Build confidence by embracing the struggles

Embrace the struggle

“Life is struggle.” I believe that within that quote lies the most important lesson in entrepreneurship: Embrace the struggle.”
― Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

I read this book while I was backpacking through Southeast Asia in the scorching heat, mosquitoes poking me in all directions, trying to figure out the next steps in my career.

Up until this point, I had been working through my career in Corporate Finance, not entirely sure where I was aiming to go.

Did I want to become a CFO? No…. Did I want to run financial reports and analysis for the next 20 years? Nope….. So what was it?

The hardest things about these things is we don’t know until we try things and take those first steps. Simple, right?

But after nearly a decade in this field, I wanted to try something different. When I woke up, I wasn’t feeling excited like I did when I went to train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) or listen to “How I built this” podcasts. Then I discovered entrepreneurship.

In 2018, I decided to strike out on my own. I didn’t have much experience (if any) and wasn’t sure where to even begin. But I knew I was good at research, so away I went in reading everything. I mean…everything. Blogs, content, attending meetups, books, you name it.

Slowly, but surely, I was feeling more confident, that maybe this was possible. Don’t get me wrong, there were (and still are) days where I think, “This is just too hard.” But I remember that such a small percentage will ever take their hand at entrepreneurship, and even smaller who persevere and stay persistent.

As someone who wrestled, does BJJ and even competed in mixed martial arts, the hardest part is just taking those first steps. We’re ingrained to be afraid of the unknown. I know I was.

But this journey has taught me more than in my 10 years have in Corporate Finance. Its taught me to truly bootstrap, take on my challenges head on, and control my destiny. Because being afraid won’t take us far. Just like my first MMA competition, I was scared of what could happen physically to me — but I feared not competing at all even more.

Building confidence is a long, arduous process. It literally sometimes takes blood, sweat and tears. I’ve seen friends and family struggle through the process, questioning themselves whether the fight is worth it.

But in the end, I see them succeed in their goals. They embraced the struggle.

There are no shortcuts. Hard work is hard work, and confidence stems from that.

Embrace the struggle, and we’ll build confidence from there.

Failure is an option

“When doubt seeps in you got two roads you can take either road. You can go to the left or you can go to the right and believe me, they’ll tell you failure is not an option. That is ridiculous. Failure is always an option. Failure is the most readily available option at all times, but it’s a choice. You can choose to fail or you can choose to succeed. And if we can plant seeds and let him know, ‘Move your feet, keep your hands up, stay off the bottom.’ That is the road to victory, or self-doubt and negative talk, and that is the road to failure. But failure is always there, and it’s okay to recognize that. If I can leave you with anything today, in my long journey through this is, one, it’s okay. Two, it’s normal. And as athletes and especially as men, as male athletes we hate to admit weakness to ourselves, and when you’re dealing with something and you got some kind of a hiccup, yeah, first thing is acknowledge it.” – Chael Sonnen

One of my favorite quotes said by one of the best MMA fighters, and what he says is true. We do have an option to either fail or succeed.

What is failure?

Now, the argument could be made what is failure and what and success. I am of the opinion that failure and success is determined by our own objectives, goals and measures. By that I mean, what do we want for ourselves and not what others want? And are we willing to sacrifice what’s required to accomplish those goals?

For example, a long-term goal and dream of mine was to compete in mixed martial arts. It was a dream I long had dating back to high school where I watched my very first UFC fight, which featured Tito Ortiz against Ken Shamrock. I was mesmerized by it all–the fighting, the martial arts, the dedication and determination, and above all, the fearlessness conveyed by the fighters themselves. Because it really does take a certain kind of person to willingly jump in a cage and get knocked senseless.

Nevertheless, it was something I had to do. I felt it in my heart. But like most things, life hit and that dream was on hiatus. But fast forward to December 2012, I had an epiphany. If I were ever going to accomplish this dream, this goal, it was either now or never.

So I took the plunge. I trained day in, day out for years; sparred hundreds of hours and learning a variety of martial arts. When the day finally came that I would be fighting, I was both eagerly excited and frightened.

Why fear can be motivating

But that fear is what drove me. Fear can be a good thing. The fear of failing drove me to train hard, training anywhere from 18 to 24 hours per week on top of a full time job. I knew this is what it would take for me to achieve success.

I ended up winning that fight. But the win wasn’t what got me excited; it was the countless amount of hours training, sparring and weight cutting that showed me who I am. It made me realize I could do this. That if I could do this, everything else is possible.

Those looking to realize their dreams and goals

So for anyone who’s looking to set out new goals and are worried about failure, put every dedication into your goal. Create a game plan, track every step, and you’ll be proud of what you’ve accomplished.

Because nothing is worse than doing nothing at all.