter apathy?
What they don't teach you about in business school is the sheer and overwhelming vulnerability of entrepreneurship. Professors can teach you about risk management and marketing and leadership styles and hiring practices and employee engagement, but they can't teach you how to get over your fear that no one will come to your party.
I'd like to say I was brave and finally pressed "send" because I had pulled myself together and felt confident and grounded. The truth is more that I was so sick of putting it off and thinking about it and worrying about it that I did it just to put myself out of my own misery.
I pulled the trigger on a Friday, when I sent the email and simultaneously dropped a podcast episode called Secrets of a Sex Researcher. It talked about the results of the surveys I'd been conducting, and outlined my reasons for creating the course.
I told both my list and podcast listeners that there were five spots for the beta, that the window to sign up was Sunday at 11:59PM, and to reach out if they were interested.
Then I ran away.
I got off my computer and went to go work out. I connected with friends. I stayed away from my phone and cooked a meal.
When I came back, I had my first email response: "I think I'd like to do this."
Within an hour, a former client texted, saying he had just listened to the podcast and had a few questions. He ended up joining the program.
The next morning, I woke up to a lengthy email from a podcast listener from another country begging to be included. He joined, as well.
By the end of the day on Sunday, I had five men. By the end of Monday, I accepted one more for a total of six.
Your past isn't your present, and it's certainly not your future. I'm not a sensitive, self-conscious seventh-grader anymore. But when it came time for me to invite people to my party by pressing "send," there was a part of me that believed I still was ... and it almost stopped me from taking action at all.
For me, entrepreneurship has involved a lot of risk. Financially, yes, but the emotional risk has been far more significant. Again and again, I feel the butterflies/bats, and again and again I've had to choose to move through the discomfort.
Like many entrepreneurs, I've also pivoted my product. I came to realize that while it's useful and valuable for men to learn about how to please women in bed, it's even more practical for couples. It's hard to talk about sex, and I've adapted the course to help couples communicate about it in a safe, effective, and inviting way.
So this week, I sent another vulnerable email--this time to enroll a few couples in the first version of the course for them.
I still haven't heard back. But I feel less vulnerable than that first time. Maybe there's nothing like your first time. Maybe this whole thing does get easier with practice. Maybe I've just learned how to feel less attached to the outcome.
I don't know what the reason is, but I do know this: If you're in that launch phase, if you're still waiting to pull the trigger, if you're feeling that sense of falling backwards with no net, know that you're not alone. I may not be with you physically, but I'm there in spirit.
You've got this.