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Great ETA post: Got Self-doubt?

December 12, 2009
Got Self-Doubt? Great! Where Can it Take You?

Another great post by Lisa Canning at Entrepreneur the Arts

dreamstime_1200989So are you making the right decision? How do you know? Does self-doubt sabotage your willingness to experiment with new ideas, interests or meet new people? Self-doubt often increases our self-judgment, making us more self-conscious and less entrepreneurial.

Self-doubt serves an important entrepreneurial role– one of insight– offering opportunity to access a situation factually for evidence to support or deny our concerns, as well as gives us an opportunity to test our tolerance for risk. When you doubt you instantly create room in your mind to begin to learn how to set your emotions aside and access a situation, individual or circumstance, in the moment, and figure out how to maximize (or bring to light) the positives. What an important skill worth developing if you want to live life on your own terms by becoming an entrepreneur.

A friend of mine, Sabrina, a graduate of one of the finest design schools in the country, wrestled with her self-doubts after graduating from college. As a superstar in product design, it was an easy decision for Sabrina to get a job that paid a good salary and benefits designing shampoo bottles, shaving razors, telephone headsets, yogurt cartons, and the packaging for many products you see in Target, CVS or Walgreens.

The problem was that Sabrina didn’t want to design product packaging. She wanted to throw clay pots– but designing packaging made her easy money. Her burning desire was to be in her customers’ lives everyday in clay, not plastic packaging–

When I asked Sabrina to share with me her story about how she overcame her self-doubt, this is what she told me:

I knew I could make a great living designing bottles and packages, and I knew that I could also create beautiful ceramic designs that made people happy to open their cabinets and fill my bowl with their cereal—but for years I let my self-doubts control me. I never stopped and tried to work through my fears actually, I just let my self-doubt judge and access for me what I should do. It was pretty cut and dried for a long time that this was the way it was going to be.

And then one day, I was selling one of my pots to the sister of a friend and we had this wonderful conversation about the platter she had purchased from me the year before. I was filled to the brim with pride and decided right then that I had spent years being afraid of failing to make enough money, but never EVEN TRIED to come up with a plan to address my fears and make sure that did not happen. For years my self -doubts had stopped me from literally thinking. I allowed my same fears to serve as ultimatums instead of an internal guiding light to help me devise a plan to overcome what I feared most- starving.

I decided that if my platters and bowls could talk to my customers they would really understood why I loved my work besides what my pots and bowls could do to make their lives happier. I decided my chances of earning enough from my work would dramatically improve if I could accomplish this and that it was worth taking a risk.

So I quit my job with six months of savings, ran an ad for a roommate to minimize my expenses, and began my business by focusing on making sure my customers really knew why I wanted to make plates and platters and bowls. I decided to call my business “The Singing Bowl” and began by writing funny newsletters about the secret longings of my ceramic pieces waiting for the day they would have a cabinet of their own and an owner who couldn’t wait to see them each day. I made up stories about each piece and put each one next to the product. When the platter or bowl sold, I asked to take a picture of the customer with it and had them tell me a story about how functional it was for them and what they most enjoyed about using it.

I gave some of my ceramic pieces names like Sun Shine Matters to a Platter, and one of my coffee cup designs I named One Sip and You’ll Swoon. They sold so well that I decided to create a whole series called The Sunny Side of Life Collection. I always wanted to design things that people really use, and don’t just throw away, and now I finally do!

And if your wondering, yes, Sabrina still has moments of self-doubt—particularly when her sales are slow or she has to have an unplanned repair made to her kiln—but now she uses those doubts as a challenge to figure out what she needs to do to counteract her concerns and turn them into opportunities. And when she cannot– she is grateful for having self-doubt to help her discover all the reasons why listening to that voice was a good decision for her creativity and pocketbook.

What can you learn from Sabrina’s story?

The weakness in your critical or strategic thinking or business idea often surfaces through self-doubt. When your significant other doubts you, your friends tell you to quit, and your bank account overdraws, its only natural to doubt yourself– and with good reason. Use those moments to evaluate how to focus your creativity, work more efficiently, be more resourceful and increase your sense of reality– instead of dictating, without reason, a life direction.

As time passes, you will use your self-doubt as a tool, instead of fearing its presence– or worse allowing it to control your life decisions. Self-doubt is an excellent instinct you were blessed with. Use it as a feather marker to help you find and stay on the path forward in your entrepreneurial journey.

Are you ready to risk? Let us help you develop your instincts into your own entrepreneurial reality.


The Rule of Four

Posted: 09 Dec 2009 08:15 AM PST

Of course! You chose the arts in order to pursue meaningful and gratifying work. Sure, paying your dues and taking on a fair share of lame gigs along the way is permissible. You might even temporarily accept a “day job” to, you know, help out with the bills. But this is all leading somewhere. Somewhere important. Ultimately, the vast majority of your projects will be artistically fulfilling, personally rewarding, and/or helpful to society. Right?

Unfortunately, many artists get stuck or lost along the way. Suddenly, they’re 40, 50, or 60, yet still haven’t fulfilled their calling. Instead, they find themselves trapped in a life that has little to do with the reason they went into the arts in the first place.

Don’t let this happen to you. Follow The Rule of Four!


Re-assess your professional progress four times a year.

Scheduling an afternoon for reflection and goal planning every three months is one of the best ways to ensure you don’t stagnate on the journey towards your professional aspirations. Whether you’re still a student or in the prime of your career, this practice will propel you forward.

When doing this, don’t just think things through in your head. Write down your ideas. Study after study has shown that people who map goals on paper are much more likely to accomplish them than those who don’t. Somehow, putting them in writing makes these objectives feel more real and urgent, greatly increasing the odds they will be realized. After your session, keep the notes in a visible location so you are regularly reminded about them.

During each session, address the following:

  1. What are your top three large-scale goals as a professional? And have they changed since your last planning session? Three is a good number, since too many objectives can feel overwhelming, causing people to spread themselves too thin or suffer paralysis.
  2. How are you closer to realizing these goals now than you were three months ago? What specific actions were taken since the last planning session? Did unexpected opportunities or obstacles arise?
  3. Where are you spending time that detracts from goals? The problem with a day job or work unrelated to your vision is that it robs time and energy from your core purpose. While few musicians have the luxury of only accepting dream gigs, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each commitment. Be careful not to get sucked into a cycle where all you’re doing is less fulfilling and energy draining work.
  4. What pro-active steps will you take in the next three months? Be realistic, but also ambitious. The more specific you are when outlining actions, the better. For example, don’t just write “market teaching studio.” How will you do this? Set up a website? Network with local band directors? Mail out a press release about your unique teaching philosophy? Then, be sure to execute these objectives, so you’ll have progress to report for this 90 day period.

It’s impossible to know exactly what life has in store. But by charting a course and recalibrating regularly, it’s much more likely that you’ll arrive at a desirable destination.


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