Season 2 Episode 18
Mel Robbins, personal-development expert, best-selling author and motivational speaker

In this special episode, renowned author and personal development expert, Mel Robbins, answers your business questions to help you level up your mindsets and strategies for greater success. Mel shares powerful tools and techniques, including The Iceberg Model, The Hot 15 and tips for navigating the five zones of the day.

Tune in to hear Mel’s excellent advice for entrepreneurs’ universal struggles, including overcoming distractions, building confidence, getting serious about wellness, and finding the path to become a prominent figure.

Maintaining optimism despite discouraging media reports

Chris Allen: The episode with Mel was so amazing that you all avalanched us with questions. So we thought, “Hey, what better moment to ask you some of those questions and get some answers?” We’ve got a few of those questions here and we’re looking forward to hearing your answers, Mel.

Mel Robbins: Let’s go.

Chris: All right. Question one — Amy, an entrepreneur from Chicago says, “There’s so much doom and gloom in the news right now and sometimes it really gets to me. How can I maintain the optimism needed to stay motivated in the face of so much bad news?”

Mel: Amy, stop watching the news. Now, it sounds trite, right? But stop watching the news. First of all, there’s profound research around why you’d want to do that. Shawn Achor, who’s a famous happiness researcher out of Harvard University, has found in his studies that simply watching a minute of news in the morning can have a negative impact on you for up to six to eight hours. And here’s why this is critical. The most important resource you have as a business owner is your time, your attention and your energy. If you are giving your time, your attention and your energy to either negative news or to social media, you are shooting yourself and your business right in the foot. So I want you to start to take your time, your attention, and your energy very, very seriously because whatever you allow as input profoundly impacts your output.

And one of the first things you could do is remove watching the news or consuming news from your morning diet. Do not look at it. It does not concern you. I don’t watch the news because what I know is that if there is something important going on, everybody around me will be talking about it. Then I can choose to tune in or not. Second thing you should do is you should immediately go to your social media accounts. I want you to get extremely… selfish is even the wrong word. I want you to get strategic about the accounts you follow. This is all input. You are voluntarily giving your attention, time and energy to other accounts, to brands, to influencers, to people. If that input is not lifting you up, is not making you smarter, is not helping you focus on business, delete. If you’re scared about what Aunt Susie Q is going to do when you unfollow her, you can just hit mute. But you have to start taking the input you are getting profoundly seriously because it does impact the output.

Using a framework to determine if it’s time to call it quits

Chris: That’s good stuff. All right, Alex, e-commerce clothing store owner in LA asks, “When there are lulls and slow times in your small business, how do you decide if it’s time to A, hang it up and close your business, B, pivot the direction of your business, or C, keep pushing through the slow sales period?”

Mel: OK. I want you to use the four Ps. OK? We’re going to talk about Project, Process, Product and People. And by project, I want you to look at any slow period in your business as a research project. That’s how we’re going to attack this. And when there is a slow period in your business, you are more than capable of figuring out either how to weather it or how to pivot your business to make it work. OK? So we’re going to look at three things because part of the thing that happens when you go through a lull is you start to get emotional about it and you make it personal and you don’t turn it into a research project. OK? Any lull in your business is an opportunity to upgrade. I’m going to use the pandemic as an example. Do you know how many businesses went through rapid innovation because of the lull that got created in either sales or in shipping or in some other process?

And I realized it had a devastating impact on so many other businesses. But if you get strategic about this, you can use these periods to get the time back to be able to innovate in your own business. So you’re going to look at three things after you’ve turned this into a research project. You’ve got to look at your process, product and people. Because the innovation and the challenges you’re facing are in one of those three categories. So process is something about your systems. It could be about shipping. If you’re running an e-commerce business, here’s what I know — this is a marketing problem. Because e-commerce businesses are all about marketing. They’re all about sales funnels. They’re all about the photographs you’re taking. They’re all about the keywords you’re using. They’re all about the campaigns you’re running. They’re all about the integrations you’re using with social media.

