"I Don't Have What it Takes to Be an Entrepreneur"
What does ‘Not Good Enough’ sound like?
If you’ve ever had the thought that you have nothing to offer, or that you don’t have what it takes to be an online entrepreneur, that’s Not Good Enough yelling in your ear. This passenger is quite adept at letting us know that we don’t have the experience, the desire, the whatever that we need to make it with our businesses and brands.
But wait, isn’t that what Imposter Syndrome sounds like? And Envy?
Well, yes. They do kinda sound like that. Sometimes it can be difficult discerning one Passenger from another, especially when it seems like they’re all talking at the same time. Here’s how you can differentiate them:
Envy tells you that you deserve what somebody else has (and maybe also that the somebody else doesn’t deserve it).
Imposter Syndrome tells you that you don’t deserve anything because you aren’t a real insert-what-you-do-here (a real graphic designer or a real social media marketing coach or a real Etsy seller, etc.)
Not Good Enough tells you that you might be a real entrepreneur, but you won’t ever get anywhere with it because you lack what it takes to succeed (consistency, courage, marketing skills, whatever).
Not Good Enough makes us feel like McDreamy here. We’re already a surgeon, dammit, so why is it that no matter what we say or what we do we still feel like there’s more we need to say or do? Why isn’t medical school and residency and showing up and saving lives enough?? (In his case it probably has something to do with relationship drama so it’s not exactly the same, but you get the point.)
Why does our mind torment us so?
We are the badass surgeon in our field. Nobody shares our unique stories, our completely original point of view, or the exact skillset we have at our disposal. There might be similarities between us and the next vegan lifestyle coach or the next systems expert, but we aren’t all the same and that’s powerful. Our uniqueness is enough. Period.
Long answer: because our brains are a lot like calculators - they are machines that receive information and give you answers in response. Have you ever had a math teacher tell you that all your calculator can do is compute whatever information you give it? You reeeeally want it to just solve the ridiculous word problem on your test (two trains traveling at different speeds in the opposite direction…), but you have to know what to put in if you want it to spit out the correct answer.
The mind operates similarly to that calculator when it receives information. The information in our case is what we observe: other entrepreneurs online. In the same way that a calculator isn’t going to just receive a formula and then hold onto it, our brains don’t want to just observe. (They hate not having anything to do, which I don’t understand because most of the time all I want is to have nothing to do!) They want to calculate, problem solve, decipher, decode, and explain.
Our mind is reading our emotions and determining what they mean
We know our brains are computers. What we might not realize, however, is just how much information they receive and process on a daily basis. Since we’re humans, we house and are capable of experiencing an incredible amount of emotions from moment to moment. If we were to try and list all of the emotions we’ve felt over the course of our lives, we might run out of paper before we run out of words.
Luckily, they can all be categorized under four main umbrellas: joy, sadness, anger, and fear. (If you’ve watched Inside Out a bunch of times and Disgust is your favorite, I’m sorry.)
What emotions is my brain trying to solve by telling me I’m not good enough?
Good question. The more we know about where this Noisy Passenger is coming from, the better we can respond to it when it’s all up in our ears.
One big trigger is fear. We see others killing it and we become afraid that there isn’t room for us to be great as well, at least not if we show up as ourselves. Even though we, too, are experts in our field or carrying a wealth of knowledge gleaned from our experiences, we don’t see space for those stories to fit into an already crowded online environment.
We might also be afraid that we won’t make money. We might be stuck in a 9-5 that we hate or we just quit our job and now we need to replace that income, and seeing others already doing what we want to do can ignite all kinds of fear that we need to be better or different or else will end up penniless on the street.
Another emotion that pops up is sadness. Seeing people doing what we want to do can elicit sadness because we are just another fish in a very populous sea. We don’t stand out right away, and we seem small and insignificant compared to other fish who are bigger, more colorful, and have scores of other fish following them.
We also feel sad because our dreams seem like they might never become our realities. We might be a badass developer with an awesome-looking website, but how do we know that will translate into making awesome-looking websites for other people? There are a lot of unknowns in online business, and not knowing if we can actually do it before we’ve actually done it can generate a ton of sadness (and fear) around the possibility of never doing anything remarkable.
Our brain tries to help by interpreting those feelings for us, but it usually only makes matters worse because those interpretations create Noisy Passengers like Not Good Enough that then rain all over our already fragile parade. It wants to solve as quickly as it can, which usually means taking the easy way out. Telling us to quit is so much easier than helping us move forward.
So our minds aren’t always great helpers. What can we do instead?
Even though our minds aren’t great at helping, they are still trying so we have to give them credit. It’s like when your five-year-old wants to help you clean so they try to empty the vacuum for you and end up dumping all the dirt back onto the carpet instead. Help-ing, but not help-ful.
