Do you charge ahead, willing to give anything a try and persisting in the face of setbacks, criticism and failure? Or do you hesitate, waiting until you feel you can put the pieces together so everything will be “just right,” ensuring that everything goes as planned and everyone is happy?
My grandfather’s motto for life is: “Just get in there and have a go.”
As I look back on decades of risky career moves and wonderful adventures around the globe, I thank him every day for giving me the confidence to show up for the things that have mattered most in my life.
In fact, I didn’t realize just how good his advice was until I recently recorded this podcast with Katty Kay, co-author of the best-selling book The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know. Thoughts into actions
“Confidence is what turns our thoughts into actions,” explained Katty. “With it you can take on the world; without it you remain stuck on the starting block of your own potential.”
It turns out confidence isn’t simply feeling good about yourself, saying you’re great—perfect just as you are—and believing you can do whatever you want. Nor does it require you to be a jerk who always has to speak first, ignores other people’s ideas, or demands to be given what you deserve. Rather, confidence is what allows you to stop mumbling, apologizing and hesitating, and instead start acting, risking and failing.
“Confidence matters more to our success than competence does,” said Katty. “If you choose not to act, you simply have less chance of success.”
Unfortunately, Katty’s research found that confidence appears to be a particular challenge for women across professions, income levels, and generations. And while our genetics, our schooling, our upbringing, our society and even the way we look are all factors that affect our confidence, it’s also a result of our own choices. Choose to become more confident
As a result, Katty believes we can improve our levels of confidence through three simple steps:
1. Take action—Nothing builds confidence like taking action, especially when the action involves risk and failure. So step outside your comfort zone, and if the very idea feels overwhelming, focus on how your actions can benefit others to kick-start your confidence. Start with small challenges that allow you to grow, improve and gain confidence. If you fail, think about how you can do it differently next time, and try again. If you succeed, set yourself the next challenge and keep stretching yourself forward again and again.
2. Think Less—Note the stories you’re playing over and over, and ask: Is this the only explanation for what’s unfolding? Try to note as many plausible alternatives as possible, and invest your attention on the explanations that build rather than destroy your confidence. And if all else fails, try a little self-compassion and talk back to yourself, as you would to a friend who was full of self-doubt.
3. Be Authentic—Be confident in a way that feels genuine to you. You don’t always have to speak first; you can listen and incorporate what others say. You can speak calmly but carry a smart message—one that will be heard. Play to your distinctive strengths and values. Express your vulnerability. We’re at our most powerful when confidence emanates from our core.
What would you be doing right now if you had a little more confidence?
Without any further ado and in their own words, here are some of the biggest mistakes and lessons learned from 13 successful entrepreneurs.
1. “We wasted $1,000,000 on a company that never launched”
Hiten Shah, Co-Founder at KISSmetrics
My co-founder and I spent $1,000,000 on a web hosting company that never launched. We were perfectionist so we built the best thing we could without even understanding what our customers cared about. We have now learned to spend smart, optimize for learning and focus on customer delight.
Hiten has since co-founded two wildly successful analytics companies with KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg
2. “We built the website first and asked our customers about it later”
Robin Chase, Co-Founder of Zipcar
Get to your customers as fast as possible & learn from them to build your product. With my second company, GoLoco – social online ridesharing – we spent too much money on the website and software before engaging with our first customers. This meant that part of our learning was undoing our first guesses.
Robin is the Founder and CEO of Buzzcar and also the founder and former CEO of Zipcar
3. “One of the biggest mistakes we’ve made at Moz was to build “big bang” projects”
Rand Fishkin – CEO of Moz and Co-Founder of Inbound.org
One of the biggest mistakes we’ve made at Moz was to repeatedly build “big bang” projects that required many months of development time without much visibility into progress. It’s sad because it actually worked a number of times, before we fell flat on our faces with a recent project that started in Q4 of 2011, was initially supposed to roll out in July of 2012, and has now been delayed until (fingers crossed) September of 2013. Missing something you budget and plan for by more than a year is really bad news in the startup world.
Don’t be like us – use agile development, have lots of visibility into progress, and keep your team accountable to each other.
Rand Fishkin is the CEO of Moz and co-founder of Inbound.org
4. “I started too late. I toiled in a job I hated for a long time.”
Leo Babauta – Best-selling author
I started too late – because of fear of failure or a lack of belief in myself. I toiled in a job I hated for a long time, instead of starting a blog or building a business I loved.
Knowing what I know now, I’d have started a decade earlier. Not starting is the worst-case scenario.
Leo Babauta is a best-selling author and an entrepreneur
5. “I tried to do it all by myself”
Leo Laporte – Founder of the TWiT network
My biggest mistake was trying to do it all myself. As a founder I felt like I knew everything I needed to know about media, content, even the technology involved to reach my audience. And I did. I just didn’t know anything at all about making a viable business: finance, marketing, advertising, and human resources.
