Pre-launch fear and how to kick it in the tush
Ahh, the F-word. (No, not that F-word.)
If you have ever gotten a new business or product off the ground, you may know something a little thing called FEAR, also known as RESISTANCE.
One moment you’re chugging along, whistling while you work, happily chipping away at a project. And then the next moment, it’s like you run smack into an invisible force field – and try as you might, there’s no getting past it.
I’ll let you in on a secret: As I write this post, I’m in the middle of experiencing a spell of resistance. I’m getting closer to a big new launch, after working on it for weeks and weeks, and it’s like all my deepest fears are bubbling up to the surface. Am I hitting the mark? Is my copy going to resonate the way I want it to? Should I go back to the drawing board on that thing I don’t think is perfect yet? The list goes on.
Luckily I’ve been here before, so I see it for what it is – garden variety resistance.
So believe me when I say that I totally understand your pain. You are not alone! In my experience, resistance tends to come from a place of perfectionism and fear of the unknown. Let’s take a look at how we can get past it.
things to remember
When you need to move past resistance, there are a few “truths” you should hear and try to embrace.
1. Done is better than perfect
When it comes to starting something new, remember that done is better than perfect.
The sad truth is that many ventures perish in the pursuit of so-called perfection, on the rocky shores of Nevermind…as in, “It’s not going to be perfect, so nevermind.” That a grisly end you don’t want for your business!
In his book Business Brilliant, Lewis Schiff analyzes the mindsets of the most successful CEOs and explains what sets them apart from the rest of us. These folks don’t obsess over getting everything perfect before they launch. They focus on starting, and then learning from it, so they can do better next time.
In fact, the most successful CEOs fail more often than members of the middle class, simply because they try things much more often.
Think back to a past project that did not go well (we all have them), and name at least one thing you learned from it. And one thing you could do better next time as a result of the experience. You probably came up with more than one. If you want to cultivate the mindset of a successful CEO, those are the things you focus on – the lessons you learn by trying. They are the reason you should try in the first place, even if your attempt isn’t perfect!
2. This is not the end
When you invest time into developing a new business or product, the launch date can start to feel like the end, when in fact, it’s just the beginning. The beginning of the life of your business or product.
You may pivot in six months once you know more about your audience. You may even relaunch a new and improved version in a few years, under a totally new name and brand. If you’re publishing a book, you may issue a second edition somewhere down the line.
But those things are down the road, because your launch is just the beginning of the life of your product or business!
If you need a little inspiration, look at how Coca-Cola, FedEx, and General Electric have evolved over the years. Look at Pepsi’s rebrand in 2009. Read about the early years of Apple, Inc., when it was just getting its initial footing, and was a completely different animal from what it is today.
If these corporate giants can treat their business iteratively, so can you!
3. You are not your business
Sometimes when you put your heart and soul into a project, it can feel like you’re launching your self out into the marketplace. You may worry that the response will feel like a verdict on your value as a person: if people aren’t in love with it, it means they don’t like you.
So not true. You are not a business or a product!
You are a human – a miraculously complex creature with infinite possible variations of passions, projects, and adventures that you will create in your lifetime.
This new business or product in your life right now is here for a reason, but it’s still just one iteration of those infinite possibilities. You may launch 10 businesses or 100 products in your lifetime – some may succeed, some may fail. None of them are you.
4. Go easy
If all else fails, try to lighten up. And I don’t mean you should shove your feelings aside. I definitely don’t mean you should “smile more” (grrrr).
I just want to suggest that you go a little easier on yourself. Remember that this precious life of yours is not about pleasing other people or being a diva or rock star. It’s about your own happiness, your own experience, and doing what you need to do to feel whole and true to yourself.
In the end, success and reaching your goals are rewarding, but they’re not the only things that matter. The journey matters – how you spent your days and your minutes on earth matters. Those are the units your life is made of – not a dollar value, or the number of clicks you got, or your conversion rate. Your life is made up of a precious, limited number of minutes – and who wants to spend all their minutes obsessing over being perfect? Isn’t it better and more fun to spend them experimenting, playing, growing, learning, experiencing life, and trying new things? Heck yes!
Life is simply too short to agonize over a product or business launch and whether your logo is just right. This isn’t life and death. This is a journey. Be kind to yourself.
5. This is Practice
Look at this moment as practice – an experience that can prepare you for the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.
You will have good days and bad days, successes and defeats. You will have self-doubt and fear. And you need to be willing to muster the resolve to keep going anyway.
Feeling resistance is just one kind of obstacle you will face on your path, and it’s an opportunity to develop grit. Have you heard about grit? Not long ago, it was a major buzzword in the business world. It represented inner drive and refusal to give up – a necessary trait among successful business leaders. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines grit (in the context of behavior) as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.”
You will need grit to succeed. And you can develop grit by pushing through obstacles like resistance. This experience you are having is an opportunity. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to push past the feeling or limiting belief holding you back, and move forward in spite of it.
a process for moving forward
So hopefully now you’re leaning toward forging ahead instead of giving up or going back to the drawing board in pursuit of “perfect.” But you may still be feeling the resistance. How do you move past it? Here is my process.
Write down 3 things you want to learn or get better at, as a result of moving past this resistance. It will help you focus on the goal of moving forward, and view the feeling as a “trial” with value for your development as a person.
Decide on 2-3 things you can do today to move forward, and then tackle them one at a time. This seems so simple, but just taking a few steps toward your goal can give you that rush of “I’m making progress” and push any fears or resistance you’re feeling into the background.
Make a short list of small ways you can release your product or business into the world just a little bit. Dip your toe in. Maybe you just share the URL in a new Facebook group you joined but haven’t really been active in. Maybe you ask your best friend or your mom for feedback. Whatever you do, use these experiences as little practice rounds for the official launch, to get you more comfortable with taking the stage.
(Optional) Write an article/blog post on how to move past resistance. This exercise forces you into the mindset of acknowledging resistance for what it is, from a clinical perspective, and stepping around it.
Actually, I think this technique works for a lot of problems beyond resistance. And this is some crazy science, so get ready. I think the reason this technique works is explained by the world of neuroscience and storytelling.
When we listen to a story, our brain takes a little time to “sync up” with the teller’s brain. We follow “behind” the storyteller; there is a lag in understanding. But after a while, our brains sync up. We “find the thread” and start experiencing and feeling the story in real-time. “neural activity…becomes almost synchronous, with the listener’s brain activity patterns mirroring those sweeping through the speaker’s brain…” [Scientific American, 2010]
And sometimes, almost miraculously, our brains actually exceed the timeline of the story. We start predicting where the story is going before the teller can even articulate the words. We anticipate. This is the magic of the highly social human brain.
I think this is basically what happens when you address yourself from the perspective of a future you. You are getting ahead of your current storyline and anticipating what happens next. Imagining the future, post-crisis. You’re stepping into that future, and then reaching back into the past and pulling yourself along with you.
This is a technique I’ve used all my life, since my teenage years, to move past roadblocks and difficulties. It seems a little woo-woo, but I encourage you to try it, and see if it helps!
That’s it! In the end, moving past resistance may take a little time and patience. You may just need to wrestle with it, or even just sit with it, in order to move through it. But I hope these tricks can help you expedite the process, and move yourself forward just a little quicker, so you can get back to the business of launching your new project, and seeing where it goes!