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How do you maintain motivation when you don’t see results? What if you try and things don’t work out?

How can you tell the difference between doubt and a sign that maybe you should be doing something differently?

I bring some #harshsean into this episode. We speak to what to do when the financial results aren’t there and I’ll be honest, I give some tough love. There’s still some people listening who have doubts for all the wrong reasons.

If your business is not supporting you right now, you can’t continue trying to make ends meet with it. It’s time to sacrifice. It’s time to get a day job in place. If you really care about this thing, it’s time to use The Overlap Technique and cover your bills before trying to grow your business or pursue your passion.

All entrepreneurs have doubts. What if our growth slows? What if we can’t make payroll? Did I wait too long to hire? Am I hiring too soon?

You’re not alone. We talk through these struggles.

Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins:
  • When asking “What if?” you’re often thinking about the downsides. But there can also be many positive opportunities you can’t predict.
  • It’s easy to come up with open ended what-ifs. It’s hard to actually doing something.
  • Think through what your response will be if something doesn’t pan out the way you want it to.
  • Self-doubters think about self-doubt a lot. What is that time worth to you? What is the opportunity cost?
  • The things in life that are worth pursuing require some form of risk.
  • Risk is what’s required to be successful.
  • If you’re limiting yourself to something safe, you don’t get to experience the potential benefits of taking a risk.
  • Speak as if you are where you want to be, don’t just think it.
  • Change how you think about time—if you think a year is a long time, you’re going to give up after a month.
  • Put your faith in showing up every day, not in numbers. The numbers will follow your effort.
  • If you stop thinking about self doubt, you’ll become less of a self-doubter.
Show Notes
  • 05:47 Sean: Cory Miller asks, “I often get caught up in the what-ifs and the but-it-mights. How do you press forward today without feeling like you have to have a year from now figured out?”
  • 06:06 Matt: That can definitely be depressing, especially when things are shaky in the beginning when you’re starting a business. You have to look ahead and keep looking up. You can’t get down in whatever situation you’re in.
  • 06:28 Sean: You can get really caught up in the whole what-if thing. What if I put something out daily like this other guy and it doesn’t pan out? What if I put out my product and nobody buys it? What if I try this thing and spend all my nights and weekends doing it to find I don’t really like doing it? What if I quit my job and I end up having to move back in with my parents?
  • 06:57 Matt: At least you’re making steps forward. You’re learning something you might not like to do but at least you’ll know that at the end of it. Everything about business is a risk. There’s a lot of people that think having a job is job security, which isn’t necessarily true. Taking risks and steps in the what-if direction, you’re making progress whether you fail or choose a different path. We all struggle with the what-ifs, but we can’t put our head down about it. We have to look up and plan how we’re going to get to where we need to get no matter how many what-ifs are standing in our way.

When asking “What if?” you’re often thinking about the downsides. But there can also be many positive opportunities you can’t predict.

  • 07:46 Sean: Most of the time, you’re going to be focused on the negatives, fears, doubts, and inhibitions and you won’t think about the opportunities. What if this opens up a door you didn’t even know was there? What if this leads you to the next thing? What if this creates an opportunity you didn’t have before? What if you end up meeting a key relationship you wouldn’t have met if you didn’t make an attempt at whatever you’re feeling these doubts about?
  • 08:39 Matt: When you’re just starting out, you have all these doubts, but the more people you meet, the more you get referred and things take off from there. We’re human and we’re going to be scared, so it’s good to have a backup plan. Put a resolution in place if something fails so you don’t have to live with your parents again. Set a threshold—”If I have this amount of money, I’ll do plan B so I can keep moving forward.” Not everything is going to go according to plan, but at least you’ll have something to go to if something happens.
  • 09:30 Sean: It’s easy to come up with all of these open ended what-ifs. You play through this movie in your mind of how things will go. Instead of thinking, “What if I wake up every morning at 6am and write every day like this one guy and it doesn’t work out?” how about do it? Actually do the thing you’re talking about because once you do it, it’s going to change your mindset. Once you do it, you’re going to stop asking these kinds of questions. First, actually give it a chance, then when you come up with what-ifs, challenge yourself to say, “What then?” Say this happens, what’s my response? Think through what your response would be if something didn’t actually pan out.
  • 10:35 Maybe you’re making some assumptions you didn’t know you were making because you haven’t put it on paper or seen it through to conclusion. In the back of your mind, you might be thinking about quitting if it doesn’t turn out how you want. Once you write out, “It didn’t work out so I’m going to quit,” you realize how terrible that is! You might be able to figure out a way to try it again or you can access what you learned from it not turning out how you wanted. Go through the what-ifs and then the then-whats. What are you actually going to do?
  • 11:19 Matt: One of the first businesses I was involved in was my family’s snowcone business when I was 12. We hated that business! We didn’t understand why we needed to be there. All our friends were going to Six Flags and we were there selling stupid snowcones, but eventually my two brothers and I all learned that what seemed like stupid tasks there ended up being essential in our business careers later. If you’re waking up at 6am to write for two hours and it doesn’t work out, you can take that experience and dedication and apply it to something else that might work later on. You’re not always going to land on a goldmine and that’s a good thing. It keeps you on your toes.