After a few years of rapid growth my company had stalled out, and I was spending more time fighting fires than I was doing the stuff I loved (and that made us money).
Hiring a business partner then giving her full scope to do her job felt a little like giving up my company but it was a vital step toward success.
Leo Laporte is the founder of the TWiT network and host of The Tech Guy and This Week in Tech
6. “If you’re not 100% excited, say no”
Tim Ferriss – NYT Best-selling author of 3 books
Committing to too many ‘cool’ opportunities and projects. I think it’s important, as Derek Sivers (founder of CDBaby) would say, to either say ‘Hell, yes!’ or a flat ‘no’ to things. They should be definitive and binary.
If you’re not 100% excited, it should be a decline. ‘Kinda cool’ will fill up your calendar and leave you wondering where the last year – or 10 – went.
Tim Ferriss is the best-selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek and an entrepreneur
7. “I’ve let growth exceed my own ability to fund my business”
Michael Hyatt – NYT best-selling author
In 1992, I made the mistake of borrowing money to fund my growing company. Unfortunately, I did not understand the difference between rapid growth (like cancer) and healthy growth (normal cellular reproduction).
Eventually, our growth consumed our capital and the business failed. I learned an important lesson: Never let growth exceed my own ability to fund it. If I am tempted to seek outside funding, it is a sign of a flawed business model.
Michael Hyatt is the New York Times Best-selling author of Platform and also a serial entrepreneur
8. “Spreading myself too thinly over too many projects”
Neil Patel – Co-Founder of KISSmetrics
One of the biggest lessons I learned was not to spread myself too thin. Like other entrepreneurs I love trying to do multiple things at once.
But once I learned to focus all of my time and energy into one business, I was able to make it grow faster than all of my previous businesses.
Neil Patel co-founded KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg
9. “I built a product without understanding the market or the users”
Sandi MacPherson – Editor-in-Chief, Quibb
Last year, I spent 6 months building a product I wouldn’t use very often, in a market I wasn’t familiar with, for users I didn’t understand – big mistake.
It made it extremely difficult to figure out why things were or weren’t working, and I ended up creating a product that no one wanted. I could never become the product expert, which is what every founder/CEO needs to be.
Sandi MacPherson is the Editor-in-Chief of Quibb
10. “I made the big mistake of being a ‘parallel entrepreneur’”
Dharmesh Shah – Co-Founder and CTO of HubSpot
Here’s my biggest mistake: After having bootstrapped a reasonably successful software company ($10M+ in revenue) I mistakenly thought—Hey, I’ve got a team in place, the company doesn’t really need me, and I’m sort of bored and want to do something new. So, I made the big mistake of being a “parallel entrepreneur”. Trying to head up two different startups at the same time.
This was a huge mistake at many different levels. Turns out, startups are an all-consuming thing. You can’t be all-consumed by two companies at the same time – it just doesn’t work. My original startup team (the team I had recruited personally) felt abandoned. My new startup (the one I angel-funded) didn’t feel enough pressure to find product market fit and get revenues.
So, my advice: Don’t do what I did. Don’t ever, ever, ever try to ride two horses at the same time. It does’t work, and you’re going both a disservice. Even with complete, total focus, most startups fail – to divide interests across them basically guarantees failure.
Dharmesh Shah is a Co-Founder and CTO at HubSpot
11. “Protect your company culture”
Derek Sivers – Founder of CD Baby
Protect your internal culture, no matter what. Once it turns nasty, it never goes back. Fire a rotten apple immediately. Note from Belle: Derek wrote a great blog post about this which expands on how he felt after having issues with his company’s culture. Here’s a little snippet: I cut two chapters out of my book because they were too nasty. They vented all the awful details about how my terrible employees staged a mutiny to try to get rid of me, and corrupted the culture of the company into a festering pool of entitlement, focused only on their benefits instead of our clients.
Afterwards, I spent a few years still mad at those evil brats for what they did. So, like anyone feeling victimized and wronged, I needed to vent – to tell my side of the story. Or so I thought. So do you want to know the real reason I cut those chapters? I realized it was all my fault. I let the culture of the company get corrupted. I ignored problems instead of nipping them in the bud.
Derek Sivers is a best-selling author and entrepreneur
12. “I put myself before Facebook, it cost me $100,000,000″
Noah Kagan – Chief Sumo, AppSumo
When I got fired from Facebook, it was my entire life. My social circle, my validation, my identity and everything was tied to this company. As the company grew, I wasn’t able to adapt. One of the reasons why was that I was selfish.I wanted attention, I put myself before Facebook. I hosted events at the office, published things on this blog to get attention and used the brand more than I added to it.
Lesson learned: The BEST way to get famous is make amazing stuff. That’s it. Not blogging, networking, etc.