And somewhere in your e-commerce business, there is a breakdown in one of those foundational processes and the lull is going to allow you to attend to it. So that’s number one. Number two, product. Is there something about the product in your e-commerce business? Is it stale? Have you run through the trend on a certain thing? This is really important for you to look at. So process number one, product number two. The third is people. Do you have too many? Do you have the wrong people? Is your sister still running your social media strategy? Do you need to upgrade to somebody who knows what they’re doing? Or are you the people we’re talking about? And if it’s you, that means you’re not connected to your “why” anymore. Maybe you started this business because you wanted to make some extra money. It was a real quick win. But now the hustle that’s involved, the margins that are involved, you’re just not in it as much. So it’s not really that there’s a lull. It’s that you are not putting into it what you need to put into it. So using those four Ps. Turn it into a research project, take a look at your processes, take a look at the product, take a look at the people, including yourself. That’s probably the place to start. That is how you’re going to figure out the answer to that. That’s probably the place to start. That is how you’re going to figure out the answer to that question.

Overcoming self-doubt and distractions

Chris: Great answer. Number three. This is Melanie, also an entrepreneur in LA. “Launching a startup is hard and I find it easy to get distracted by other projects and jobs.” We talked a little bit about this in the episode. “How can I keep my motivation and focus on my own business?”

Mel: OK. So, what you’re describing, Melanie, is the single biggest obstacle to your business because self-doubt actually manifests in procrastination. And there is a form of what I call business procrastination, where you are busy doing everything but your business. You are avoiding the things that feel hard because it’s easier to wash the dishes, it’s easier to send out that email, it’s easier to fold your laundry, it’s easier to go to a yoga class, it’s easier to fiddle around on Pinterest than to do the actual work to grow your business. And here’s the way I think about this. Number one, first of all, you have done the hardest part, which is having the self-awareness that you’re doing it.

So that’s a really important thing because procrastination, when it comes to things that you need to do or want to do, can become a habit. And believe it or not, procrastination, when you look at the research, is triggered by stress. When you blow off things that feel hard, you’re trying to get relief from your stress. So your business probably stresses you out, that’s why you’re doing easier things and that’s why you’re avoiding it. So, number one, congratulations because you have the self-awareness to realize you’re doing it.

My philosophy about everything when I realize I’ve got a problem is to think, “How do I make this easier? How do I make this easier on myself?” Here’s what I would recommend. I would think a lot about where you do your best work. I’m easily distracted, so if I have to get deep work done or I have to do things I’m avoiding, I get out of my house, I get out of my office, I’ll go to a coffee shop. There’s something about the ambient noise that actually makes me focus.

The single most effective place for me to work is an airplane seat. Why? I’m strapped in, there’s nowhere to go, and the wifi is usually crappy, so I can open up something I really need to dig into and I can put my head down and get it done. There’s also this concept I want to explain that has been a game changer for me. There are five zones of time in the day, five zones of time. I finally realized this. This is something I’ve been researching. I’m like, “Oh my God, there are five zones of time.” So Zone 1 is when you wake up, you own that time, that is your time. So many of you just casually hand it over to the internet, you look at your phone, you check your emails. Zone 1, in my opinion, is the only time you have that is yours and you have to fight for it.

Zone 2 begins the moment you check your email or your phone or you turn on your TV because you have turned your attention over to someone or something else. Zone 3 happens the second you start your workday because you have traded your time and attention for a paycheck or you have traded your time and attention to earn profits for your business, that is not your time. Do not get mad at your job, do not get mad at your business because you are exchanging time and energy and attention in order to get money, period.

Zone 4 typically happens around 3:00 pm. That’s when most of us start tapping out in terms of our mindsets but we’re still sitting at our business, we’re still sitting at work, and it’s sort of that blurry zone of knowing you’re not going to get any great work done there. And Zone 4, by the way, also expands into going home when you’re cooking dinner and you’re doing all these things that are sort of in the gray zone of transitioning from work into the rest of your life. Zone 5 happens when you turn off the TV at the end of the night. That is also time you could own, if you’re somebody who does your best work at night and you get that kind of night owl thing. Otherwise, you’ll be better suited to think about how to get sleep, which you need so when you wake up tomorrow and you’re in Zone 1, you actually know what to do with it.

Chris: That’s good.

Mel: The more I’ve focused on Zone 1 and Zone 5 in my life, the more productive I’ve become, the less stressed I’ve become, the more I understand what each time throughout the day is, what expectations to have around it, and the less resentment I feel, and it helps a lot.

Mastering your field: how to become a prominent figure

Chris: That’s really good. All right, number four, how did you successfully transition from being one of the many voices on social media and podcasts discussing everyday life challenges to becoming a prominent figure in the self-help industry? Catherine wants to know. Can you share your insights into the strategies that helped you propel yourself to this level?