It’s important to remember that the thought counts in those moments. What’s the deeper purpose behind your kid accidentally making the floor dirtier than it was before? They love you and they want to do something kind for you.
What’s the deeper purpose behind your brain sending Not Good Enough onto your bus? It’s trying to help you process your feelings. When sadness and fear show up and get our Noisy Passengers going, however, it’s not always easy to process them in the moment. When we rush through it, our options seem limited:
Run away from them
Act like they aren’t there
Prove them wrong
Truth be told, we could do any or all of those things in response to our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, etc. We won’t get very far on our bus journey that way, so we should probably consider adding a few other options to our arsenal.
1. Pay attention to the Noisy Passengers because they’re telling us what we care about
Olivia, you want me to listen to Not Good Enough when it’s telling me I’m not good enough?
Basically, yes, but actually, no. We aren’t listening to what it’s saying, we’re listening for what it means by what it says. Remember, our mind is trying to be helpful and going about it the wrong way, so there’s important information hidden under all that talk. That information is our values: the decisions we make and actions we take on a daily basis in the direction of a meaningful life and business.
I want to share a story really quickly.
My first time running a half marathon was exciting. I set a goal for myself to run it in under 2 hours. It was important to me so I put a ton of effort into the training.
The race itself was actually pretty great. I felt wonderful the entire time. The training, however, was not as great as the main event.
Why? Because I had to wake up early in the morning to go out and run long distances every day before work, and I chose to be very strict about what I ate. (I actually used the numbers on the nutrition labels at every meal. I was pouring cereal into a measuring cup, y’all.) I tracked my miles, spent money on an extra pair of running shoes so my shoes wouldn’t be worn down on the big day. I thought of everything.
There were days when I wanted to just give up. There were days when my mind was telling me that even though I was a runner, I wasn’t a good enough runner to complete a half marathon in under 2 hours. There were days when I wanted to scrap the runner’s diet and shove a piece of cake into my face.
What kept me going? The fact that I cared deeply about it.
It’s nice to be able to say that we’re motivated by other people who have done what we’re trying to do or other factors that are relying on us to accomplish our goals. As business owners it’s probably great to be encouraged by the clients we work with or the people who give us great feedback on our blog posts and YouTube videos.
The reality, though, is that there are days when even all that isn’t enough. There are days when no amount of ‘positive vibes only’ is enough to spur us on to greatness, or even to spur us out of the bed. Those are the days when we have to tell ourselves that we’re doing this because it matters to us. At the end of the day, we would still be doing this even if we didn’t get the amazing testimonials or didn’t have the reminder that Beyonce has the same 24 hours we do.
I ended up running that first half marathon in one hour, fifty-seven minutes, and forty-three seconds (1:57.43). I remember my number down to the second because it was something I achieved even when I felt like crap because I followed through on something that really, truly mattered to me.
What message could Not Good Enough be sending us beneath the surface? What could be so important that it triggers fear and sadness when it seems like it might not happen for us?
Do we want to be able to quit our 9-5 and work on our own terms?
Do we have a heart for serving people through our work, and we can’t do it the way we want to through our current job?
Maybe we want more time to spend with our family. Maybe we want more time to start a family.
Maybe we want to be a digital nomad and travel the world.
Take a moment to really consider what’s going on when Not Good Enough starts yelling at you. What important message is under there? It might help to get out paper and pen or open up your writing app of choice and journal it out. Chances are there’s something important that you might have lost sight of that’s worth revisiting and remembering.
2. Invite Not Good Enough onto the bus. Permanently.
This one is tough, I will not lie.
If we go back to those three unworkable strategies for dealing with our internal stuff, we see that two of them involve Not Good Enough being gone. Either we actually get rid of it or we pretend we’ve gotten rid of it and just ignore it.
The problem with those strategies is that they don’t actually work. They might get us by in the short term, but they don’t serve us well in the long term.
The brain works by addition, not subtraction. Think of the brain as a network of roads, and our thoughts and feelings and sensations and memories are little tiny cars driving on those roads. The roads that are the most used are the ones that get attention when it’s time to do repairs or add lanes and all that stuff.
Let’s say one of those tiny little cars is Not Good Enough. They show up in our head and we don’t know what to do with it so we send it down “Get Rid of It” Lane. The first time we do that, “Get Rid of It” Lane is just a dirt road. We haven’t really ever used it before and it seems to take care of the car we don’t want driving around.
A week later, however, Not Good Enough is back driving around in there. Sending it down “Get Rid of It” Lane seemed to work last time so we send it down that road again. This time “Get Rid of It” Lane seems to have been paved since the last time we used it. Weird.
