It was mid-2015 when Jessica Postiglione sat down at her computer and started to feel a wave of internal dread. A longtime investment banker, New York-based Postiglione had newly accepted the CEO role at OLIKA, a yet-to-launch personal care company that was planning to specialize in natural hand sanitizer.
“I went from a job where I had an uncontrollable inbox to one where no one would respond to me," she remembers, adding that when responses did come, many were discouraging. “At one point, I took a step back and wondered if I had missed something, if I was launching something that wasn't going to work."
Postiglione's 'wondering' is a familiar feeling to arguably every entrepreneur on the planet and it has many titles—from monkey mind to internal critic to imposter syndrome.
“[This voice] is so prominent, everyone deals with it," says Nishank Khanna, a serial entrepreneur based in New York who now works as chief marketing officer at Clarify Capital.
“For many of us, we deal with it millisecond by millisecond. It's just a matter of how to manage those voices so they don't take over."
It is best to speak with other people, hear success stories, hear failures and realize that everyone goes through ups and downs.
—Nishank Khanna, chief marketing officer, Clarify Capital
Why does every entrepreneur deal with this?
The reasons vary by the person, but there are a few possible culprits, namely lack of confidence. “It is, by far, the biggest challenge I see in my clients who are business owners," says Shawngela Pierce, owner of Seek Within You, a coaching practice based in Arizona. “I see them have moments of inspiration and then I see them get close to talking themselves out of it."
Entrepreneurial success stories, while sometimes inspiring, can also contribute to the strength of critical voices. “What they don't hear are the stories of business owners mortgaging their homes, of almost going bankrupt a dozen times," Postiglione says.
So, how can entrepreneurs move forward with these voices batting around in their heads? Here are a few ideas.
1. Meditate daily.
Both Pierce and Khanna swear by sitting quietly with their eyes closed. Khanna starts every day with a two minute meditation immediately upon getting to his desk.
“Just close your eyes and focus on your breathing," he says. “When you open your eyes, visualize achieving your end goal. The inner 'boogie man' hates it when you manifest your success. Watch him disappear."
2. Talk it out.
Postiglione tries to surround herself with other entrepreneurs with whom she can be honest and talk about everything from negative thoughts to company revenue projections. She recommends other business owners find their own circle of trusted friends or colleagues and have regular meetups to talk things through with people who can relate.
3. Be honest when asked.
Khanna remembers the expectations that came along with being a founder. “If I was at a party and someone asked me how things were going, I'd always tell them everything was awesome," he says. “But I realized that constantly keeping up a facade like that just hurts me on the inside. The goal, I realized, is finding your truth and living it."
He recommends founders be honest with their challenges if asked and talking about the issues they are facing. “Maybe the person you're talking to has a solution you haven't thought of and might be able to give you a solid piece of advice," he says. “But at the very least, you being yourself will give them permission to be themselves, too."
4. Rewrite your story.
Much of Pierce's work focuses on how a person's subconscious thought can dramatically impact his or her life. She uses affirmations to help business owners think differently, and by doing so, she says they create a different 'story' for themselves. She recommends starting with affirmations that are believable. Instead of saying 'I'm going to be a billionaire,' she suggests starting a little smaller.
“I have a client who doesn't feel like she deserves anything," Pierce says. “We've been working together on statements where she tells herself that she deserves everything in life—success, an abundance of money, and so on. She's been saying this to herself daily for only a little while now and I'm already seeing a transformation. She is way more confident. I can tell she is living a new story."
5. Identify your limiting beliefs.
Sometimes it can be hard for entrepreneurs to figure out why certain thoughts rise to the tops of their brains. Pierce recommends setting a timer for one minute and just focusing on the thoughts that come up. Write them down at the end of the minute and to flesh out what might be holding you back.
6. Find a community.
“A lot of founders will live in a cocoon and think they can spend a month building something in their bedrooms, then come out and they will be successful. In reality, it is best to speak with other people, hear success stories, hear failures and realize that everyone goes through ups and downs," says Khanna. “A physical community is always better, but if you live in a remote location, try to find a digital community."
7. Lighten the mood.
Pierce says founders can allow seriousness to mire their thinking. “When you're grumpy, bad things happen and it takes the joy out of life," she says. “Allow the process to unfold for you and be lighthearted about it. Know you will be successful, let go and have fun."
Three years after Postiglione sat down in front of her computer, overwhelmed at the thought of launching a new company, OLIKA now has more than 60 distribution partners and is growing more every day—proof that dedication to quelling your inner critic and speaking your truth with other entrepreneurs, combined with daily hard work, pays off.