Mel: Yeah. I think one of the biggest insights is that if everything is important, nothing is. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have a game plan for a year about what is going to be the singular focus you’re going to really care about the most because you can’t care about everything. If you think about my career, there’s a lot that’s public and a lot that’s private. So the public-facing things in my career are what everybody sees, it’s the 10 million followers, it’s the hit podcast, it’s the books I’ve published, but that’s not the heart and soul of my business. I have been leapfrogging, remember that game where you hop over the next person and they hop? I’ve been leapfrogging my way to the position I’m in now, and it’s been a toggle between things I do publicly and things that are happening in the background.

A lot of people don’t realize that I was, for many years, the most sought after and booked female speaker on the corporate circuit. I did nothing but go to stages around the world working with the world’s biggest brands at these massive sales events or corporate retreats, speaking and teaching and sharing research and training people. That’s where I gained all my expertise is the work I was doing privately that nobody knows about. That’s where I started to gain a huge following that was not on social media and a tremendous level of respect, and all of this sort of skill that was being built in the background. So what I want to really have you think about is what is the one thing you would want to focus on mastering this year.

About six or seven years ago, for me, the one thing I really wanted to master was to somehow figure out how to take the things going on in private and make them part of a social media strategy. So I did what I always do with anything I’m trying new that I want to master. I became a student of it before I executed it. Six years ago, I studied people who were doing really cool things on social media like Gary Vaynerchuk. I started studying a lot of the viral companies that repackage and curate information like Upworthy. I mean, there are so many OGs (original gangsters). I mean, now it’s like the meme city out there, everybody has these viral strategies. But back in the day, that was not what everybody did. So I was looking at Ellentube, I was looking at YouTube, I was picking everything apart and becoming a student of it.

Then I started to apply what I was learning. When I got into the podcast business, I had done audiobooks and audiobook productions for partners like Audible, but I had never launched a podcast. So I studied it for two years. I watched meticulously what my buddy Jay Shetty was doing. I watched meticulously what the number one female podcast host was doing, Alex Cooper who is on Spotify. She hosts a show called “Call Her Daddy”, but she’s only on Spotify, so who knows what the download numbers are now. I just meticulously watched the people I really admired. I watched Howard Stern, I watched Delilah from the radio, and I picked apart the things they were doing. I became a student of it, and it took me two years — two years of studying and two years of managing a pivot in my business, but it was the number one thing I was focused on.

The thing I’m focused on now is YouTube. Now that we have nailed it over the course of the last year, having launched our podcast and completely destroying it in terms of download numbers and success and reach and growth, now I’m pivoting and tearing apart YouTube because I see that as the single biggest way to reach more people. Every move I’ve made has been a combination of either something I’ve picked privately like, “I’m going to be the number one female speaker in the world, that’s what I’m going to do,” then I became that. I’m going to take all these private conversations and I’m going to figure out how to put those on social media because these conversations between me and somebody at a grocery store or on a sidewalk are way more compelling than these things I’m saying on a stage.

Then I’m like, “I feel called to launch a podcast.” There are 6 million podcasts on Spotify alone, how the hell am I going to do this? How am I going to figure this out? How am I going to change my business? Most podcasts don’t make any money. If I stop speaking, where’s the money going to come from? How am I going to pay for my team? So I became a student of it. Now it’s about YouTube. What is the kind of content we want to create? What does it feel like? What do successful channels do? I don’t want it to look like that. So pick something for the year that you want to master and become a student of it, then execute. That’s my advice.

Defeating imposter syndrome

Chris: Good advice. All right. Gia, owner of The Brush Bar in Scottsdale is asking, “Imposter syndrome is real, especially as you try new things and grow in your career. Once you push through and decide to make a change, what are some tangible things you can do in the short term to build your confidence?”

Mel: So, great question. The research around confidence is very clear, confidence is not a feeling. Here’s a new definition of confidence. Confidence is the willingness to try. Confidence is the willingness to try. And the reason why this definition is critical is because the research shows that confidence, as we talk about it like a feeling, is actually gained from competency. Competency is a fancy word that basically means you know what you’re doing, and the only way to know what you’re doing is to practice it over and over and over again. And when you practice something, you start to gain skills and you lose your resistance and your fear around it, and that’s where the feeling of confidence comes in. But in order to gain confidence, which is why I like the definition, you have to be willing to try something you’ve never done before. So you have confidence and you display confidence when you’re willing to try something. That’s it. You’ve got to keep that definition in mind. That’s number one.

