A few years ago, I got a text from a dear friend who said “Have you seen this?”
I opened the message and saw a screen shot of a few pages of a (to be unnamed) New York Times bestselling author’s new book that featured copy from a short class I taught about entrepreneur mindset (my class was called “Rebuild Your Backbone” for those of you who have been around here long enough to remember!).
The feature in the book was not flattery, but rather a critique of what the author said was my misguided emphasis on passion and mindset as ingredients for business success.
Needless to say, I was not pleased.
First, because it was clear this person had never read my book Escape from Cubicle Nation, where I spent hundreds of pages with detailed explanations on how “Hating your job intensely is not a business plan,” instead focusing on lots of “hard” business topics like financial and legal structures, building useful, customer-centered products and services, and a strong marketing strategy.
Second, because if you ask anyone who has worked with me, they will tell you that we do a lot more than “visualize success” and look in the mirror saying “I am good enough, I am smart enough, and doggonit, people like me,” instead building operational structures that allow their business to grow and thrive through consistent, strategic action.
But when I got past my flare of anger, I realized the most upsetting thing was:
Mindset IS critically important.
So much business advice, especially from men, ignores the emotional journey that accompanies growing a business.
The key, in my experience, is integrating strong mindset practices with strong business habits.
Here are 5 of my favorite mindset habits
- Allow the emotional storm. For a short time.
My dear friend and past client and coach Mark Otto has helped me understand and navigate my emotional landscape. Through the years, he noted that when something happened to flare up a negative emotion (like, let’s say having my reputation dragged in a book!), I would crater for quite a long time, which brought my work to a halt.Mark encouraged me to practice fully feeling the negative emotion for 3 minutes or so. To rage. To cry. To shake my fist.And then, to let it go and get back on the horse.
I was surprised by how well this worked. Mark said “It is really important to feel the feeling fully. But once you feel it, there is not benefit to stewing in it for hours or days afterwards. It sucked. You felt it. Now you can let it go.”
- Name precisely what is going on
Often, I will get on a call with a client and they will say something like “I am totally and completely overwhelmed.”Acknowledging the feeling, I will follow up with questions like:”Is there anything in particular that feels overwhelming?” or
“What specific feeling do you have about being overwhelmed (sad, glad, mad or scared)?”
As we dig in, we usually get to more clear and precise language like:
“I am scared about cash flow because I have three contracts this month that are not closing and I don’t know how I am going to pay my bills.”
With this precise description of what is going on, we can dig in and make a plan to resolve it.
When you find yourself saying things like “My business is totally screwed up” or “I am a train wreck,” let yourself settle for a minute, then get much more precise about what is going on. It will calm you and lead to a resolution plan.
- Read and apply Growth Mindset
Carol Dweck wrote one of the most useful and most-referred to books I have ever read, called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Her explanation of Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset is tremendously useful and will change your life (and parenting, if you are a parent!) for the better.
- Remember who you are
Years ago, while writing Body of Work, I was in a particularly Imposter Syndromy mood. I called up my friend Michael Bungay Stanier and lamented that my creative process was all over the place, and that I was not writing my book in an organized way like I had seen my friends Dan Pink and Nancy Duarte do with theirs.”That’s right Pam,” Michael said. “You are not Dan Pink or Nancy Duarte. You are Pamela Slim and you have a distinct creative process. Maybe your creative process is that you are all over the place with ideas until you are ready to synthesize.”I looked at him sheepishly, hating that once again he was right (one of his worst qualities).
Like I had written about before, I remembered who I was.
- Focus on the long game
There are moments when really bad things happen that have serious consequences. It just sucks. And it can feel both scary and overwhelming.In times like these, it is helpful to let your mind travel to times in your life when something really bad happened (you got divorced, you got sued, you lost a big project, the recession cratered your business) that made you feel terrible.Then review how long you felt bad, and what you did to feel better. Sometimes you can’t change or reverse something serious that happens in your life. But you can develop resilience and practices that allow you to move through difficult times to get to a softer and more joyful shore.
I think about that every time my business goes through a slowdown or dip.
I remember the economic crashes of 1987 and 2000. And the panic I felt in 2008. And the uncertainty from the pandemic shutdown.
My business made it through all those events. For 26 years now. And I know I will get through any economic blip to come.
Mindset habits will never replace work you need to do on a tactical and operational level to grow your business.
But they will give you the energy and motivation to do these tactical things, even when it is hard or you feel overwhelmed.
We can’t control what happens to us but we sure can shape the narrative about what the event means so that we feel clear, focused and empowered.