Having been recently put in the shoes of a solo founder/creator after leaving my full time job, I have seen a fair bit of upheaval and lot of nay-sayers along the way. The fact that everyone seems to think solo founders are not likely to succeed makes it even harder. (Thanks Paul Graham!)
When taking on anything that is new, big and bold, it can be tempting to expect things to be much easier and lose motivation along the way. Here I share three hacks or mindsets that have helped me tremendously and may also help you tackle bigger challenges without losing that motivation that got you started in the first place.
See Frustrations as Learning
Think about the long haul. Is this just a one time project or venture you’re doing or do you want to be in it for the longer term, perhaps for multiple ventures down the road? Anything worthwhile you’ll ever do will have frustrating or unexpected elements built in. Unexpected difficulty is to be expected. How you deal with them decides if it strengthens you for the long run or do you end up cornering yourself towards only doing easier things.
Unexpected Difficulty is to be expected.
One mental approach I apply is to treat each difficulty as a puzzle to be solved. Every day you might be solving 3 new puzzles. This mindset has helped me tremendously. Every time you solve a puzzle, you become better at solving similar puzzles in the future.
Most smart people find it tempting to want to know the answers in advance to everything. This is a common trap. Forego that temptation and embrace “puzzle-solving” everyday to issues you have never encountered before. What I am implying is gamify the whole process a little bit. If you have played frustrating puzzle video or board games before, you can perhaps relate.
Talk to a friend/cheerleader group regularly
It’s easy to be very sure of things in the beginning but you may see motivation start to flag along the way when the Unexpected Difficulty hits. Have a few people in your network or outside it who can care about either you or the project, and make sure you talk to them regularly. They are your cheerleaders.
Note that this is different from the usual advice about finding advisers or mentors. These cheerleaders are more like your friends that you can even hit up late hours and they wouldn’t mind. If you can even find 1–3 such folks, it can help tremendously. If you don’t know anyone, try attending some meetups or conferences and find others who might be on a similar journey as you and you can be friends with.
You can meet them in person or do a video call regularly. I feel seeing their faces helps a lot, so phone calls and emails have less of an effect. Show them what you are doing, get their feedback, look for signals about what they think about your journey. And of course show them support them as well. This can help you realize you are not alone in your challenge.
Sometimes, if you’re focused on building, interacting too much with others can feel like a waste of time. But in my experience this really helps me get outside my own head. And that can be a life saver.
Find something to be excited about, beyond all the logical reasons
There is the rational reason to do or start something, but there is also something that is emotional and exciting about it. It could be about seeing your idea used by many people, or just the vision of building something real out there (which is mighty hard by itself). Creation is an act of courage.
It could be even things that will happen later as a result of this project or challenge — may be it will open up new avenues for you to do other exciting things, help you land a better job, live a different lifestyle, boost your confidence and so on. I call it the “emotional excitement fingerprint” that we tend to get excited about. Identify the biggest 1–3 things that excite you greatly, even if they are really “embarrassing” and may not make sense to others. You don’t have to share them with others. Keep them on the fore-front of your mind every day.
Excitement creates a new kind of drive. Logical reasons alone don’t cut it — sometimes people feel that if things are logically sensible, they shouldn’t run into so many difficulties, and it becomes easier to lose motivation. But if you’re excited about the process, outcome or what lies beyond, it gives you a powerful layer of drive that transcends the logical.
I’ve started on an exciting but challenging journey, in trying to create a project at StockQuanta/CoinQuanta that can change the way most DIY investors around the world look at investments. A bold vision comes with its own roadblocks, unexpected problems and nay-sayers. But with the framework above, problems are not really problems, just puzzles I need to learn to solve sooner or later. Most of them will be there no matter what venture I start, so I might as well learn to solve them now, instead of wishing for an easier path!
Feel free to follow for more insights from my own challenging journey.