Number two, it really helps me when I’m learning a new skill to imagine a bridge. I believe all transitions and all learning curves are just bridges. You start on one side and you have to cross a bridge and it’s going to get you to the other side. Some bridges are like that one in San Francisco, long, it’s covered in clouds, you can’t see the other side, but you know eventually you’re going to get there if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, you just keep trying. Another thing I want you to understand is that the single most confident thing anybody could say is a three-word sentence, “I don’t know”. When somebody is in a meeting and they’re asked a question and they can say, “I don’t know, but I can find out. I don’t know,” don’t you immediately trust that person? Of course, it takes a lot of confidence to just say that in a room.

So what I want you to understand is imposter syndrome only means you’re on the bridge. The way you cross the bridge is waking up every day and just trying, just being willing to try. You don’t have to have all the answers, you have to have the courage to say, “I don’t know”. And when you focus on just waking up every day and trying, you build the skills which lowers the resistance and fear, which makes you confident, which then makes you catch up to feeling confident.

Propelling your business forward faster

Chris: Super helpful. Number six, Gia has a follow-up question. What advice would you give to someone as the thing that helped propel you the fastest? Was it mentorship, joining communities, hiring PR, or bringing on a partner? What was the thing that changed the game?

Mel: Well, I’ll tell you the thing that doesn’t, and that’s hiring PR. I personally believe that’s a waste of money. Your customers are your single biggest PR and your social media. Get serious about that, and nobody is going to do it as well as you do. So that’s number one. Number two, mentorship is great if you have a mentor who has the time to be engaged. Otherwise, mentorship can feel awesome in the beginning and then you start to feel like you’re chasing somebody. I feel the fastest thing that has propelled me is number one, joining communities. See, the mistake we always make is we think our competitors are against us. There is so much success and opportunity to go around, the very people who you think you’re competing with should be your closest allies because you can learn from them. And if you’re worried about the people who are in your kind of business around you, get into an online community with other entrepreneurs, because when you’re in a community, you share back and forth, it’s not the one-way situation that having a mentor can be.

You need to be with other people who are running a small retail business day in and day out, or who are running the kind of business you’re running and learn from them. What you’ll learn from them is going to pay back dividends that I can’t even put money on. Because here’s the thing, your family has no idea what you’re going through, your friends have no idea what you’re going through. They don’t run the business. But other people, even if they’re running a retail business or a service business that’s different from what you’re offering, they fricking get it. That’s why you’re listening to this podcast because we fricking get it. And so the more you’re around those communities, the better.

The second thing, bringing on a partner — this is a minefield because we think a partner will solve all our problems. Let me tell you something, the wrong partner will create more problems. And you want to tread very carefully in this area because we way too quickly turn over authority to someone else and give people a stake in something we’ve built because we’re overwhelmed and because we have not taken the time to truly problem solve where the pain points are in the business. So do not make the mistake of thinking a partner is going to solve all your problems, the right partner will. But I say this because in building my business over the last 10 years, I had a partner who was fantastic, and then that partner was really horrible. And that partner was also not happy and knew that it was not a good fit.

And so when you kind of grow, I would recommend you try to grow and you hire for expertise. What ends up happening is the right person will start to appear and act like a partner. Now that’s for an existing business. If you’re starting a business, it’s great to start with a partner because then it’s not as lonely. But if you have an existing business and you think a partner’s going to solve all your problems, you’re wrong. I would hire an expert, and then if the person is partnership material based on how they’re operating in the role, that will become evident.

Taking the leap to run your business full time

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Great stuff. Tasha says, “As a business owner for a few years now, I’ve continued my day job to provide for my family and let the business income balance. It has now been three years and I believe I’m ready to run my business full time, but when do you truly know when it’s time to take that leap of faith and how do you justify the pros and cons?”

Mel: So there’s a huge difference between taking a leap of faith and making a decision to step into a business. I’ll say that again, there is a huge difference between taking a leap of faith and making a decision to step into a business. One of those is just like, “Let’s go.” “OK, I’m tired of doing both.” The other is a calculated risk where you have looked at cash flow, you understand your budget and the income you need to pay your bills, you have cut back on your spending to give yourself a bigger runway. That is a calculated risk and that is the definition of stepping into a business, that you’ve actually looked at the numbers, you understand the runway you have and that you are comfortable tolerating the risk.