What if Someone Doubts Me?

  • 12:59 Sean: These questions are more about doubts other people are having that effect you. Terence asks, “Are there some effective ways to ignore naysayers? It’s easy to say to, ‘just ignore them,’ but what if I’m someone who cares too much about what others think and those people are important in my life?” Sarah asks, “How do you keep believing in your big dreams when the people close to you are pushing you to be more rational?” Cory asks, “How do you fight doubt when it’s someone else’s and not your own? What if someone you trust completely doesn’t fully believe in your dream, business, or pursuits?”
  • 14:12 Matt: I have family and friends that still doubt me, even now. Now that I have this ridiculous Lambo Goal, some people are so upset that they can’t even talk to me anymore. They don’t believe I can do it. It can be difficult to have people close to you telling you you can’t do it, because you don’t even know yourself since you haven’t done it yet. You just have to believe in yourself. We just have to believe that our business plan is what we’re going to do and it’s going to work out. Definitely have a solid plan in place, don’t be stupid. Get the knowledge you need to make that plan happen. Knowledge makes you feel confident. The more you’re willing to accept failure as a learning experience, the more confidence you’ll have.

The more you know, the more confident you feel even if you fail.

  • 16:32 Sean: Say people listening are on board with us, but their families aren’t. They’re not ready to think like this and bounce back from failure. Your mindset is changing and the way you’re approaching life and business is changing from listening to these podcasts, but your family and your friends aren’t listening. Your family relates to the past you. They don’t know the new you. In most cases, your family wants the best for you and they’re not going to wish for you to be in danger, because they want what’s safe for you.

The things in life that are worth pursuing require some form of risk.

  • 17:31 By definition, risk is putting yourself in harms way—going into the unknown. The people in your life that care about you are never going to wish for you to take a risk, and that means you have to do this for yourself. They want you to be rational and this Lambo Goal dream you have is not rational to them. They want you to get a job, stay in that job, make sure you get your paycheck every two weeks, and be rational. Screw being rational. The word “ration” means a fixed, set amount that’s guaranteed safe. That’s what people want for you because it’s safe—no risk, no harm, no danger—but there’s also no guarantee of any kind of awesome success.

If you’re limiting yourself to something safe, you don’t get to experience the potential benefits of taking a risk.

