Understanding Entrepreneur Mental Health: Doubt Doesn’t Win

Founders need to frame their ideas and structure their communication in visionary, winning terms in order to grab investor attention. Investors buy into big visions. They need a home run – even better, a grand slam – in order to make money. We need to play big in order to win. This is something Clarence Bethea talks about, and Rudy Ellis hipped me to.

However, all too often diverse founders use safe, less risky language while pitching investors (or other parties) that results in a more defensive play. And so they might be overlooked for someone with a louder voice and more confident manner. Someone who believes in their own ideas, and sells them. Someone they can trust. Someone who doesn’t doubt.

What’s at work?

Part of the issue could be that people from different groups explain concepts in different ways; miscommunication or a lack of synchronization could be happening. Or the disconnect could come down to a lack of trust, and how we are conditioned to think in this country.

But doubt reflects a lack of belief in your own abilities and ideas. Doubt is synonymous with a defensive mindset. As an entrepreneur, your employees, colleagues, and supporters are all taking their cues from you. So when the leader embraces doubt, it puts the company in a bad position.

How do we build trust, then? How do we dismantle our own doubt?

What should we do?

Ask yourself: Do I have a big, hairy, audacious goal? Then frame your mindset around that massive ambition and ensure your actions reflect it. Talk about where you are going; not where you’ve been. 

Have you made a mistake? Move past it. Learn from it. Then, act like it didn’t even happen. 

Become self-aware. When you recognize what is happening, then you can begin to correct it. What are the power dynamics at work? How can I change them?

What do you need?

Do you need validation? Therapy? A hug? Maybe it’s all three? Perhaps you need to give yourself permission to go on offense, and to be free to be who you are. That permission ultimately comes from within. Shake off any mistakes or deficits, and immerse yourself in your vision. People can sense when you are not being authentic.

Change your mindset and adjust your attitude. Believe “they” (whether “they” are investors, pitch competition judges, potential customers/clients or whoever) need you as much or more as you need them. Navigate the conversation back  toward the vision of success. And if they say NO? It’s their loss. You are moving on. 

Play to win

Many people know that I’m from the state of Alabama, and I love their football team. I often like to give the illustration of the Crimson Tide football team’s attitude. They believe they are going to win the championship every single year – with or without you. It’s your choice whether you want to join their team or watch them win the championship. 

So how does that translate to an entrepreneur? Think like the Alabama football team. Be confident, be arrogant, and believe you can do the impossible. 

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