And the reason why this is important is because too many people make the leap, instead of making the decision, and when you make the leap too soon, you put unnecessary pressure on your business. And when you start to feel the pressure financially, you are not going to perform well as a business owner.

And I pulled some research on this, because I think this is really important, because I do want to acknowledge you, Tasha, for keeping your day job while you let the business income balance. That is a crazy smart decision and it’s supported by the research. So I’m going to read here that, “Entrepreneurs who keep their day jobs are more successful.” A robust study of entrepreneurs from researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison found that those who kept their day jobs, at least at first, were 33% less likely to fail in their new venture. Adam Grant, the youngest tenured professor at Wharton, the University of Pennsylvania, the School of Business, put it this way, “Quitting your full-time job to start a company is like proposing marriage on the first date. The most durable businesses are typically started by people who play it safe. Don’t go in all guns blazing, start it off as a hobby and see if it takes off.”

That’s exactly what you’ve done, Tasha. You’re now three years into this. It is not a hobby, it is taking off. The business income has balanced. You are already showing us based on your decision making that you are making a calculated decision, that you are, based on the research, 33% less likely to fail, and that you have not created this huge risk. So you’re a genius and now you just need to make the decision instead of taking the leap.

Realizing self-care is a mission-critical business strategy

Chris: Good stuff. Laura, who’s an entrepreneur in Kansas City asks, “Wellness and self-care are all over the place. As a driven entrepreneur, I have a hard time believing in anything but hard work and hitting goals and that’s just so I can grow my business. That said, I’m tired and feel signs of burning out from time to time. What self-care should I invest in? I don’t have time for trips to the spa, let alone a vacation.”

Mel: So I need you to hear me loud and clear, wellness and self-care is a business strategy. This is so important because entrepreneurs in particular are horrible at life balance, and I shouldn’t even use that word, life balance because there is really no balance. You’re always going to be working because no one’s going to care as much about your business as you. But here’s what I want you to understand, and this was a huge wake-up call for me. When you are constantly burning the candle at all ends, you’re frying your nervous system. There is research from Dr. Judy Willis out of UCLA who studies the connection between a stressed out nervous system and brain functioning.

When your nervous system is on edge because you are working all the time and everything’s important because nothing is, and you think busyness is success and you think everything has to be done today — and you are up until the wee hours and you have no life and you are constantly thinking and constantly on your phone, you are not able to tap in to the full capacity of executive functioning. Your sympathetic nervous system, which is your fight, flee, freeze, overworking, entrepreneurial nervous system, impairs your prefrontal cortex. So your speed of processing, your working memory, your clarity, your ability to engage in strategic thinking and decision-making is impaired. I’m on a mission to get every entrepreneur and small business owner to understand that your nervous system regulation, meaning being able to have moments where you can take a breath, where you can drop into your body, where you’re not on your phone… this isn’t for wellness, this is so that your business is better.

And it makes sense. Can you drive a car 24 hours a day? No, you’ll fry the engine, you’ll run out of gas. You’re doing the same thing to yourself and it is killing your business. I read this research from Dr. Judy Willis during the pandemic, and I realized I have been Laura. Since 2014, I have been sprinting and working 100-hour weeks and calling it success.

I finally thought, “Wait a minute, how could I possibly be the best I could be in this business if I never take a break? How could I possibly make good decisions, if I’m running from this thing to do this thing to do this thing? How could I possibly innovate or be smarter about what I’m doing if I am always on my phone and always in the middle of a fire?” The fact is you can’t. So this is not about self-care, this is about ritualizing the ability to take a pause to step away in your daily routine so that your fricking brain can help you. Because you’re not helping your brain if you’re operating like this.

The other thing I can’t stand is we’ve sort of romanticized this hustle culture, which might work for single guys, but it does not work for anybody with a family. It does not work for people who are taking care of kids, it does not work for most women. And if you’re working all the time, you’re not working smart.

So here’s what I would say. Here are some things I think you need to do — and this is not about a spa, it’s not about a vacation. But if you think taking a vacation is a problem, that’s a problem because you do need to step away. The research is also very clear that you’ll come up with your best ideas when you are away from your business. You’ll come up with your best ideas when you’re taking a bath. You’ll come up with your best ideas when you’re outside taking a walk without your phone or without listening to anything in your ears. So here are some simple things I do that I see as not only self-care and wellness and for my health, but also as essential pieces of my business.

