In a couple talks I’ve given this year, I talked about failure – promote the book! I talked about over-confidence/ hubris as one of the reasons I, at least, failed.
I spoke to and heard from a number of successful entrepreneurs who advised me on certain traps as a first-time entrepreneur. I ignored some of the advice thinking we were going to be successful despite these “red flags”. This confidence is an example of optimism bias.
From Wikipedia, “optimism bias is a cognitive bias that causes a person to believe that they are less at risk of experiencing negative events compared to others”. There is optimism bias for both positive events – we will be more successful than others – and negative events – we will not succumb to the trappings of others who have failed.
Optimism bias is powerful and part and parcel of the confidence to succeed; however, it needs to be paired with a healthy dose of curiosity and adaptability. In our case, we should have heeded the cautions from entrepreneurs who have done it before and made similar mistakes such as full-time vs. part-time dedication, the importance of customer discovery, and even product and market focus.
Since we failed, I’ve talked about this “rite of passage” where entrepreneurs must make some mistakes to appreciate the lessons from others (and yes, part of entrepreneurship). However, that’s partially flawed. The rite of passage, instead, could be appreciating the difficulties of creating a viable business from nothing, not succumbing to mistakes others can teach you.
Beware of optimism bias. Be confident, not cocky. Practice more humility and greater curiosity. Realize everyone intrinsically has value and knowledge you don’t have.
Shout out to Carling, Stranger 22 from 100 Strangers, 100 Days for teaching me about optimism bias.
So last year was an interesting year with lots of different opportunities – both good and bad. I remember back in July of 2015, though, I was struggling badly with a project. I mean, I was incredibly anxious. Saying I was stressed would be a big understatement.
When I realized I was going down this spiral, I needed to change what I was doing and focus on pulling myself up. One key practice I did was journaling at the end of every day.
I wanted to write, for 30 days, in a journal focusing only on what went well that day or what made me happy. I usually reflect on my day already including what I could have done better and what didn’t go well. However, I wanted to focus on positive thoughts to right the ship.
It was a powerful exercise, and I caught myself writing in my journal even when I got home at 4AM and was dead tired. I continued writing beyond 30 days and quickly made a goal to write for 90 days straight! Well, I blew past that, too, and decided to just continue through the rest of the year.
Those 169 posts revealed a lot of interesting things, and effectively ended my spiral and put me on an upwards trajectory. Here are a few quick realizations I made from the exercise:
  1. Creating a habit and sticking to it is hard, but if you focus on why you’re doing it in the first place, it’s much easier.
  2. I only set positive thoughts as the bounds. Otherwise, I was free flowing whatever came to mind. This was great in that it just let me go without pressures of content or length. Just write.
  3. I wrote a lot about people I encountered. I didn’t even need a long conversation with a friend, but just little messages from friends saying hello or quick chats made me happy. It was great to know people were thinking about me. This highlighted how relationships make me happy.
  4. Anything can be turned into a positive. Even when things didn’t go well like a date or a business opportunity, I quickly started looking at why it didn’t work out and how it was good to even have the chance. Further, something else better fit would come along.
  5. What you write is a lot more than what you think. That is, if you think about what went well, you can probably think of 2-3 things. However, when you’re free-flowing and putting it all down on paper, you’ll be surprised how many positive things you’ll end up with. Tip: write starting from the beginning of the day.
  6. Everyone wants to do it, but no one actually does it. I told a lot of people what I was doing, and everyone said they’d do it, too. However, no one actually did. It’s hard to get the ball rolling.
  7. It’s a tool to be used for good. Once you think it’s no good or a burden, it’s okay to stop. I stopped at the start of this year because the practice did what I wanted.
  8. Setting a small goal to write at the end of the day is easily approached rather than thinking about writing EVERYDAY FOR 30 DAYS. Look at the process for what it is… today. Tomorrow is tomorrow.
  9. I went to bed happy, and I woke up happy. I thought to myself to remember something that happened that day. It immediately turned real-time events into positive events thereby influencing the rest of my day’s outlook.

There were number of benefits from the exercise, and I’m real glad I did it. Now, I know I can always use this tool in the future should I catch myself falling again. I highly encourage everyone to try this out for a couple weeks as a therapeutic, self-awareness exercise. You’ll be surprised at how much happier you’ll be and how much more you’re thankful for any given day.

“I see her standing there… I think I’ve seen her around, but now, I’m seeing her right there in front of me. She stands out with almost a glow to her. I can’t explain it, but I’m immediately drawn towards her. My heart’s racing because I know that if I don’t say anything to her at all, she may disappear and I’ll never see her again. I have to make a move, right? She’s not wearing a ring… that’s a good thing. Crap! She’s seen me. Ahhh, the jig is up! Okay, I need to get up and introduce myself. How do I greet her? Should I just walk right up and tell her I think she’s beautiful? Maybe. Wait… maybe I can just say I’ve seen her around, and I just want to introduce myself. Is that too casual? What’s my next move after that? Should I ask her out? Will I have this opportunity again? I really wish my heart would stop beating so damn fast… I think it’s about to jump out of my chest. Damn, I’m getting hot under these clothes now… Crap! She’s getting up to leave… what do I do?! Eff it! I’m going in!”
I’ve learned over the years that as much as I say I’m comfortable being uncomfortable, I am still almost always uncomfortable. That is, even after writing over 160 posts, working with executives from startups to multi-million/ billion dollar companies, or even talking to women, I can still feel uncomfortable about the next “opportunity”.
Case in point: I’ve written a lot over the years, and I have strong readership. I get great feedback and enthusiastic compliments about my writing as well as some challenges. However, when I finished writing the first version of my book back in November, I was incredibly uncomfortable and nervous about asking editors to read and provide feedback. I felt my writing still wasn’t good enough (probably isn’t now and probably will never be perfect). Given the book is about failure and I go into detail about our (my) missteps at Body Boss, I felt that much more vulnerable… exposed.
However, I know, too, that to be a better writer and to produce a book worth reading, I need the input from peers. I need them to be critical. I don’t need the pats on the back so much as I need to know what to improve on. That’s uncomfortable, but it’s necessaryto grow.
Maya Angelou once said, “Each time I write a book, every time I face that yellow pad, the challenge is so great. I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.”
I’ve written a few blog posts and a single book, so if Ms. Angelou feels that way, at least I’m not alone.
Coming up on Thursday, I’m going to be a speaker at the second edition of FuckUp Nights at the Atlanta Tech Village. I’ve pitched countless number of times. I’ve spoken to entrepreneurs, friends, execs at the big corporates about failure. Heck, I just wrote a book! And yes, I’m a bit (read: very) nervous about it.
I’ve realized that I probably won’t be comfortable all the time about many things I do. However, I’ve also caught myself to realize why am I uncomfortable? Am I pushing myself to be better? Am I pushing myself to learn more? Am I pushing myself because I believe in what I’m doing? If I say yes to any of those questions, then being uncomfortable is a great thing to be. Over time, I’ve just learned to continue embracing opportunities… even if my heart feels like it’s about to jump out of my chest.
What are you doing now that makes you uncomfortable? How do you pursue more “uncomfortable” things? 
When I asked Kelly what challenges she’s had to overcome as part of Tuesday’s Entrepreneur Interview Series, I thought about how I overcome my own timidity.
As a recap, Kelly, founder of Jade Marie’s Beauty, said she was forcing herself to be more extroverted to grow her brand. She has a difficult time accepting, let alone bringing, attention to herself; though, it’s not out of lack of confidence.
Like Kelly, I grew up shy of the spotlight. Today, I force myself to be comfortable being uncomfortable (i.e. I uncomfortably do a bit of self-promotion). As I type this post and you read this, I’m behind a digital wall, and one where you’re reading this later than I’ve typed this.
My friends will say I’m a great “deflector”… seamlessly shifting attention onto others. This, I realize is how I overcome my timidity. This is how I get over the fear of making cold calls, pitches, and the like.
When it comes to approaching others about a product or person, I’m not talking about myself at all. Instead, I’m deflecting or promoting something or someone else I love (maybe “love” is a strong word… hmm…). It’s a classic “recommendation” strategy that everyone does already, even those who are shy. Think: a great new restaurant, the new techno-widget, or a great friend.
By deflecting, I’ve given myself a chance to open up and talk openly. Gone are moments of shyness because the focal point isn’t on me. Instead, I’m a narrator or connector to someone or something I love/ like.
Entrepreneurs with a tendency to be shy or introverted could shift their focus on the self, and deflect by promoting their products or team instead. 
How else could those shy to talk to others learn to open up? What other personal challenges have you overcome as an entrepreneur? How did you overcome those challenges?

Ah, we’re back already for Thanksgiving. Not sure where this year went, and it won’t be too long before I do my end-of-the-year post.
It’s cheesy to write a post giving thanks, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do anyways. Last year‘s post already covers many of the same things I would want to cover now, so I won’t list them again. 
Here are five fresh thankful things:
1.      Ever expanding connections from anywhere and everywhere. This year, I’ve picked up projects from meeting people at UK Consulate events, Starbucks, and the like. Doesn’t matter where I am, people have been happy to meet, talk shop, and stay connected.
2.      Adding odd experiences to my CV. This year, I’ve been pulled into FOUR different photoshoots ranging from school magazines to company collateral. Never done that before.
3.      Keep On Getting Up. Early part of this summer was brutal for me – I’m Tired of Faking It, But I Want This War. But after realizing I was at a soul-crushing place, I put in elements to catch myself and get back up.
4.      New experiences, and continual self-confidence and awareness. I’ve been pushing a lot of openness with others. It’s been a continuous practice in being self-confident. Meanwhile, sharing my journey has inspired others, too.

5.      Being in Atlanta. Atlanta is one of those places that has got ups and downs. I love that. It’s weather offers seasons. The transformation of the Beltline is invigorating. Meanwhile, you can get in touch with just about anyone you want to. The small community and cultural desire to help each other is vibrant. Forever, I love Atlanta.
What would your cheesy Thanksgiving giving thanks post say? What’re two things you’re thankful for?

Brené Brown’s recent talk at Hubspot’s Inbound Conference was captured in Inc.com’s article “How to Avoid a Perfect Shame Spiral at Work”, and it was incredibly relevant to me just yesterday.

Brené Brown, behind the famous TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability”, spoke about the common miscommunication that happens in the workplace where parties neglect to speak their honest thoughts, and often spiral into shaming themselves.

Brené gives an example where she had unilaterally dismissed her CFO’s idea in a meeting without a clear explanation as to why. Commonly, someone in the CFO’s shoes would think the worst as to why his idea was dismissed. He’d focus on his greatest vulnerabilities as potential causes.
However, in Brené’s real-world case, her CFO was brave enough to speak to Brené afterwards about the matter. Her reply was that the CFO’s idea was so important it needed its own meeting and action plan.
A similar shame spiral was close to happening to me recently. At one of the companies I’m working with, my role has shifted greatly away from product management and towards marketing. However, marketing-wise, much is in a holding pattern while we wait for campaigns to trigger and the new product to launch. Thus, I’ve stepped back, wary of micro-managing a very capable marketing team.
To the company’s Founder, it looks like I am less passionate in the product and company. In my head, I am aware of timing and thinking how I can best bring value to the company given where we are in the product launch and marketing campaigns. Except, unlike Brené’s CFO, I’ve kept these thoughts internalized till I figure out how best to proceed.
The Founder realized my diminished role and stepped up to talk to me about my situation. We had a great talk about what was happening, and developed a plan moving forward. However, it took him to speak with me, not me being more proactive.
Thinking about Brené’s message, I can fall into a shame spiral often, but hopefully, don’t. If I do fall victim, it’s because I’m afraid of the possible outcome or that I am not good enough. This is where I can improve in being more assertive and viewing these situations as more collaborative rather than my singular view with set outcomes to avoid the shame spiral.
What was a situation where you fell into a shame spiral? How could you mitigate against these occurrences? Also, what are vulnerabilities did you start to rationalize for yourself, and what are you doing to overcome those?