As time goes on, every time Not Good Enough shows up we send it down “Get Rid of It” Lane. Pretty soon, “Get Rid of it Lane” goes from a little paved country road to a six-lane highway with tolls because of how frequently it’s used. Our brain has learned that this is the road most traveled so it wants to make sure your thoughts can get to it easily and drive down it quickly.
Unfortunately, we haven’t actually gotten rid of Not Good Enough. The tactic of sending it down “Get Rid of it” Lane (Now “Get Rid of it” Highway) has only given you an easy way out in the moment that doesn’t nothing for addressing that thought long term. We have to keep sending it down that road when it shows up, and it keeps showing up. It’s distracting us from nurturing the other cars we might want to pay attention to, and we end up with traffic jams and pile ups on other roads we care about more, like “Productivity” Street or “Relaxation” Avenue.
Something to consider, and it might take awhile to get the hang of it, is just letting Not Good Enough drive around in there. It’s not speeding. It’s not causing accidents. It’s not running red lights. It’s just there driving around like everyone else. If we can get to a place where we’re welcoming Not Good Enough the same way we welcome the thoughts we’d like to have around, we might not be thrown off or distracted by its presence as much.
In fact, if we expect Not Good Enough to show up on a regular basis, it won’t be so jarring when it does. Think about how much better prepared you are for house guests when you know they’re coming versus when they show up randomly and stay for a month.
3. Take action in the direction of values instead of the direction of Noisy Passengers
Let’s revisit that network of roads in our brain. Remember those other cars driving around? If less of our energy is devoted to chasing down Not Good Enough and sticking it on the road of our choosing, more of our energy can be put into directing traffic in areas that matter to us.
What if one of those cars is Launch the Facebook Group? It’s driving around in there but nobody is pointing it down “Productivity” Street. With no guidance and no attention, that car ends up pulling over and waiting until somebody comes along to tell it what to do and when to do it. Do you have any parked cars right now that matter to you?
Furthermore, if we aren’t pointing anything down “Productivity” Street, it becomes the road that’s dilapidated. The pavement is falling apart and there are plants growing up through the cracks. Our brain doesn’t take care of that road because we aren’t using it so it doesn’t see a need to.
A fun activity!
Grab a pen and paper or open up a Google Doc or Evernote note (or use the sweet sweet printables I made for you below). Set a timer for two minutes and brainstorm all of the goals you have for your business in the next month. Don’t edit yourself or analyze your list; just write.
Once your two minutes is up, pick one of your goals.
Set a timer for ten minutes and break that goal down into steps (again, there's a printable for that). If a step seems too big, break it down into smaller steps. You want to get to a place where you have a list of doable, realistic, baby steps that take you from zero to finished in roughly 30 days.
It doesn’t matter how small the steps are. Tiny steps are still steps in the direction of your values and goals. The only thing that isn’t a step is not taking action (or “trying.” Do or do not. There is no try.) Your steps need to be small enough that you don’t have to try to do them; you just do them.
Take out your planner or your Google Calendar or your scheduling tool of choice and schedule out all of your steps over the next 30 days. If your goal takes a little longer than 30 days that’s fine. Just don’t stretch a 30-day goal out over a whole year. (That’s called procrastination and you know it.)
Follow the steps. (Use the printable to mark off each day.) Congratulate yourself every time you complete a step. Share your steps with an online business buddy for accountability. Post in your favorite online business Facebook Group every time you check a step off your list. (I do this all the time. My favorite Facebook Group sees what I’m up to literally every day.)
When you get to the end and you’re looking at a completed goal, reward yourself in some way. You might even come up with what the reward will be and write that in on the last day of your steps.
Note: If you don’t get it done in your original timeline, it’s okay. You’re human, not perfect. Maybe you didn’t realize step 10 was actually three steps instead of one. No worries. It’s better to extend the timeline by a few days and get it done than to get discouraged, beat yourself up, and stop altogether.
Go forth and conquer, my friend
Now that we have a better picture of why Not Good Enough shows up, what its purpose is for being there, and what we can do in response to it, we can get back to the major task at hand: driving our bus.
Random side note: Does anyone remember the tv show ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition?’ Talking about buses makes me think of the part at the end of every episode when they’d yell, “Move that bus!” and there’d be a ridiculously extravagant house behind it. Let’s adopt the mindset that moving our bus will eventually lead to the ridiculously fulfilling business we want and deserve.
Hit me up in the comments if something you read really resonated with you. I’d love to chat! Also, if you do the activity I’d love to see what you come up with! You can drop a picture of it in the comments too.
Til Next Time,