Starting a new venture can be a terrifying and scary experience. We've all heard that 80-90 percent of new businesses fail. That message is so prolific that it wouldn't be surprising to see it scrawled across the bathroom stalls of Wall Street.
There are a lot of other statistics out there about how hard entrepreneurs crash and burn, but if you focus too hard on those statistics, you're likely to become one. If you focus too much on your prospects for failure, rather than success, you've already lost.
Truthfully, though, you'd be hard-pressed to find a successful entrepreneur who doesn't experience feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt when starting a new project. What makes them successful is that they never let those feeling slow them down. Got the jitters? Good. Ready to hurl? Great! Those are manifestations of your passion, and you can use that energy to keep moving forward.
All it takes is confidence and that's not difficult to obtain.
None of us are born with confidence. We're enter the world as impressionable pink sacks of fear and uncertainty. Confidence is something you acquire by nurturing it and confronting those things that typically hold you back. It comes by sharpening your self-esteem and fortitude.
Want to try it yourself? Here are six ways you can start working today to build your confidence:
1. Recognize self-doubt when it pops up
Doubt and "what-ifs" can shake your resolve because there's no one else in your head to talk you down. Rather than focusing on the self-doubt and beating yourself up over it, just acknowledge it for what it is and let it pass.
The goal is not to eliminate negative feelings or stifle them. They're normal. You want to empower yourself to take action and let self-doubt get you moving - especially when you feel inadequate.
If you're a new entrepreneur, you won't have any shortage of self-doubt in the near future, so think of this as a daily exercise to strengthen your resolve.
2. Acknowledge previous accomplishments and failures
When Steve Blank appeared on the 1994 cover of Wired magazine, his company, Rocket Science Games, was expected to change the landscape of the video game industry. Just three months later, he was faced with losing $35 million in investor funding and imminent failure.
"Learning from that failure for me was one of the best experiences of my life". He says "I could have quit." But he didn't. In 1996, Blank founded the startup E.piphany which went on to earn $1 billion for each of its investors.
Blank used previous failure to gain forward momentum. While you may not have business failures of that magnitude available to help temper your spirit (at least, I hope you don't), you have personal and professional experiences that have created learning opportunities. Focus on those, and look to see what lessons can be gained.
At that same time, always look to your greatest accomplishments and use them to reinforce your resolve. Let yourself get pumped up by your big (and little) victories.
3. Step out of your comfort zone
A lot of what you'll be doing as an entrepreneur is new ground for you. Decision making and follow-through will only strengthen and expand your confidence. Get a jumpstart on that by trying something new as often as you can.
New challenges will lessen your overall fear. You'll see first-hand that you are capable of recovering from any consequence.
I'm not talking about going straight to skydiving (though I highly recommend it). Start with small projects and build on them. That can be as simple as an activity you've always been curious about like scuba diving, learning a new dance, coding an app or perfecting your jump shot.
Every single goal you accomplish provides concrete proof that you can do it, and that success is always within your reach. What better lesson could you learn as an entrepreneur?
4. Find a mentor
You better believe that somebody out there has been in your exact same situation. They've felt the same concern, fear, doubt and uncertainty. I've written before on why every entrepreneur needs a mentor, and I stand by that recommendation.
So many entrepreneurs fail to see the value in having someone to talk to and confide in. A mentor offers a wealth of experience; they've been there and done that. They can easily point out the pitfalls so that you don't make the same mistakes. When you have that kind of experience lighting the way, you'll move forward with far more confidence.
When you do launch your business (and you will), you'll also see the benefit in revenue.
MicroMentor.org is a free service that connects entrepreneurs with volunteer mentors to help solve problems. In 2012, they surveyed users of their service and found that, "those who received mentoring increased their revenue by an average of $47,000, or 106%."
5. Learn to say "no"
It's natural to want to please people - especially when you're trying to form relationships, network, please potential investors and take those first entrepreneurial steps. But saying "yes" to everyone is going to pull you in more directions than you're capable of managing. That will lead to stress, potential depression and even burnout before you ever have a chance to launch.
Confident entrepreneurs recognize that saying "no" is healthy. It means you respect your own time and resources, and it forces other people to do the same. When it's time for a "no", a confident person can say it while avoiding phrases like "I don't know" or "I don't think I can".
6. Make an honest assessment and plan for change
Vincent Van Gogh said "If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced."
Confidence is earned through doing. It comes from hard work. Confident people are self-aware and that true confidence they wield is firmly planted in the reality they've created. If you want to change, then you need to do an honest and accurate self-assessment of your abilities. Listen for the voice telling you what you cannot do and then work to strengthen those skills.
Ignoring your weaknesses will not make them go away. You need to find ways to minimize their negative impact. As you do so, you'll gain a clear understanding of your strengths and how you can use them to grow.
Most importantly, that self-awareness of your confidence and strengths will make it easy to shake off groundless feedback, criticism and self-doubt - and that in turn builds more confidence.
What other activities have you used to help build confidence and self-esteem? Leave me a comment below with your thoughts: