Startups and Downs: Book Tour Learnings

Over the last couple weeks, my book tour has taken me across the countryNYU Stern, UCLA Anderson, Business Rockstars, Springboard, Techstars and the Penn Club. During conversations about Startups and Downs with different Founders, I noticed a few topics consistently came up: the ways we hold ourselves back, the impact of our daily habits, and the importance of measuring outcomes.

Reversing Your Limiting Beliefs

During a Founder panel I hosted at UCLA Anderson, the topic of limiting beliefs (a.k.a. those nasty thoughts that undermine our ability to act) came up.

“I had so many limiting beliefs when I was raising capital for the first time,” admitted Joanna Newman McFarland, Co-Founder and CEO of HopSkipDrive, “We are female, we have no tech background, we have kidsand our list went on. We found a way to keep on going because we believed in what we were doing. There was a need that no one was solving.”

The beliefs that limit us come from a variety of places. The standard list of criminals: our family, friends, teachers, the media, and our own interpretation of the world around us. When we’re younger, we’re often taught lessons that protect us from getting hurt. (e.g. it’s impossible to make money as an actress or a writer). But as we grow older and yearn to break out of our comfort zones, those beliefs can hold us backespecially as Founders.

As entrepreneurs, it’s essential to surround ourselves with people who have meaningful impact in our lives. Think about the four or five people you spend most of your time with. Do they hold you back in any way or do they force you to level up? Now think about how you perceive yourself and the world. Are those ideas holding you back or do they propel you forward? When things are putting limits on your potential (like you not believing in yourself), you need to work to either reverse them or eliminate them. Think of it like pulling weeds. However, there is one problem to be cognizant ofno matter what you do, some weeds always pop up over time. When that happens, simply recognize them and get rid of them.

Here’s what I mean: If you want to start a business but you don’t believe that you’re creative enough to pull it off, then commit to brainstorming every day. Your job is to come up with at least two new business ideas that solve a pain point every single day. Doing that one thing that you think you can’t do will challenge your beliefs about yourself.

Hello, Daily Habits and Goodbye, Anxiety

During a fireside chat at NYU Stern, I spoke to a group of aspiring entrepreneurs about how daily rituals such as meditating, can help you make significant progress over time. We spoke about how I make daily lists that cover what aspire to do for my mind, body, and spirit (but your lists can cover any buckets that you value such as Financial, Physical, Mental, Career, Relationship, or Health). For example, if you send an email to at least one new friend daily, then in three months’ time, your social network will undoubtedly be strengthened. If you commit to saving an extra $100 a month, by the end of the year, then you’ll have made significant strides to adding to your rainy-day fund.

My habit of creating daily goals keeps me focused on the present rather than giving me anxiety about the future. So for example, instead of worrying about whether I’ll be able to finish the sprint triathlon in July, I worry about how many miles I’ve biked today. Having a daily goal can provide you with instant gratification and help you make progress toward your longer-term goalswhich also can help allay your anxiety.

Why Measurement Matters

During my tour I also interviewed Thanh Khuu, Co-Founder and President of Hollar. He told me, “There is no benefit from being emotional about your outcomes. If you measure everything, then you know what to do more of and what to do less of. And measurement motivates you to come up with better ideas on how to solve your problems.”

Measurements are helpful because they take the unknown and make them known. For example, in sales it’s important to measure how much does finding a new customer cost or how many customers do you lose monthly. Measurements won’t magically tell you how to fix your problems, but they will shed light on a situation, pull you out of the black box of indecision, and help you figure out what is happening. And most importantly, they won’t (or shouldn’t) stunt youwhen you have the information, you will almost always feel inspired to find a solution.