  • 18:59 You want people to believe in you? Then be average. Be mediocre. Most people believe in something that’s safe. They put their stock in safe bets. The safest bet I know is mediocrity. If you settle for average, people will believe in you all day long. If you want to do something greater, if you want to do something unprecedented, and if you want to experience the rewards from sticking your neck out there and risking failure, then don’t expect anyone to believe in you (Related: seanwes podcast e132 Screw Being “Rational”).
  • 19:44 People don’t believe until they see. The value of your time is not determined by what you’re making right now, it’s determined by what you’re going to be making in the future if you invest that time wisely. The value of your time now won’t be realized until two or three years in the future. You’ve been working hard for years, but they’re not going to get it until two or three years from now. If you’re feeling like the people around you don’t believe in you or they have doubts about you quitting your job, they’re not going to get it. You have to get around people who believe in you. I’m not saying to abandon your family, I’m saying to bear with them. They want the best for you but the best in their mind is what’s safe and safe is not risks. Risk is what’s required to be successful.
  • 20:51 Matt: When they tell you you can’t do something, say, “Sure,” in front of them, but as you walk away, tell yourself that you can do it. My family doesn’t agree with the way I run my businesses or the way I handle money, so this is something I’ve had to do myself.
  • 22:00 Sean: Wouter says, “Don’t doubt yourself, others already do that.”

What if I’m Stuck in My Day Job Forever?

  • 22:08 Sarah asks, “What’s the best way to fight the doubt that you’ll remain stuck in your day job forever?” Make small progress, get around people who believe in you, and speak yourself out of it. The last one is the most important one and it’s also the one people underestimate, don’t do, or they think doesn’t work. It doesn’t work initially because it takes time. Speak as if you are where you want to be, don’t just think it. You’re not going to believe it the first time you say it out loud, type it, or write it down. It’s going to have to sink in.
  • 22:57 If you’re worried about being in a day job forever, you need to start talking about how you’re going to get out of it and how you already have your new business. You can’t snap your fingers and your mindset is magically aligned like this, it’s going to take time. It takes time to turn a Titanic sized ship around, but that steering is the way you talk about your current situation. If you’re talking about your current situation like it’s the death of everything you love, don’t be surprised when it is.
  • 23:56 Matt: Constantly hearing positive and motivational things would help in that situation. I listen to different mentors’ podcasts and watch their YouTube videos. Hearing a podcast that will encourage and challenge you will help reinforce that you can do this.

What if My Work Isn’t Good Enough for Others?

  • 24:40 Sean: Nina asks, “If I know my work is good enough, how will I know that it’s good enough for others? What if my 90% is someone’s 75%?” The chronic perfectionist is someone that has to get everything 100% perfect and won’t put something out until they get there (Related: tv038 90% Perfect). The difference between 90% perfect and 100% perfect is double the work. As a perfectionist, 100% perfect in your mind is unrealistic. Your standards are too high and you can’t function that way. Perfectionism can be good as a tool to motivate you to put out quality work, but left unchecked it’s paralyzing and damaging.
  • 25:45 You end up not putting work out and you get diminishing returns on your investment. As a self-identified, chronic perfectionist, I want to encourage you to lower that threshold down to 90%, because 90% for you, as a perfectionist, is going to be better than everyone else’s. They don’t care about quality. You don’t have to worry about if your 90% is someone else’s 75%, because you’re a perfectionist. It’s already going to be better. You cannot sustain 100%.
  • 27:10 Matt: Everyone has their own unique twists on their work. Don’t compare yourself to other people.

How Do I Stay Motivated When I Don’t See Results?

  • 29:20 Sean: Sarah asks, “How do you stay motivated when your efforts are really slow to pay off?” You have to think of it as only the beginning. I’ve been doing business for a decade now and seanwes for four or five years, and I still think of it as only the beginning. We’re just getting started.

If you think a year is a long time, you’re going to give up after a month.

  • 30:09 I’ve never preached overnight success or get-rich-quick schemes, it’s all about the long-game—we’re talking ten or fifteen years. I’ll show you the hard way that works. I’ve noticed there’s these two conflicting views: that youth is wasted on the young and, “Look what you could have done if you had applied yourself when you were young.” I often see both views coming from the same people! On one hand, enjoy your youth, but on the other hand, youth is when you have the most energy so you should be investing it.
  • 31:55 Matt: People are always telling me that I work too much and I need to go have fun, but I know when I’m older the same people will be telling me I should have worked harder when I was younger!
  • 32:29 Sean: I often see these same two things come from a single person and it’s often because they’re looking for excuses. It’s anything but, “I accept my choices. I am where I am now and I’m doing what I want with the time I have now.” They’re not doing certain things so they want to blame that on their younger self.
  • 32:53 Matt: This why I love the Lambo Goal. You have to have this ridiculous goal and you have to have a plan. Within this plan, you have to have a timeline. You can’t go to the beach every day because you have checkpoints to reach. I’m not saying going to the beach or hanging out with people is wrong, but as much as possible—especially if you have the day job—overlap to you passion and start building that foundation.
  • 33:47 Sean: If you’re showing up and you feel like your progress is slow or you’re not seeing results, then change how you think about time. A year isn’t very long. Five years isn’t very long! What are you doing with your time? Around a new year, people tend to not be able to think about the next year. There’s Christmas and then there’s blackness beyond that point. You might be thinking you need to be where you want to be before you reach that runway in front of the blackness, but you should push the blackness away. Aim your flashlight up and push the blackness into the future.

