How I Learned To Get Out Of My Own Way When Running A Business
I was living just outside NYC, running a reasonably successful fashion site that had mentions in Vogue and follows by celebrities. But I was working from home, stumbling along. I was getting in my own way.
One afternoon in 2011, I received an email from a stranger requesting a phone call to discuss the site. I wrote back asking if we could email instead. Sure, a phone call would've been quicker, efficient, and certainly more professional.
But I was shy and extremely self-conscious about my foreign accent. I often found myself repeating words over and over until people understood me. However, the stranger insisted on a call, and with no legitimate excuse to give him, I eventually relented.
Two days later, shaky and nervous, I picked up the phone. The call lasted a total of six minutes, and by the end of it, I had scored a $16K advertising deal for my site.
Facepalm, right? It took about two seconds for me to realize how I had been—consistently and effortlessly—standing in my own way when it came to my business.
Who knew what other opportunities I had missed out on by letting my insecurities, neuroses and quirks get in the way. At that moment, I simultaneously cheered for joy at the deal and vowed never to stand in my own way again.
Here are the steps I've taken to stay open to new ideas and experiences—both in business and life. Hopefully they help you too.
Fake it until you make it
I could make my business sound impressive on paper. Mentions in Vogue? Celebrity followers? And now, an advertising deal with a major brand? These things mattered to outside eyes. But behind the scenes, I still felt as though I was an imposter. That it was all just luck and soon I'd be found out.
So, I decided to shift my thinking. A year later, I decided to pitch to the same brand for that year's advertising campaign. This time around, I'd take fate into my own hands, prove to myself the deal wasn't a one-off lucky break. It took a week to write my pitch.
I emailed my connections at what I hoped was the right time. My inbox went quiet. Then, three weeks later, I landed a $25K deal. This time around, I knew it was because of my hard work and because I went after it.
Don't make assumptions about other people
A few years ago, I got talking to a woman who was new to my neighborhood, and we hit it off. We planned to meet up for coffee once her and her husband had settled into their new place, but I never heard from her. And I didn't have her details.
I remembered the Friends scene where Ross is stood up on a blind date and is asked something to the effect of: "Do you think she saw you and left?" Instead of wondering if she thought I was weird (or similar), I let it go. There could be 20 different reasons she didn't contact me, none of which I'd ever know.
Why should I spend time focusing on a "reason" that would only serve to bring me down?
Say yes, think later
After a couple of years of being in business, I started receiving invites to fashion events. I always said no. I was too shy and too nervous. But after that fateful phone call, I realized this was another obstacle I would have to overcome if I wanted to grow—in business, but also emotionally.
Soon after, I received an invitation to preview a brand's collection at their showroom. My knee-jerk reaction was to say no, but I had instituted a new rule: Say yes, think later. So, I did. I accepted the invite.
I told myself that I could always back out later, but honestly, once I had said yes, I felt obliged to follow through with the commitment. The good news? It was never as painful as I had been expecting, and it helped my business grow.
Remind yourself of your "why"
Although I am ambitious and determined, I can also be lazy. About four years ago, I decided I needed to start exercising. I wanted to make sure my body was strong long before it needed to be.
So, I downloaded the Couch to 5K app and started a jogging routine. I hate running, just for the record. It bores me, which means any excuse not to run, I'd take. It's cold. It's windy. My ankle hurts. But then I read an article about knowing why you are doing the things you do, and I'd remind myself about my "why" whenever it came time to go for a jog.
Life always has trade-offs. If you want to be physically healthy, you may have to do something you don't enjoy. Reminding yourself of your ultimate purpose is not a fail-safe method, but it does have an impact. What's your "why?"
Words: Bryna Howes
Photo: Daria Kobayashi Ritch