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entreprenuership - Steven Cox | San Diego, CA

Use Doubt to Your Benefit

By Entrepreneur Insights No Comments

Doubt is one of those feeling that can be debilitating or serve a purpose when used correctly. Here’s an article on the subject I wrote for Fast Company.

** This article written by me was originally published in Fast Company magazine in April 2014 **

Definition of Confidence

Doubt–at one point or another, every entrepreneur has experienced the sinking feeling that his or her best work is just not good enough.

No matter how successful you feel you are, doubt has a way of seeping its way into your head. As your company matures, difficulties will change in shape and scope, but they will never stop coming. The key distinction between entrepreneurs who do succeed and those who don’t is their ability to train their minds to overcome the doubt that accompanies these challenges.

The first step is understanding the distinction between two types of doubt: Healthy doubt is constructive and destructive doubt is inhibitive. Entrepreneurs should always strive to cultivate and embrace healthy doubt, while minimizing the negative effects of destructive doubt.

Discerning the difference

Most entrepreneurs have a strategic yearly or quarterly plan that provides direction regarding the strategies, tactics, and goals of their companies. Healthy doubt allows them to look at their plan through the lens of reality and acknowledge the high probability that their strategy may not materialize as planned, in spite of their best efforts. Healthy doubt offers a realistic perspective of the plan’s ability–or inability–to predict a company’s future.

You are experiencing healthy doubt if you:

  • Challenge your assumptions
  • Are feeling driven
  • Are aware of the changing marketplace
  • Ask, “What’s our backup plan if we’re wrong?”
  • Accept the reality that sometimes you’ll miss the mark
  • Know that each stumble is just part of climbing the mountain

Destructive doubt takes hold when entrepreneurs allow their mindset and confidence to be shaken by the changes that are bound to happen. Destructive doubt overcomes the entrepreneur when they allow the ups and downs of the startup merry-go-round to negatively affect their commitment and confidence.

You are experiencing destructive doubt if you:

  • Question your abilities
  • Are feeling paralyzed
  • Are blind to opportunities
  • Say, “I’ll never try that again”
  • Look at failure as a negative feature of your personal self-worth
  • Think a stumble is the end of the world

Altering your thinking

Cultivating healthy doubt is an art form that is developed over time, and it requires mental discipline. By accepting your imperfections, being comfortable with failing fast, and by persevering when you stumble, entrepreneurs can build the mental fortitude that prevents destructive doubt from taking hold, and enables healthy doubt to flourish.

The more practice you get, the better you will be at harnessing the positive power of healthy doubt, which reinforces the reality that you can indeed build the company and lifestyle of your dreams.

The next time you face a challenge and hear your inner voice siding with destructive doubt, take a moment to stop, acknowledge what you’re feeling, and choose to view it through a different lens. A simple decision to modify your perspective can change destructive doubt into healthy doubt, turning a roadblock into a surge ahead.

 

My Interview on the Brian Britt Show: Part 2 of 2

By At Work, Speaking, Start-Ups, TakeLessons.com No Comments

I had the opportunity to go on the Brian Britt Show and talk about music and the TakeLessons story. Check it out below:

Listen to the podcast.

The transcription is below if you'd rather read.

Brianbrittshow

Brian Britt: Fantastic. So really what you're saying is you took your ability as a techie and obviously you were involved in a lot of start up companies. you took that ability and you married it together with a need for all these people who probably weren't very techie to be able to come together and find eachother, almost like a Match.com for teachers. And I met my wife on Match.com, and we have so many friends and even family members who have met their spouses on Match.com so, that's a perfect example of people who may have never found eachother who can come into the relationship knowing something about each other, in this case the student or the parent, who's going to be very protective of who they allow to come in their home, they can know a lot about this music instructor and know that you guys stake your reputation on making sure that this person had the proper background check done. I love it. So let's go back to the story, because this is such a fascinating story to me, So you had this epiphany, how did you go from, cuz we all have these kind of great ideas in the shower or the margarita bar, how did you go from that idea to putting it into motion. What were your action steps as the successful CEO you are today. What was your first thing you did to go from, wow, wouldn't that be cool to go to hey, I'm doing it! What did you do?

Steven Cox: I think if I take a look back, our first step, well the biggest thing was, we were driven by this idea. We thought it was a solid idea. We approached it from the viewpoint of hey, this looks like a very good experiment, let's try it out. And one thing that I tell startups when I have the opportunity to talk with them is that for the first couple years, really what you're looking for is proof of concept. Can you develop something that people will pay for, that people enjoy, creates a difference and has some kind of competitive advantage. So we worked on the idea and started fleshing it out. I had personally put my own money in on it to start with and recruited an incredible group of four or five people around me, and they're all still with me today. What was cool about this, and this is the way of life of a start up specifically in technology which we were based and how we were doing this; for instance, my VP of technology Chuck Smith, he went without pay for a year and a half and literally built the system. And so what's great about that is he came in and we found people who were really passionate about the idea of bringing services to the web as well as helping artists make a living doing what they love to do.

We started building it and I'd love to say Brian from day one everything went perfect, we had no issues…

BB: We would know then that you were not telling the truth! You have to make the mistakes!

SC: But the truth of the matter is that we started working out of a local Starbucks, three or four guys, we started understanding a little bit about the value that we provide to the marketplace went through three or four different iterations of what we do as far as the value that we provide and after about a year into it, we started understanding, after listening to the consumer, getting it wrong, listening to the consumer getting it wrong again, listening to the consumer, the value that we provide and honestly, one of our core values inside the company, is called perseverance. Basically, that means certainty in the face of fear and that's really the key to our success is that we just kept going.