I wake up when the alarm rings and I roll out of bed. The phone is not near me. I do not look at my phone because this is Zone 1 of the five zones of time. I make my bed. I always make my bed first thing in the morning because there’s this momentum to just having it done. I walk into the bathroom. I have 16 ounces of water. I keep a mason jar right there, and I just drink 16 ounces of water. I look in the mirror, I high five myself into the day, and then I get outside and take a minimum of a 10-minute walk. That’s all I need, a 10-minute walk. And here’s the thing about the walk. I walk like I’m late. And if I remember to, I try to smile occasionally.

Now, the reason why I’m taking this walk, I might have my phone in my fanny pack with my dog treats because I literally walk down the driveway and walk back up. So 10 minutes walking like you’re late, first of all, it’ll add years to your life. Second, it’s a way to boost your mood. Third, you are getting exposure to bright light, which resets your circadian rhythms, which will help you with sleep, hugely important. So for 10 minutes, walk like you’re late outside, that’s my walk. And I haven’t looked at my phone yet which is really, really, really important.

The next thing is I sit down and I just have a notebook and I just kind of free-form dump my thoughts because I typically have all kinds of ideas that come while I’m outside. Also, on the walk you’re not listening to anything, you’re not on the phone, you’re not listening to a podcast, you’re not looking at social media when you’re walking, you are letting all five senses come alive. Do this even when it’s raining, you still get the UV. Then I go inside, and I take a blank piece of paper because there are always some kinds of ideas. I write down all my ideas, and then I pick the one thing that is my priority for the day, the one thing. That’s it. That’s it. Because I know my whole day is going to go into responding to things, but there is one thing I can inch forward via the progress principle to make 15 minutes of progress.

Then I always send a quick text or video message to a friend or family member. That’s changed loneliness for me. It’s made me really proactive about friendships, which has been a game changer. Then I grab my Hot 15. Hot 15 for me is 15 minutes making progress on something that matters. Then I’m allowed to look at email, and that’s when Zone 2 starts. The only other variation on this is after my walk, if I do have time, that’s when I’ll get exercise in. That’s it. That’s it.

That right there is wellness. It’s protecting my mind. And the other thing that has made a huge difference for me is prioritizing sleep. The more successful I get, the older I get, the earlier I go to bed. Because your sleep is not just about you resting, it is profoundly important for memory, it is profoundly important for your brain health, and it literally makes me better at the work I do. And it sure as hell makes me more money. So you’ll make more money when you start to take your brain health and breaks from work and be smarter about time on and time off way more seriously.

Chris: Yeah. I love what you said earlier about trading some of your Zone 5 for your Zone 1, which is your time.

Mel: Yeah.

Reframing what it means to be a female entrepreneur

Chris: Really awesome stuff. Self-care as a business strategy. All right, last question. Laura asks, “I have a business idea, but I’m scared to execute because I don’t know how I could possibly balance life as a busy entrepreneur with being a wife and a mom. Being a woman entrepreneur seems impossible. What tips do you have, Mel?”

Mel: This is a question about self-doubt. That’s all that this is. And I don’t know what messaging Laura has gotten, but I personally think being a female entrepreneur is one of the most amazing things you could do for your kids because you are modeling what it looks like to have something purposeful in your life that means something to you, and waking up every morning and doing the work to chip away at it. And to every mom and dad out there, don’t you want your kids to live a life where they pursue something meaningful to them? Well, who’s going to teach them that? You are. So that’s number one.

Number two is because this is about self-doubt, maybe you didn’t have female entrepreneurs in your life, maybe you’ve been getting a lot of messaging about what your role is, you’ve got to change the story. There is something we can provide for you, it’s something I use called The Iceberg Model. It is a design systems thinking model where you take a look at how the story you tell yourself ladders up to the actions you’re actually taking. So the story you tell yourself, which we already know is, “I can’t balance life as an entrepreneur. I can’t be a business owner as a wife and a mom. Being a woman entrepreneur is impossible.” That’s the story you’re telling.

Chris: Oh, yeah.

Mel: So then that ladders up to this belief that it’s going to be impossible for me to do this, which then ladders up to the actions you’re taking, which you’re not. You’re just thinking. And just thinking that this is impossible yet still wanting to do it ladders up to the ultimate thing, which is, of course, you don’t have any results. Of course you haven’t done it. Why would you, if the story you’re telling yourself is, “How could I possibly balance this?”

