Incremental Bravery

By Lauren Gaggioli

Some solo entrepreneurs struggle with perfectionism. They can't ship it until every last detail is just right.

Others want to build businesses because they desire the freedom that an entrepreneurial lifestyle affords, but they can’t ideate for crap. 

Or they can ideate really well but can’t figure out how to bridge the gap between what they want to offer and what their ideal client wants or needs. 

Or they struggle to figure out the myriad systems that allow them to generate organic traffic from SEO and nurture their prospects’ journey from strangers on the internet to happy clients.

Others feel like they have it all figured out. It’s smooth sailing - until a launch flops or sales take a hit or downloads plummet. In those challenging moments, the what ifs start seeping in with the potential to drown the dream and even the identity of the person working so very hard to make the business work.

Does any of this (or all of this) sound familiar? Feel alone? 

Here’s the good news: you’re definitely not alone. 

Blind Spots Made Visible

Every person who has endeavored to build a business they believed to be worthwhile has struggled with some aspect of their mindset on the long and winding road towards success. 

And that’s really what each of the above tactics are: visible symptoms of mindset challenges that lurk unseen below the surface.

It’s like we’re all Captain Taggart in Galaxy Quest, dragging these charged mindset mines behind us.

And they’re ready to detonate at any moment. 

Even if we can’t really see these mindset mines, we know they’re there. And that niggling sense of unease can keep you from making the profound leaps in your business and your life that you’re working so hard to make.

Unlike Captain Taggart, this is not a brilliant strategy of space warfare. It’s a strategy that keeps us feeling small, stuck, and frustrated that our vision and our reality don’t match up.

Fake it ‘til you make it and empty mantras won’t work because, frankly, you’re too smart to lie to yourself. When you know on a gut level that something is out of alignment, you can’t use words to trick yourself into believing it’s not. 

The only way to affect real change is to turn around and confront the hardest truths that we are dragging behind us about what’s really going on between our ears. That’s how we open up our field of vision to see the various options for next right steps and then choose the best path for us to take. 

Said another way: the path forward isn’t really before us. It’s behind us. (But we entrepreneurs don’t like going backwards, do we?)

Detonating The Mindset Mines

Here’s a little insight into some of the stuff I’ve had to turn around and face over the last 14+ years as a solopreneur

  1. I am the queen of procrastination, although I prefer the more favorable term delayed gratification. I get stuff done, but I do it far later than I should and typically under extreme duress.
  1. I am also the queen of ideation, so much so that my brain feels itchy most days. For the love of all that is holy, someone please come take all the ideas.
  1. Unfortunately, I also hold a third title in overcommitment. I want to say yes to every idea that floats through my head and that I talk about with other equally effervescent entrepreneurs. But there’s only so much time in a day. And, at the risk of revealing myself as part elephant, I do in fact remember all of the commitments that I never delivered on. I mentally flagellate myself about these moments as I embark on my daily visit to my habitual shame closet which you may colloquially refer to as “the shower.”

As the former titular head of this triumvirate state, I’ve lived in hell. 

In the past, I’ve constantly felt indebted to others while also believing my brain is a suggestion box and that I must take all the suggestions. This has caused me to allow others to unwittingly supplant my clearest intentions by merely talking to me or posting on Instagram.

Oh! You - dear internet stranger - think my time would be best served organizing my pantry items into a literal rainbow of tidy perfection? I suppose I should make it so…

It has left me spinning, vacillating between certainty that I should be doing something and seeking out every idea on what that something ought to be. 

What this ultimately has led to is an internal sense of being behind in every respect.

But, since I sold my first online business and reclaimed some mental white space, I’ve managed to slow down the spin cycle enough to plant my feet and really unpack the things that held me back in my first venture. 

And I am so grateful for that time, because it has led me back to myself. Literally.

Coming Back To Center 

The answer I was seeking came from myself (...of course it did! it always does…) in the form of my Big Why statement that I crafted when I created my Big Why Life course, a curriculum I developed to help future-focused teens and my fellow digital entrepreneurs name their purpose in life and live it with fullest intention.

My Big Why: I help people actualize their unrealized potential.

My Big Why statement is a two-parter: I help people figure out what they want and then partner with them to develop strategies to move toward their goals.

Since reconnecting with this statement, I’ve redoubled my commitment to build online businesses and write books that bring value into other peoples’ lives by doing just that. 

But before I can move forward I feel I have to unburden myself of yet another heavy falsehood that I’ve been dragging on my entrepreneurial journey like some sort of digital Sisyphus.

Digging Deeper

The truth is that I still have some mind trash (...our work here is never really done...) that says my voice isn’t valuable and that derives my worth from others’ responses rather than my own inner knowing. 

This came from realizing that I created a full 8-week course on finding your purpose that I never released after running the beta. 

It - alongside a completed podcasting course that I've already beta tested as well - have been living rent free in my Google Drive. 

What the what?! I did the work. And now, without the distraction of my former company, I had to confront an uncomfortable reality: I was creating but not shipping. 

Why didn't I ever release these courses when I know they're quality and deliver results and are genuinely helpful to people?

Deeper digging forced me to face the fact that I have a yearning to be seen (I do the creation bit) but also a tendency to obfuscate which hinders that very goal (I don't release my most meaningful work).

I know what I want. I have sound business ideas and a firm grounding in both reality and possibility. But I’ve had a vague sense that I could skirt the whole really-being-seen thing to make this dream a reality.

Maybe growing up as a theater kid had something to do with it, but this is real life and there isn’t a script better than the one I can write for myself. 

So I’m here publishing this post to say: enough is enough. 

The gloves are coming off. The veil is being lifted. <Insert your own trite in-my-hidey-hole-no-more phrase here.>

You should know that writing this all down feels horribly self-indulgent. I really don’t want to share it. I’ve been working to undo the damage these thoughts have wrought, and it’s not strictly necessary for you to know that. 

Then again, it might help you feel not so alone if you’re ever experiencing the same thing. So I’m sharing this because if you want to be seen (and I do), it may as well be warts and all. 

The Valleys Are Where The Good Stuff Is

Highlight reels look pretty, but they’re also pretty worthless as a roadmap because they edit out the wide swaths of experiential learning where the most rewarding work is done.

The challenge in the digital age is that we can see other people standing on peaks but they rarely do more than give lip service to the wide valleys between those very visible wins. And the valleys are where the good stuff happens. Not the stuff that feels good, of course, but the stuff that helps make you strong enough and savvy enough to summit the next mountain a little more quickly, a little more gracefully than the last.

And those hard moments are often where we find out who our people really are.

The bonds forged as we charge towards our most meaningful goals are incredibly special. I feel lucky to have had people who are further up the mountainside reach back to lend me a helping hand. And I always look for opportunities to do the same for those who may be a little further down the trail than I am. 

Living your life’s purpose in its fullest expression is both thrilling and challenging. I intend to become incrementally braver than I have been in the past with my new ventures. 

And I want to do that with full transparency, so this post is my first step toward that goal. 

Despite the trepidation I feel at taking this first step, I do believe that, ultimately, this is going to bring some amazing new friends into my life and deepen my connection with those of you I already know. 

We all get better and grow in conversation with one another. I want to hear your thoughts and what you’re wrestling with. I want to know where you depart from my position and where we align. 

In other words, in stepping more fully into the light, I expect to be known better and to know you better - even when we disagree. 

I am here for it. All of it. If you are too then I hope you’ll follow along on the journey. I think it’s going to be a fun ride.