One of my clients mentioned the other day that he would “worry forward.” I love the phrase. My clients, entrepreneurs all, worry forward that a deal will close, that the legal language in a contract will get settled, that he or she will make enough revenue to cover their needs, and so on.
Perhaps this is the usual anxiety of difficult times, but for entrepreneurs it can become a way of life. To be an entrepreneur is to live in freefall – to never know what change will come, for good or ill. Will the contract sustain into the next phase? Will the client change management and cancel her contract? Will his marketing outreach actually work? Will the cost of that show actually create revenue?
Of course, life is like this for everyone, but others have at least the illusion of more structure and the expectation that they have a job to go to in the morning, a paycheck every two weeks, and coverage for certain benefits. Now, the pink slip can hover, and of course job security is a thing of the distant past, but still, entrepreneurs are making it up as they go along every day, no matter how deep their experience. Entrepreneurs can have no illusions and must make their own structure every morning.
The antidote for worrying forward is to look back. This discipline involves slowing down to take notice of what you dreaded and what actually happened — to literally take note of it, to put it into your experience. Many folks remember only the dramatic bad stuff that happened to them, and forget the successes and the avoidance of anticipated bad stuff that never came to pass. To “put it into your experience” means to take the time to take credit for what you did that managed to avoid the anticipated bad experience, and that created success in a risk that you took.
- Your dread of that legal language? Settled without hassle? Why? Because you were clear, gave the other attorney time to absorb your position and make some changes, and because you didn’t allow yourself to be defensive. Don’t overlook these accomplishments – give yourself some credit.
- That contract that moved on to Phase Two despite the client’s tight budget? Notice what you did to ensure this: you positioned your value proposition carefully, and got creative about your pricing model to relieve some of the client’s pressure. Give yourself a bit of applause for a job well done.
- That show that cost so much and turned out so well? Notice that you did your homework meticulously in advance, scheduled twice as many meetings as usual, honed your pitch, and did all that detail work that makes those meetings at shows move on to the next encounter and the close of new business. Don’t disregard what you committed to create success – acknowledge it.
Now, sometimes you’ll hear someone say, “Wow, you really got lucky with that one!” Don’t believe it. We make our own luck, and you made that success with every effort you completed.
The benefit of the discipline of “looking back” is that, over time, you come to understand the level of your own competence in your deep self. Then your “worrying forward” will diminish to a small noise in the back of your head, not the stuff of nightmares. I promise.