For an entrepreneur, it can be hard to accept you may not be the first at something.
I am still shooting myself in the foot for not having started Froyo To Go when I thought of it years before it became an actual business…BY SOMEONE ELSE!
It wasn’t my dream to have a frozen yogurt truck, but if it had been I can tell you that seeing that FroYo To Go truck would have killed my spirit and I probably wouldn’t have started.
If you have an idea for a business and you see something similar in the world it can be easy to think, “Oh someone is already doing it, nevermind.”
It is easy to let fear take hold and make you think there is a limited space for your idea and if someone got to that space first then there won’t be any space left for you.
But take a look at this Philadelphia google street view snapshot:
LuluLemon and Athleta sit right next to each other on Walnut Street in Philadelphia. Athleta was actually there first and then LuluLemon opened up next door.
Granted, both were already established brands before opening their doors on Walnut Street. Time will tell which one holds out or if there is enough market space for both to endure being neighbors; however, most of us would be filled with dread if we were thinking about opening up a luxury athleisure clothing brand and saw a similar store open up on the same block.
The world of ideas isn’t built on the same concept as train seats. A venue can be sold out, but can the universe? Can the space where ideas are born be maxed out?
Not at all. Otherwise there would only be one Italian restaurant, one clothing store, one car, and so on.
There is an illusion of limited resources that stops many in their tracks from pursuing their idea.
On Shark Tank, Mark Cuban often tells entrepreneurs that they should be working as if there is a competitor working 24/7 to beat them at their own game, and this is not bad advice for a small business owner.
If you compete against an invisible, but threatening force that is working to beat you, you will most likely rise much faster than you would have if you leisurely set up shop.
As someone considering opening up their own business, this can be daunting to hear. You might be thinking, “Well, someone probably already started in this race and is trying very hard. I’m already behind, why bother?”
Many have the dream of starting their own company, project, hobby, or life direction but don’t put it into practice because of fear.
Sometimes these ideas about how the world works and our individual capabilities aren’t explicit definitions we have decided on, but these thoughts still have a very real impact on our behavior.
Imagine you are looking down into the Grand Canyon. You don’t explicitly identify that you’re a human being who can’t fly, so you therefore can’t jump off the ledge and soar across to the other side.
No one ever says to you, “Hey, remember you can’t fly!”
You don’t try to fly – and you probably don’t even think about flying across as a real possibility – because you have so deeply internalized the idea that you don’t have the ability to fly.
In a similar way, we deeply internalize the idea that there are limited resources and opportunities for us to be successful. Though we don’t explicitly define this belief, it affects our behaviors and decisions every day.
The belief that there are limited resources and/or opportunities for each of us to be successful is the very belief that will keep success at bay.
When anxiety creeps into your system it burns up the cognitive energy necessary to complete the work you’ll need to do. Your brain is working overtime to deal with the anxiety when you need it to be focused on the task at hand.
A 2011 study performed by Kathleen D. Vohs, Roy F. Baumeister, and Brandon J. Schmeichel showed that our belief in ourselves affects our energy level.
The study is particularly relevant for those with weak self-efficacy. As you tire yourself out with anxious thoughts and self doubt, that fatigue then chips away at your self-efficacy. So you end up exhausted and feeling hopeless.
Take a moment to close your eyes and breathe.
Stay aware of the thoughts that pervade your mind.
If you are you talking yourself out of succeeding, stop that train and replace it with a vision of whatever success means to you. You have control over what you think. You can fill your head with thoughts of failure or thoughts of success. Choose wisely and give yourself a chance!
Your success may not come in the package you expected
Take the FroYo To Go example. Had it been my dream to have a frozen yogurt food truck, I might have had to modify it once I saw the FroYo To Go truck.
Maybe I change the frozen yogurt to some other delicacy. Maybe my trucks open up at night, after the FroYo’s are closed for the day. Maybe it’s not a food truck, but rather a brick and mortar cafe.
Don’t be stuck on your success manifesting in one specific way. It limits your potential.
Social Comparison is not your friend
Your only social comparison should be with yourself, i.e. how is your progress matching up to your goals?
The minute you start comparing your success to that of another is when things start going downhill.
That’s when anxiety creeps in, that’s when the illusion of limited resources kicks in, that’s when your self-efficacy wanes, that’s when you take your first step onto the road of quitting.
You can, however, use social comparison positively if you start believing that there’s a space for your idea in the world. When someone else’s success doesn’t detract from your own, collaboration and creativity reign.
Meaning, if you see another business thriving with something similar then you can say, “OK the world likes this idea, I just have to let them know I exist as well.”
It’s not your idea that’s original, it’s you
There are rarely revolutionary, brand new ideas. Typically modifications or combinations of already existing ideas keep the world moving steadily forward.
Entrepreneurs thrive on new ideas, new concepts, innovations, disrupting the old ways to pave the way for some better process, but more importantly: they begin.
They take action. And action begets action, until you’ve eventually carved out a niche for yourself.
Rather than stopping before you’ve even started, use the existing competition to differentiate yourself from what’s already out there. See the obstacle as an opportunity and remember that there is no finite amount of success to go around.
Some people like Burger King, while others like McDonald’s or Wendy’s. I happen to shop at Athleta, not LuluLemon. Look at all of the new products that are born within already dominated markets: like crazy chip flavors, organic juice varieties, or this season’s denim trends.
There’s always room for another product, service, or idea, you just have to begin and keep going.