Every Entrepreneur's Struggle

Overcoming DoubtDoubt.

It doesn’t matter how sure you are of your purpose and your pursuit, you’re going to experience seasons of doubt. I’m not talking about doubting the likeliness of events or results, but doubting your very ability to succeed. This is dangerous.

Doubt comes down to a lack of trust; in our vision, in ourselves, in God’s provision… If we truly believe what we’re doing is what we’re supposed to be doing, then what reason do we have to doubt our success? Still, we all do it. No leader is immune.

Where does that doubt come from? Is it completely internal, or do other people ‘inject’ doubt into our lives?


Externally Inspired Self-Doubt

  • Horror Stories – You just heard about your next door neighbor Ricky’s cousin who tried to open a hair salon with his mother and ended up shutting their doors after 3 months. Now you use their failure to rationalize that you’re new business idea is likely to experience the same fate.
  • Nay-Sayers – Other leaders in your industry think you’re new initiative is a little too ‘cutting edge.’ You’re starting to think you’re losing touch with your market and decide to dial back and get a little closer to the status quo. Who were you to be innovative?
  • Comparison – Your brother developed a software tool at age 15 and is now the CIO of an uber-successful software firm. You feel like his achievement is rubbed in your face daily. That level of success is seemingly unattainable, so why even bother?

Internally Inspired Self-Doubt

  • Limiting Beliefs – You’ve tried starting a business, but its not growing as fast as you’d like. You’re inclined to throw in the towel because you don’t think you’re good enough to make it work.
  • Negative Internal Dialogue – Every time you go to do something, you tell yourself you can’t. You try to pick up the phone and make your sales calls, but that little voice in the back of your head tells you not to pick up that phone.
  • Experience – You’ve failed before. You picked yourself up and decided to move on, but can’t shake the memory of that past failure. Each new decision is tainted with timidity and the fear of failing again persistently looms in the back of your head.

How Do I Overcome Self-Doubt?

The same way you eradicate self sabotage.

It’s all about identifying specific lies and combating them with specific truth. I’ve listed out some common roots of doubt that I’ve heard below and refuted them with some specific truth.

Lie: “I’m not talented enough.”
Truth: No one is better suited to achieve your vision than you are.

Lie: “I can’t do this because the competition said I couldn’t.”
Truth: They probably don’t know what they’re talking about.

Lie: “I’ll never be as successful as him.”
Truth: If you live your life through the lens of someone else’s experience, you’ll never be good enough.

Lie: “I don’t have enough experience.”
Truth: You can only gain experience by DOING. If you continually sit things out, you’ll never get that experience that you ‘need.’

Lie: “I’ve got nothing special to offer. I’ve got nothing to say.”
Truth: You’ve got yourself and your ideas to offer. That’s more than enough.

Lie: “I’ve always been a failure. I’m destined to fail again.”
Truth: Failure is not your identity. We don’t get the luxury of knowing or defining our destiny. You’re only a failure if you quit trying.

We all experience doubt from time to time. I don’t propose to reduce the issue down to a simple mental exercise, but it is important to be specific and intentional in your battle against it. Doubt, just like fear, will color every decision and keep us from boldly moving forward.

Don’t let it.

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16 Responses to Every Entrepreneur's Struggle

  1. Traceepersiko January 17, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    Great thoughts on doubt Kenny. I know i struggle with doubt quite a bit. You are right, it comes down to a trust issue. Doubt has room when in a waiting period. I am definitely in a waiting period of life. It makes trusting God more of a conscious effort. I don’t want to settle, and I know he doesn’t. I wrestle with doubt, but in the end I am still waiting and still trusting.

    • Kenny Silva January 17, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

      Be thankful in the waiting. This is an amazing time of growth, although it doesn’t seem so. I love that God using our waiting periods to shape us, form us, and mold us into the people He’s called us to be. You’ll be grateful on the other side of this period. Stay faithful because He always is. 🙂

  2. kevin January 17, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

    Awesome stuff. Started a business a few months ago and this is 195% true. There are times of excitement, of confidence and of expectation. Mixed in are the doubts, the fears, the lies – and those tend to hold more weight mentally, which is the tough part.

    Reminding yourself of truths is huge. My motto lately (stolen from the University of Oregon) is Win the Day. There are struggles and fights and failures, but you can find successes in each day. Winning the Day helps to keep my focus on the positive, resulting in winning the next day, and the next day, and the next day….

    Good stuff man.

    • Kenny Silva January 17, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

      That’s great, Kevin! Winning the day is a great way to look at it as long as we know where all of those daily wins will take us. A healthy and positive mix of short term wins and long range perspective is a great way to work towards success.

  3. Anonymous January 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    Fantastic post, Kenny! I think everyone has experienced these at one point or another…myself included. We can’t move forward unless we’re willing to push doubt aside.

    You’ve been really rockin’ it, Kenny! Keep up the great work!

    • Kenny Silva January 18, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

      Thank you so much for reading, Laura. It’s easy to fall into doubt when we have a less than stellar couple of days. Unchecked, that downward spiral can wreak havoc on our personal and business lives. Its happened to me too many times.

  4. Anonymous December 30, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    I think, unfortunately, that this post misses the point.   I think this because I used to try to use these methods to calm my doubts.  They never really worked, because they don’t attack the real issue.  Eventually I realized the answer was in front of my nose the whole time.

    The right approach isn’t to try to rationalize and argue with with your irrational fears, and only after that attempt to do something entrepreneurial.  I have found that my comfort with doing something only increases upon actually trying to do it.  It’s like trying to ride a bike for the first time…we were all scared, and then after practice, realized it wasn’t a big deal.  

    The right approach, then, is to do things in spite of the fact that you have doubts and are afraid.  You naturally feel comfortable as you do things more often…practice (helps) make perfect.

    The internal struggle to “overcome doubt” is all talk (talking to yourself, interestingly enough), self-fabricated (doubt is just your personal reaction to a given stimuli) and basically pointless (it takes a lot of energy that you could be spending starting your business).  It is not modeled after the action-based approach you will need to take if you want to achieve success.

    Another note- why approach entrepreneurship as this all or nothing, win or lose situation that will bring you either unfettered joy and riches, or complete and utter destruction?  If you’re interested in doing something entrepreneurial but don’t have a lot of experience (however you would define that), why not do something with little or no risk?  For example, start developing a business plan and finding customers in your free time from your regular job.  If you realize it won’t work, all you lost was your time.  As with above, practice makes perfect; the more you have an actual idea, the less you should doubt yourself.

    Just go give it a try!  Be smart, take on a reasonable amount of risk given your personal situation, and learn a lot in the process.

  5. Simon J Benn July 20, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    we wouldn’t choose to doubt ourselves would we? So we are not choosing..it’s some thing else for more http://simonjbenn.com/chapters/


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