So we have to attack this at the story level. And here’s the thing that’s missing, Laura. You have a business idea, but I don’t know why you want to do this. Just having a business idea isn’t enough. How many times have you been in a conversation and somebody’s like, “I thought of Uber before they did.” OK, great. So what? Here’s a medal. You didn’t do anything about it. And this is where the rubber meets the road. So a couple pieces of advice.

Number one, the idea is not enough. I’d do some work on your why. Why would you want to do this for yourself? Would it make you proud to do this? Would it make you feel awesome to create some extra income and be able to do some fun things for the family and for yourself? Is this idea something that feels like it might bring out a part of you, your creativity, a service that has gone dormant because you’ve poured so much into the role of being a wife and a mom — which is an amazing thing to do, but there’s something about you individually you haven’t tended to? Is that what this is about? So figure that out.

Then I would 1,000% try to model from a different story like, “Being a female entrepreneur is one of the best things I could do for myself and my family.” And if you believe that, you’ll start to see actions you could take, and you’ll start to see results happening. So I would start with the belief. I would start with why. I would then start working at this story you’re telling yourself and change it, because it’s not impossible. Not at all. There are millions and millions and millions of us, and in fact, there are more of us every single day. And I think it’s the single greatest thing you could do as a woman.

Then the final thing is I would 1,000% take on the role of being a student of this. Look at your social media. Who are you following? Are you following celebrities and you’re just gawking at their lives? Or are you following female entrepreneurs who are, every single day, in your social media feed, your board of directors and mentors that are pouring into you and inspiring you, and showing you that you could do this? So I would spend a year being a student.

And what’ll happen is it’s not going to take a year. Because if you were to get rid of all the influencers and start following women in business and consuming this content and allowing it to pour into you, you’re going to start to realize, “Oh my God, it’s not only possible. All these people are doing it, and it looks really fun. I think I could do this, and I think it would be really cool. I think that something would come alive in me.” And all of a sudden, you’re going to want to do it, and everything’s going to flip.

Understanding the dynamics of fear and taking action anyway

Chris: Well, these questions represent thousands of people, and we only picked a few. If you were to summarize everything you heard and you had one thing to say in summary to all of the possibly thousands of questions out there, what would you say?

Mel: The single biggest obstacle that is in your way is self-doubt and the internal critic. Anytime you’re going to try something new, whether it is a new business strategy, or a new product line, or a new pricing model on a service, or a new piece of technology, or a new role you’re hiring for in your business, every time you do it, it’s a risk. You are stepping into the unknown. It’s true.

And in those moments where you’re about to try something new, fear is always going to show up. It’s always going to be there. You’re always going to hesitate. The secret is expecting the fear and understanding that fear is literally just a sign you’re about to try something. And even though you feel nervous or afraid or you start to question it, you can still lean into it. You can still do it. I can give you an example of this because we all struggle with it. What do you think the most famous tagline for any brand is in the whole world?

Chris: “Just do it.”

Mel: “Just do it,” right?

Chris: Yeah.

Mel: What is the most powerful word in that tagline?

Chris: Do.

Mel: No.

Chris: OK.

Mel: Just.

Chris: All right.

Mel: You want to know why?

Chris: Tell me why.

Mel: Think about Nike’s tagline being, “Do it.” Is that inspiring?

Chris: No.

Mel: “Just do it.” The “just” acknowledges this moment of hesitation.

Chris: That we can all relate to.

Mel: Yeah.

Chris: Yeah.

Mel: Every athlete standing on the sidelines hesitating about jumping in the game, every person at the starting line hesitating as they’re in the starting blocks. There is that “just” moment in every decision you make. And what I’m here to tell you is that we all feel it, it’s there every single day, and that is where your whole life plays out. Are you going to stand on the sidelines and think about it and talk yourself out of it, and wait another day and another week and another year, and then all of a sudden a decade goes by, or are you going to feel that hesitation and just do it?

Chris: You’ve got to shrink the inner critic and just do it.

Mel: And you shrink the inner critic with action.

Chris: It’s beautiful stuff. Thanks for all the wisdom. Thanks for coming by. Super, super awesome.

Mel: Thanks for inviting me.

Chris: Until next time.

Mel: Indeed. Thanks, everybody.

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