"In logic, a counterexample is an exception to a proposed general rule or law, and often appears as an example which disproves a universal statement."
Over the last 1.5 years, I have heard more "nos" than ever before. The moment I decided I want to be an entrepreneur, I faced a lot of opposition. Where I could, I asked for forgiveness (which does include a level of risk sometimes) rather than permission. Since I am still at the university, I have to navigate this system that consistently tells me no to all the things I want to do. Apart from the university, a lot of other people are generous with their "nos". On top of making it harder to do what I want, the nos are introducing doubts and shake up my confidence.
So on this path, I have defined one crucial principle to operate by:
"If I can get to one yes that supports or proves that I am doing the right thing, it acts as a counterexample to all the doubters/haters".
So all I need at each given moment is to get to that one yes.
For example, last month I decided I want to complement my eCommerce work with experience from bigger brands. The most valid arguments for getting a job/internship I heard were: 1) you get a consistent source of income 2) you get to learn and experiment on someone else’s budget. So I wanted to get the benefits without paying for the huge downsides: 1) giving away my time = units of my life to someone else instead of building my own business 2) not learning on the ground, which is faster and more reliable.
So I asked myself: "How can I play this game on my terms?". I came up with a game plan in which I pitch a certain service to big luxury brands. I would get paid well and I would get access to playing around with their budget and seeing how big brands operate. My pitch is pretty convincing and grounded in solid value I can provide to them. This seemed like a damn good deal to me.
When I vaguely shared my intentions with others, all I heard was:
"This seems really tough."
"Do not ever cold email people. You will never get a response. Wait for an introduction."
"Work with small brands to get a reputation."
"Start working for free."
blah, blah, blah
It's not like I did not have the same thoughts. But my premise and the potential upside was strong enough for me to force myself to break through the noise of external and internal voices. I told myself:
- Mariyam, if you can get one client right now, it will prove all the arguments wrong. Do all it takes to get to that one yes.
Some cold emails, back-and-forths and persuasion techniques later, I did get to a yes from a big Swiss brand, for a pretty solid pay.
I informally call this Persistence of Vision. It means not letting outside voices and opinions affect the course of your actions. It means being persistent about your vision of how things should be. If a direction is well-defined, has a strong premise and a potential upside that outweighs the downsides, I should be able to pursue that direction without external validation. I told myself that I will not sell my time for money through an internship this summer. I told myself that I will own my time and still learn and make extra money (consulting is indeed selling your time but for me it’s a stepping stone to obtaining the leverage I need for growing businesses). So my desire to play this on my terms was great enough for me to push through the doubts.
Another tool I intentionally added to my toolkit is undeniable self-confidence. Over the past 1,5 years, everyone including myself has doubted me at each single step. I, of course, don't have enough experience, skills, connections, money, etc. Last winter break I thought I would go insane if I didn’t stop this stream of negativity. So I took it as a given that I will not doubt myself. To realistically evaluate my abilities and skills is necessary, but it's also crucial to have enough self-confidence to continue stretching the limits all the time. Not only does it protect me from budging my goals and values but it also allows me to always perform at the top of my abilities. So it’s not that I currently think that I am so capable and amazing that I will magically “make it”. It is that I am building up and leveraging my asset of personal confidence as a tool to ensure I find my way to the answers that need a little more persistence.
Even though it was hard and I was wondering if I have gone insane, I am thankful to myself for being strong, persistent and brave enough to do what I thought is right.
The game is just starting because at each stage I will again and again have to push myself to get that next yes. The Swiss brand deal was a pretty lucky deal.
- What do I need to do to get a second client?
- All that it takes to get a second yes.
On this path, I will have to be my own biggest cheerleader. People are not evil in doubting me but they just don't see what I see. I want to deliver massive value to the world through my businesses. It's my responsibility to inspire and move myself to continue getting to the next yes, one step at a time, regardless of how ambitious and crazy it sounds. The days when I get validated with a good grade are long gone. It’s time to play the real game of business, the game of life.