You see the people that suddenly became “successful” but you don’t see everything that went into them getting there.

  • 35:17 You can’t get frustrated with your family for not believing in you until they see the results when you’re complaining that you’re not getting quick enough results!
  • 35:34 Matt: All good things take time and there’s no such thing as overnight success. It takes work and dedication. Remember that everything you’re doing that feels slow is making progress. You’re taking steps forward instead of sitting there or going backwards. Keep going, keep planning, and keep pushing.
  • 36:05 Sean: In the chat room Eric says, “One, two, or five years is so long when you think about the potential of that time—the ideal results—but we don’t live in an ideal world.” We underestimate the time something will take and overestimate the results we’re going to get. If you haven’t been doing this for a while, then expect to not see tangible results in one, two, or five years. You’re building the foundation of your skyscraper. You’ve got to dig down first, then build up before you get to ground level. It’s a lot of work but now you have a foundation and you can start to build. You can’t start going up until you have that foundation.
  • 37:36 Matt: I always tell my new investors that it takes a minimum of two years to get that foundation laid out. If you’re thinking you’ll get a return in six months, it doesn’t work that way in any business.
  • 38:16 Sean: Cory Miller says, “Whenever I feel like I’m not improving, I find someone that really inspires me and I go back to see what their work looked like a year or two years ago. It’s helpful to see how far others have come.” Think about a prolific YouTuber you’ve followed for a year or two, have you ever gone back to the beginning and seen what their work looked like? A lot of people delete their own work because they’re embarrassed by it, but I say to keep your old work because it builds a track record. It shows people in the future that it’s not magic and you started at the same place as everyone else. It’s a bunch of hard work over time.
  • 39:19 Cecile asks, “Do you have tips to do some relaxation exercises so mind and body would get aligned to better fight doubts?”
  • 39:52 Matt: I’m often running around and my body is hurting or mentally I’m hurting, so at least every two weeks, I make my office dark and put a video of the ocean on my projector screen. I listen to the ocean and try not to think about business to get in the mindset of relaxing. If I get too stressed, I tend to look too closely at the business instead of big picture and I start missing things. Clearing your mind will help reset you. I take the spa thing seriously because I have back issues, so I get a deep tissue message every three or four weeks.

How Can I Tell What’s Doubt and What’s Being Realistic?

