Entrepreneurs can take a lesson from Sheryl Crow hit, “Soak up the Sun.” During the chorus she sings, “For every time I feel lame; I’m looking up.” For those who start and build a new enterprise, the need to keep “looking up” is critical for success. An entrepreneur is like a salmon trying to swim upstream through rapids. It takes an unnatural degree of effort, and the dearest struggle usually comes while all outward signs present a negative face.
That’s when the dark little voice inside speaks its discouraging words. Cole Porter nails this feeling in a song Sinatra made famous, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” In the lyrics, the singer talks about pursuing his love “In spite of a warning voice that comes in the night and repeats, how it yells, in my ear: ‘Don’t you know, poor fool, you never can win. Wake up to reality.’”
We all get that “reality voice” in our ear in the dark of night when we’re going through the most difficult stretch in creating a business. That nighttime voice is the most discouraging of all. It says: “What on earth gave you the idea that you could succeed where others failed?” There’s no reasoning with this voice. You simply have to override it with positive reinforcement and leaving it little room to break through a loud and constant blare of YES I CAN!
My son’s grandmother immigrated to the U.S. from The Philippines. Like many first-generation immigrants, she had a fiery entrepreneurial spirit and a profound appreciation for American opportunities. When my son was born, she looked at his fresh young face and said, “We have to build up his ego.” I chuckled at this odd statement and asked what she meant. “The world will try to tear him down. So we have to build him up strong. We have to make sure he hears only positive things about himself.”
If you didn’t have a grandmother with that golden wisdom, you’re going to have to learn to do it yourself. You will need to create your own special propaganda that says “Yes I can, yes I can, yes I can” over and over in countless versions until you half-convince yourself you may succeed. If you can persuade yourself, you stand a much greater chance of persuading customers, banks, investors and your immediate family, all of whom need continual reassurance through your start-up.
Is it possible to brainwash yourself to success by repeating positive mantras? There is certainly a danger that you might convince yourself to keep a doomed business alive until you’ve lost every family nickel. If that’s your fear, you might want to run your business plan and situation by a seasoned entrepreneur. Try S.C.O.R.E. It’s a group of retired business people who offer free advice to entrepreneurs. S.C.O.R.E. members have an presence at every S.B.A. office.
Once you get some reassurance that you may actually succeed in your rocky endeavor, then brainwash yourself with a flow of positive input. Try books like, “Rich Dan Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki or “Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life,” by Martin Seligman. The audio book versions are particularly effective, since you can play them over and over in your car, soaking up power of repetitive positive messages.
There are also a few churches that are very good at teaching positive thought. Unity and Religious Science have churches and learning centers throughout the U.S. These groups share the same New Thought roots from the 1880s. It’s all based on improving your life through positive belief. Motivational speaker, Les Brown, based his prosperity message on New Thought teachings.
Keep in mind, that positive thought doesn’t make you a more skilled entrepreneur. You will learn your business skills the ancient way, by making big mistakes and taking corrective action. In time, your corrective action dominates and you’ll make fewer mistakes. Positive thought offers you the ability to keep going while you make mistake after mistake on your rough path toward success. All positive thought does is keep you from quitting before you learn how to run a business.