Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pam Slim and The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau are must-reads for anyone who has taken, is taking, or is contemplating taking a big leap into founding a startup. I finally had to stop highlighting text in their books because I was highlighting everything. It’s rare to find business books that aren’t padded with rehashed fluff. These books offer practical, actionable advice on every page by people who have been where you are right now. You will feel like they wrote these books just for you because they did.
Though loaded with inspiring and practical information, there are two areas that are shining beacons for every entrepreneur wading through the murkiness of starting up. It’s tough advice to hear, and even tougher to act upon, but you must. These two factors are going to be the driving force behind your work that lies ahead.
Your Time is Priceless
Nothing will get you to understand the worth of your time more than working for yourself. Your time is now at a premium, and no one, and I mean absolutely no one, has the right to waste it. There are people who will be careless with it; there are people who think they own it because you are doing work for them; there are people who don’t respect their own talents, gifts, and time, and therefore it never occurs to them to respect those of others. You have to guard your energy, and your energy is carried on the rails of time.
And I’m not just referring to the hours you may set aside for work, but all of your time. Working for yourself you become acutely aware that your time is your most valuable asset because it is at the core of every decision you make in your business. Don’t just give it away to everyone who requests it. Treat it like the greatest treasure you could hold because it is.
Free time is a misnomer. Time is never, ever free. There is always a trade-off. Even if you are the most-supreme multi-tasker on the planet, there is a limit to how much you can do in any one moment, and you never get a single moment back. It’s spent and gone, and your time is finite. We won’t go on forever. (Unless of course your startup is somehow working on some product or service to create time, in which case, I want to hear from you pronto!)
Pam goes so far as to say that entrepreneurs, and particularly those just starting out, need to “be ruthless with their time” and she’s absolutely right! Would you run out into the street, open your wallet, and hand out money to anyone and everyone you saw? Probably not. So why would you do that with your time?
Forget “would”, “should”, and “could” when it comes to your time. The only word that time understands is “do”. And what you do is always up to you. Be ruthless with your time. Take it very seriously, and do something so valuable with it that it will be worth remembering when it’s gone.
Stop talking and start writing
We can often ourselves around in circles when it comes to our fears. Others will often project their own fears upon you, causing you to doubt yourself. That doesn’t mean we should stop sharing what scares us. I talk to my friends, my family, my dog, and to all of my readers about my fears. But I don’t stop there.
There must be an endgame to worry. I love this exercise from Pam: write down every fear about a risk you’re contemplating and then stack actions against every one of them to ease or erase that fear.
This is hard work. It forces you to put down in concrete terms exactly what it is you’re afraid of and that is a terrifying exercise. All of a sudden those little fears that you’ve gussied up and put on a back shelf to masquerade as something else, come to life sans your carefully constructed masks. All of a sudden you have to deal with these fears and all their nasty little tentacles.
Don’t despair. Once you get started, it’s actually quite liberating and from this exercise a very concrete plan emerges. I figured out that I was terrified of being homeless and not having enough food to eat, which helped me establish my financial plan. I was worried that I would get some horrible illness and not be able to get medical care, which helped me to evaluate all of my health insurance options. I was afraid of failing and looking like a fool to all of my family members and friends, which helped me to articulate exactly why I was making this leap in clear, concise terms.
The list went on and on and on. Once I laid it all out, I got to do the fun work of figuring out how to alleviate every single one of those fears, and it was an empowering exercise. I found that while I had these fears, they didn’t have me. I could stand up to them and win.
Guard your time and face up to your fears. These two pieces of advice will give you the room to work on your ideas and the confidence to bring those ideas to life. Give yourself the opportunity to chase down your dreams; the journey is worth it. Take it from those who know.
Christa Avampato is a product developer, freelance writer, and yoga and meditation teacher based in New York City. She blogs daily about the art of creative living at Christa In New York: Curating a Creative Life and is an advisor for LaunchHouse, a seed capital fund.