  • 42:24 Sean: Sarah asks, “How can I differentiate doubt and signs that it’s time to do something differently?”
  • 42:32 Matt: If you’re trying your best and it’s just not taking off maybe it’s not the right time. You have to constantly be evaluating the direction you’re heading. Are you going the correct way or do you need to make changes?
  • 44:34 Sean: Along the same lines Albert asks, “How do you fight doubt when you are putting all the effort that you can but the financial results aren’t there?” And Ben asks, “How do you distinguish between doubt and being realistic? Tagging onto Albert question: how do you know when the lack of results is something to push through or an indication that you may need to pivot?” Cory and I were talking about this earlier and he says you need to search inside yourself, and you’ll know.
  • 45:08 Cory: To give an example, before I got into filmmaking I was certain woodworking was my thing. I loved everything about it and invested a lot of time, research, and money into it. I made some projects and I came to some obstacles that I tried to push through at first but in the end, I realized I didn’t have a drive for it anymore. It wasn’t because of the obstacles, I just looked to the future and didn’t see it becoming anything. Search inside yourself and ask yourself if this is your passion. Do you still love doing this thing?
  • 46:08 Matt: Certain passions might just not work within certain markets. You can still do it on the side, you just might have to find something else to support you. Don’t get caught up in thinking you’re a failure because it didn’t work.
  • 46:51 Sean: I want to drill in on the financial part—what if the financial results aren’t there? You’ve got to be realistic. You have to get a day job in place while you do this passion (Related: e137 The Overlap Technique: A Crash Course). This way, if the financial results aren’t there, you still have something covering your bills. I know I talk about this a lot but I know people that still won’t get a day job. You can’t keep trying to piece together projects so you can keep living month to month. They might not want to get a day job so they can be with their family or so they can have the freedom to do certain things, but the reality is you need to make a sacrifice.
  • 47:57 If you keep having this pieced together situation trying to make ends meet, you’re not going to get any traction. You have to have the day job foundation and that means making sacrifices right now. That means getting your family on board and saying no to the freedom of being home during the day. Everyone can’t get what they want all the time. If this is your situation, talk about it with your spouse—you might have to stop saying yes to both of you pursuing your passions. If neither of you have a day job, then one of you needs to get one. You can’t both have no foundation! If you’re not seeing financial results with your passion, get a day job in place so you don’t have to worry the financial results not being there because your bills are covered.
  • 49:54 Let’s say the person asking this question did the Overlap Technique, went full time with their passion, and now it’s been going well for a year but things are slowing down. Maybe it’s not working out and the financial results just aren’t there. At this point, you need to be realistic with yourself and make a logical call. There’s some projects I’ve been working on—my book, speaking, etc.—and there’s some things I wanted to do next but I realized results weren’t there and I was running out of runway. I had to say no to some of these good things to say yes to some great things that would make me money right now. The best place to look when you need money is to something that’s already been working, and do more of that.
  • 51:50 Matt: Having a day job is going to help you appreciate your passion that much more.
  • 52:00 Sean: As long as it’s in a different industry. If you want to do design work and you get a day job in design, it’s not going to charge you for your passion. You’re going to spend all that energy, come home, and still be exhausted. Here’s a good question that ties in here, “Say you have a significant other. If one needs to support the other, how do you avoid that one is always pursuing their passion and the other feels like they’re waiting indefinitely?”
  • 52:37 One of you has to be in day job mode and if one of you feels like you’re waiting indefinitely, then you’ve gone too long in day job mode. You need to take turns and if the other person isn’t offering to take turns, you need to be the better person and offer to get a day job. Give of yourself, support the other person, and let them do their thing. It will come back to you. Of course they’ll support you when you want to do your thing, because you did it for them.
  • 53:24 Matt: Are you dedicated to your passion enough to get a day job? It needs to be a team effort. In relationships, you won’t see eye to eye on everything, but you can be looking in the same direction. Since my wife chooses to stay at home, I don’t have to have a day job anymore, but I have to run my businesses the way I am to produce financial results. I’m not only supporting us, I’m supporting almost 500 other people.
  • 54:32 Sean: Learn that now in the family situation. Those skills of taking care of your family applies to your business and taking care of your employees too.
  • 54:47 Matt: If you can’t step up now, then I wouldn’t want to work for you when you have a business and employees because I don’t know if you can be counted on.
  • 55:37 Sean: Albert says, “My question was more of an anticipatory one,” for when he gets out of his day job to do his own thing. What if the financial results aren’t there? Our answer might not feel like it applies to you because you’re playing the what-if game and you’re not there yet. You need to get to that point and try it.
  • 56:30 Matt: When you get there, you’re not going to be saying what-if, you’re going to be seeing consistent work. You’re going to be growing. In the first three years with a lot of my businesses, I’ve wondered if it’s going to make it, but I keep telling my partners that it’s going to make it. I’m going to keep pumping that business until we get a steady revenue going.

What if My Growth Slows?