Noah Kagan is Chief Sumo of AppSumo
13. “People really are everything in business”
Jesse Jacobs – Founder, Samovar Tea Lounge
One thing I’ve learned over 12 years running Samovar Tea Lounge is the importance of having the right people on your team.
It’s worth the extra effort to find the right investors, employees, and vendors who believe in your company’s mission and passionately desire to contribute to it – not just those who want to punch the clock or get their share of profits. People really are everything in business, and the people you align yourself with will either buoy you up or weigh you down.
Jesse founded Samovar Tea Lounges with the mission to enrich people’s lives
reblogged from The Buffer Blog a blog about: productivity, life hacks, writing, user experience, customer happiness and business.
When Steve Blank appeared on the cover of Wired magazine 19 years ago, his company then, Rocket Science Games, was expected to revolutionize the videogame industry. At the time, Blank didn’t let the skepticism of critics faze him.
“I thought I was a genius,” he says. Three months later, when he called his mother to let her know he was about to lose $35 million in investor funding, he wasn’t feeling quite so genius anymore.
“I had lots of choices, including that I could have quit,” he says. “Learning from that failure for me was one of the best experiences of my life.” And learn he did. In 1996, Blank founded the startup E.piphany, which went on to earn $1 billion for each of its investors.
In the past 10 years, says Blank, the culture around entrepreneurship has become increasingly failure-friendly. Serial entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley hop from one failed business to the next and billionaire entrepreneurs like Richard Branson wax on publicly about their failures almost as much as their successes. Still, “no one likes to fail,” says Blank. “We are hardwired for success.”
But what if you could actually use failure to help you succeed? Here are five keys to start failing your way to success:
1. Call failure something else.
When was the last time anyone got hired for a senior-level position without any experience? For serial entrepreneurs, “experience” is simply another word for “failure,” says Blank. By labeling a failed effort an opportunity to expand your knowledge base, you’re framing it in a more positive light, allowing yourself to add to your credibility as a more seasoned entrepreneur.
2. Use failure as a stepping stone.
With every failure, identify what you know you did wrong and be conscious not to repeat your mistakes. This will bring you one step closer to success, says Steve Siebold, a Palm Beach, Fla.-based consultant who works with corporations and entrepreneurs on mental toughness and critical thinking.
“I’ve never heard [a millionaire entrepreneur] say they hit it right the first time out,” says Siebold, whose book How Rich People Think (London House Press, 2010) is a culmination of nearly three decades of interviews. “The bigger they are, the more they’ve typically failed.”
3. Never fail alone.
Entrepreneurs like to be trailblazers. But make a mistake on your own and you might have a hard time determining what went wrong. Having a partner you trust and respect can turn every failure into an opportunity for collaboration. “A good partner can help you determine what not to do again,” says Karl Baehr, director of business and entrepreneurial studies at Emerson College, a private four-year college in Boston focused on communication and the arts.
4. Don’t hide your failures.
Be proud that you were brave enough to take a risk in the first place. By being forthright about your mistakes, you open yourself up to learning from others.
Baehr’s mentor, Walter Hailey, whose insurance company Lone Star Life Insurance went on to become a Kmart insurance company, used to take an hour-long walk at 5 a.m. every morning with a group of close friends to talk about ideas, successes and failures. “By the time they got back to the house, they had solutions,” says Baehr. “They had a plan for the day.”
5. Redefine what you want.
Revisit and refocus why you got into business in the first place. “Look for your emotional motivators. We are emotional creatures. Logic doesn’t motivate us,” says Siebold, who launched five consecutive unsuccessful businesses before he started his current consulting company. For Siebold, that motivator was one day becoming a millionaire, a goal he achieved at age 31. “Most people only half-heartedly decide they want a lot of things. You have to get really clear on what you want,” he says. “The question is: How badly do [you] want it?”
It is only a failure when you give up. You have heard this, right?
Easy to remember in retrospect and more difficult to stay in touch with when we are face to face with less than stellar results. It so easy to think that our failure really is a cosmic message that we need to throw in the towel and do something less than extraordinary.
The article is to help you keep your perspective so that you can reach the heights you wish to reach.
Purpose: Take a moment and pick out three major failures in your life. Who would you be or what would be true for you if you did not have these experiences? If you have managed to fail forward, then chances are you feel that they served a purpose. If you have gotten stuck it might be a little harder.
Quantity: How many mistakes do you make in the course of the day? Did you drop something, forget something, or trip? Did you do less than a great job on an important task, go the wrong way and get lost?
Mistakes are little failures that are a part of every day. How much we beat ourselves up about these little mistakes determines how much they have a negative impact on our day. This is the same with the big stuff as well. If we can resist the urge to mentally hold onto past set back whether large or small, they cease to have the same impact.
Ambivalence: We really don’t know whether our experience counts as a mistake or failure. In fact, there is really no such thing. The only way that failure exists is as a concept not as a reality. So give up judging your experience and just learn from it and keep moving.