Five tips to handle the beast.

If you think that you are the only one with that nagging voice in your head that reminds you daily that you are not equipped to being a startup founder, let me be the first one to tell you that you are in the majority not the minority. You are special but in this you are not unique.

I have shared this thought through one-on-one conversations with thousands of founders and the only consistent theme I have ever found is the concept of self-doubt. No matter who you are, where you came from, or how many successes you have, you have an inner critic.

I get it. The very nature of a startup is that you are surrounded by a ton of questions and very few answers. That is the journey through the first days/weeks/months, maybe even years. With that as a backdrop, how can we not be consumed with doubts and inevitably those doubts surface about ourselves?

Tara Mohr is an executive coach (primarily around women) and I first heard the phrase “your inner critic is a liar” in a podcast featuring her thoughts. Like a great business book where you pull out that one thought, I found that phrase captivating.

I am in the advice business. I work with an investment portfolio of just less than 50 companies, and I meet with entrepreneurs almost every day. Invariably I poke and prod until I can break through the business issues to find the core concerns that each founder is carrying with them.

You see, our problem-solving part of our brain is the source of our motivation and inspiration. We see problems or opportunities and we strategically tackle those with our full army of resources. We got that part down.

So what to do with that other part of our brain? The other brain will prevent you from reaching your goals. You must find effective ways to wrestle and master the evil liar.

Tara had some great advice/tools to silence our inner critic and I added a few of my own:

  1. Allow the voice to be present. I hear ya – I recognize you are trying to protect me, but you are too risk-averse for my taste.
  2. Acknowledge the critic and decide to do it anyway. You have probably ignored your parents, your spouse, or your boss on numerous occasions. This voice is no different. Smile and move on.
  3. Put the voice in its place. I like to laugh out loud at the voice, which enables me to diminish the voices power. The voice is a data point in the process, it is not the master.
  4. Don’t argue with the voice. This gives the voice power. Enough said.
  5. See the inner critic for what it really is. The critic is a liar.

The good news is that you are among the many who suffer from this affliction. The bad news is that you must find a way to deal with it or our startup will suffer.

This article first appeared in INC.COM – find more of my articles there.