A Simple Truth: If You Don't Back Yourself, No One Else Will
Growth and the achievement of greatness is a slow burn with steps forward and the occasional step back.
I wanted to title this piece "Put your money where your mouth is," but that would be too aggressive. An alternative was "Believe in yourself, and others will too," but who wants to read another pick-me-up? No one does, just like no one wants to back you, if you aren't willing to back yourself.
As I reflect on my time running businesses, a recurring motif adorns the walls of my memory. Framed just where I can feel them are the moments when I was the only one who could make sense of the madness. I have a tendency of self-deprecatingly calling myself delusional when I look back. Jokes aside, I do believe that a certain degree of lunacy is necessary to be a successful entrepreneur.
In 2011, at the fairly young age of 23, I walked away from a stable nine-to-five and started a social media agency. With only three years of work experience and a strong belief that the world was becoming more digital, I found myself swimming upstream and surrounded by negativity. I was the black sheep of the family, the guy-who-sat-on-Facebook all day, a misguided young 'un who wanted to be an entrepreneur so bad that he latched on to the first thing he could find. It didn't help that I read Richard Branson's Losing My Virginity, twice cover-to-cover, and I quit my job the day after the second read.
I will admit here that if I weren't the subject of the last paragraph, I would also think they were losing their mind.
But here we are, on average scrolling through 300 feet, the equivalent of a Statue of Liberty worth of mobile content every day. This isn't about right or wrong, by the way- I quote this statistic to highlight the truth I firmly believed: people desire so strongly to be connected that the world was changing to accommodate their need. And I had to be part of it. This was my absolute truth and the insight that drove me. I ran the agency successfully for nearly nine years, before I moved on to greener pastures.
In 2017, a year after my daughter was born, I felt the overwhelming desire to build a brand that connected to men in a way they had never been spoken to before. Driven by my own experiences and the lack of community I personally felt, I set out to shift the paradigm of parenting, and created the media brand, Daddy's Digest. It was the answer to everything I believed men needed to help them be better partners and parents.
Short of calling me a heretic, almost everyone was convinced I had lost my marbles. I was yet again confronted with the uphill battle of sticking to my convictions and forging ahead, completely disregarding the white noise. The brand experienced unprecedented growth, global success and is now in the capable hands of a new leader. I exited the business earlier this year, and I now find myself being applauded and celebrated for my vision.
But cheering is rarely part of the early stages in a business venture. Yes, there will be some who see and appreciate the vision, but the most common sentiments are almost always skepticism and disbelief. The greater the doubt, the more important it becomes for an entrepreneur to believe in what they set out to create. An important caveat to mention is that this confidence must not be blind faith and baseless optimism. If you believe, you must do everything it takes to make others believe. The proof is in the pudding, and you must bake harder than you ever have.
My unwavering commitment to the cause was expressed through more 16-hour workdays than I ever imagined, more sleepless nights than restful ones, shorter holidays, and years with no time off on weekends. When the angels refused to invest, I made the financial investments necessary to stay on track. I did what it took, and I was relentless. The repeated achievement of industry-acceptable milestones gave credence to the naysayers.
Hindsight is indeed 20/20, and I would be lying if I said that every day was a glass half-full. It wasn't, and it isn't meant to be. Growth and the achievement of greatness is a slow burn with steps forward and the occasional step back. With each step I took, it was clear, if I wasn't willing to back myself, no one would.