  • 56:58 Sean: Charli asks, “How do you push through when you set your goals based on initial growth, but then that growth slows? At the end of last year I had a few months of gaining 1,000 subscribers every 30 days and I set some goals for myself, but now my growth is more like 570 a month on average and I’m starting to doubt I’ll hit them. Do I adjust my goals or keep them lofty? I’m extremely goal driven and feel like lower my goals now would be like giving up, but I’m worried that since it’s looking like I won’t hit them, that could really knock my confidence and affect my content. I feel like my content is better now than it was last year, but of course when you don’t see that reflected in the numbers it’s hard not to doubt yourself.”
  • 57:42 I want you to be wary of this addiction to numbers. Stop looking at the numbers completely! I know you’re probably thinking, “Well, people say you need to check your analytics to make sure everything is working,” but you’re not there yet. Unless you’re getting hundreds of thousands of sales, subscribers, or followers a month, you’re time is better spent working hard, producing content, and showing up every day. Put your faith in showing up every day because showing every day works and the numbers don’t always reflect that.
  • 58:25 If you look at seanwes podcast downloads, you’d see the times where it takes a dip, even though I’m going strong. I could jump to, “What am I doing wrong? Were the topics not hitting home? Are sabbaticals a bad idea? Is taking a break killing the show?” You start overthinking and thinking you’re doing something wrong. The wrong thing is taking your focus off going forward and showing up every day, and getting addicted to numbers instead. Don’t base your goals on metrics, because that’s not always something you can control. You can control showing up every day and I’d rather see you put your goals toward a 60 day streak of waking up at 6am.

The numbers will follow your effort.

  • 59:24 Matt: The more you put in, the more you’re going to get out.
  • 59:34 Sean: Robert said something really great I wanted to share, “I think that a lot of my doubts stem from using incorrect measures of success. It’s like asking, ‘Am I on the right track?’ by looking at the fuel gauge on my dashboard instead of out my windshield.” You might be like, “I don’t want slow growth!” but slow growth is sustainable. You don’t want irregular spikes that you think you can count on but are really just a flash in the pan.
  • 1:00:39 Unsubscribes and unfollows hurt when you look at them, so stop looking at them. I send out newsletters multiple times a week and I get unsubscribes every single time. I used to look at them and think I needed to know what to do to improve. That’s what you tell yourself right? The reality is you’re addicted to them and feeling bad. You don’t need that! I have 40,000 subscribers on different lists and even I don’t need to be looking at those numbers. I don’t look at all anymore because I know I’m going in the right direction and doing the right thing. My eyes are on the engagement with people.
  • 1:01:44 My eyes are on the people writing in saying, “This changed my life,” not the three people saying, “I don’t want your life improvement crap.” Stop looking at the counts and the MailChimp unsubscribe reasons, look at the engagement. Are you getting comments from people saying, “This helped me?” Is your content resonating with the people in your target audience? That’s what matters. Self-doubters think about self doubt a lot. What is that time worth to you? What is the opportunity cost of spending that time on self doubt? If you want to know how to get out of self doubt, then stop thinking about.

If you stop thinking about self doubt, you’ll become less of a self-doubter.

  • 1:03:14 “Could be” never happens. “I want” is what will drive you. What is that thing for you? This is a quote from Isabelle from a previous seanwes podcast that I just love, “Anxiety is experiencing failure in advance.” When you say the what-ifs, you’re experiencing failure in advance and that’s where anxiety comes from.
  • 1:04:05 Matt: You’re setting yourself up for failure with that kind of mindset. Your mindset is the difference between success and failure.
  • 1:04:25 Sean: I want you to imagine two alternate universes. One is the worse case scenario—where you are right now and you’re self doubting. The other one is where you go through with something even if you’re afraid. Let’s say you do it and it doesn’t turn out how you wanted to, but in the second universe, you did it anyway. It might be frustrating and you might have to start again, but you got some experience out of it. You did something and you learned something—you found a way that didn’t work and that’s progress. You beat inertia. In the first universe, you’re still there self doubting. You haven’t even failed yet because you haven’t done anything. What is that costing you?
  • 06:24 Matt: Probably success or forward movement.