Every disruptive entrepreneur all hear doubtful voices from time to time – the only difference is the way we contend with them.
Negative voices in our heads are natural, and help warn us when we are about to do something that carries a risk. Without any internal mechanisms to highlight danger – and that goes for physical, emotional, and even entrepreneurial danger – most people would fail to take their decisions seriously and make poor choices as a result.
The voices that I want to discuss today have nothing to do with mental health problems or the more useful warning mechanisms that have been hardwired into us by evolution. The voices I want to talk about now are the ones that most of us would be better off without, and the ones that do more harm to your entrepreneurial mindset than good.
My own insecurities
When any disruptive entrepreneur is having a rough day, the tiniest facial expression, message or decision can sometimes convince you that you have offended someone, and incidents like this often result in the negative voices starting to speak.
For some disruptive entrepreneurs, that voice is a hyper-critical, negative, and cruel “outside” voice, which casts shadows over their business mindset. Other people hear one of their parents, or a mentor, or perhaps someone who mistreated, abused or bullied them in the past.
For me, I hear a more sceptical, negative, “victim” version of myself.
Back when I was a struggling artist, I had low self-belief and struggled to promote myself. On the rare times that I gathered the courage to approach a gallery, even before I booked a meeting or got onto the train, I would find myself imagining the conversation, and how it would go: “This art is terrible. Go home.”
Around the same age of 24, I had the same thing with approaching girls. I always assumed that if I were to go and introduce myself to an attractive girl in a club, they would turn feral, demand that the DJ stopped the music, declare what a loser I was to the rest of the club and have the bouncers kick me out.
It’s ridiculous, and I think that even back then a small part of me knew that. But that didn’t take away the voice’s strength.
Rationalising the voices
No matter who the voice sounds like, it’s still just a part of who you are. So if it tells you that a decision or an event is going to play out in one certain way, it’s likely to be wrong. Those movies that played out in my head whenever I considered showing a critic my work or introducing myself to a girl could just as easily have been incorrect, and led to something good instead of the doom and gloom I was predicting.
Ask yourself: what thought process serves you best? If you want to succeed in a certain area, surely it is far more logical and beneficial to your ego and your self-worth to imagine something good? When your confidence and your self-worth is better (as long as you aren’t arrogant with it!), then your behaviour is too, and you become a better parent, a better partner, a better salesperson, or a better leader of your business.
As a disruptive entrepreneur, these doubtful voices and unhelpful movies often play when you are about to make a business decision, or try something new. However, it does not serve you to play yourself a bad movie, or let a vicious, negative voice tell you a story that might not be true. It serves you better to acknowledge the dangers and risks of the decision or the opportunity, but after weighing the situation up, to tell yourself that the outcome will be better than you’re expecting – and might even be good!
Summoning a clearer head by helping others
Quite often, negative voices before business decisions come about in the form of Imposter Syndrome, and the belief that you are a fraud, and that you don’t have enough experience to be making such a choice. But you don’t need to have been in the industry for 73 years, you don’t have to have turned over £50 million, and you don’t need to own a worldwide chain of hotels or 200,000 properties to have something to offer. Confidence in overcoming those voices and boosting your entrepreneurial mindset can come in the form of helping others.
Regardless of how confident you are, if you know just a small amount about a specialised subject, then you know more about it than 99% of the population. Rather than tell yourself that you are a fraud, try to realise that you have something to offer, and concentrate on helping the right niche.
In the same way that if you’ve played guitar for a year, you can help those who have never played, if you own 5 properties, help those who have none. Confidence, self-development, refining your entrepreneurial mindset and educating your peers are all routes to quietening those negative voices.
What you can do – self-development
The question is, can you get better at listening to the positive voices than the bad ones? Can you self-coach and self-develop in ways that will help you to manage the voices, investing in better education, reading books and listening to podcasts to keep yourself topped up and targeting those insecurities and uncertainties?
Confidence and self-worth are not attached to switches that can turn them on or off; they are more like muscles, which need developing, building upon and refining. By recognising your strengths and embracing them while accepting the weaker points but not allowing them to overwhelm you, you’ll find that your self-awareness and inner strength build while those negative voices that do not serve you become quieter with time.
What kind of voices do you sometimes have, telling you things that do not serve you? How do you combat them? Has self-development or self-coaching helped you quiet those unhelpful voices?