How to Get Through Grade One of Your Business

How to Get Through Grade One of Your Business

This week, my kiddo had her first day of school, and we both were feeling a touch emotional knowing she was headed off to Grade One (albeit for far different reasons). It was a big change and a great unknown.

And as I waved goodbye at the bus stop, I thought about how much facing that first day of Grade One can teach you about starting that project you’ve been working on, that launch you’ve been preparing, or even that first day of business you’ve been planning for so long.

Here’s the thing:

Yes, the unknown is scary – but it’s not deadly.

Some people get so stressed over all the “what ifs” that they never get their project off the ground. They’re crippled by fear – of success, of failure, of disappointment, of screwing it up.

It doesn’t start off like that, of course.

At first, you’re excited and looking forward to setting your plans in motion… the same way that my kiddo was excited all summer long for the big day when she’d start Grade One. She was looking forward to seeing her friends.

But the night before school began, she got nervous – and a little scared.

That’s pretty normal. This wasn’t kindergarten anymore. She didn’t know who her teacher would be. Or who’d be in her class. Or whether she could handle all the big kids in the playground. There were a lot of unknowns, and she had a lot of questions.

Who would be there? Would they like her? How would she know which class is hers? What if she didn’t like taking the bus? Which teacher would she have? Would she be nice? What about the big kids? Would they bully her?

You might feel the same way about your big day in business. The whole brainstorming and planning phase was exciting as hell… but when you’re down to the wire and actually have to DO this, it’s a whole ‘nother story.

A lot of people back off turning their business plan into reality. They hesitate, they stall. They postpone a week… maybe two. Or three. And some never do that thing they’ve been planning to do. They’re stressed, worried, concerned and yes, even scared of what might happen.

It’s a big unknown.

Yes, you’ll have to dip your toes into a new world – strange new places and situations where you don’t know what might happen. And sure, you’re wondering whether the people you’ll have to market to, network with and work with will like you. Yes, you try to make sure nothing goes wrong. And no, you don’t want to look silly – or screw up.

No one does.

So what? Don’t let that stop you. Little kids face all sorts of scary situations without any choice at all, and they have no idea what’ll happen to them. They get through just fine.

You’re an adult – don’t you think you’re much better equipped to handle this by now? Sure you are.

And if you’re ever really in doubt about what to do…

You can always ask for help. Really.

I reassured kiddo that she’d be just fine on her first day of school, and I helped her know more about what to expect by filling her in on what would happen, generally speaking.

I also reminded her that she can always ask for help if she doesn’t know what to do or where to go. She was relieved. She could ask for help?

Sure she could. She wouldn’t be alone. Teachers would be looking out for her. There’d always be someone who could help her know what she should do or where she should go. No one expected her to have all the answers.

And she felt comforted knowing it was okay to not know what she was doing.

Remember that. Because in business, you might forget that you can ask for help. Sometimes you think you’re all alone and that you have to be brave and tough and face it without complaint. That you’re supposed to have all the answers so people think you know what you’re doing.

That’s ridiculous. Who says you have to hack your way through business? Where’s the rule book that says you have to pretend you know what you’re doing? There’s nothing wrong with saying you don’t know it all and need some guidance.

Plenty of people are willing to help you with what you don’t know. Really. And it’s no slight on your ability to be awesome at what you do know. They’ll point you in the right direction and give you answers to your questions.

You may even stumble onto someone awesome who’s willing to mentor you more than you’d ever thought possible. Lucky you, right? All you have to do is ask.

Worst case? The person you ask says they can’t help at this time. Okay, fine. Ask someone else who can.

Oh, and by the way…

Have faith in yourself.

While my kiddo and I waited for the school bus in the car, I asked her if she preferred to step out and wait on the street corner so she’d be ready to hop on when the bus arrived.

“No,” she answered (in a very small voice), and I’m sure if I would have turned around that moment and asked if she wanted to forget the whole thing, she would’ve said yes.

Then she sighed. “Okay.”

And we quietly got out of the car, gathered up her things and walked to the corner.

What happened? Quite simply, this little kid knew that even if she didn’t want to do this, she could handle it. She didn’t have to sit there chanting reassuring mantras to herself (like so many adults do). She just listened to her gut instinct. Kids honestly don’t know much else than that.

And her gut told her something like this: It’ll be fine. You can do it. Have faith in yourself.

How did she instinctively know she could handle this situation she didn’t want to handle? The same way you know you can handle uncertainties:

You’ve been through worse.

Think back to when you were just a child. Or a tween, or a teen or a young adult. You’ve lived through a lot already, and you’ve definitely been through worse than whatever it is you’re trying to do in business.

I’m not kidding. When you were small, you had to do lots of stuff you didn’t want to do. Plenty of situations scared the bejeesus out of you, like standing near a huge, lumbering school bus with ominous, mouthlike doors that made you think you were about to be swallowed whole by the Monster Itself.

And you made it through those experiences.

You may have been nervous or downright terrified. (Hell, when I was six and those bus doors opened in front of me, I took one look, turned tail and ran down the street as fast as I could.)  You may not have had a choice. You may have been stuck with no way out and no options at all.

But you still made it through.

So your business, your project, your launch, that thing you’ve been talking about doing? Do it. Don’t be a grown-up sissy about it, come on. I’m sure there’ve been moments in your childhood where you’ve had your heart in your throat and nearly peed your pants.

You’re still alive. A little changed, a little scarred, maybe, but you’re here, hale and well. This business thing you’re nervous about?

Pfft. It’s nothing. Take a deep breath… and just do it.

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Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. So, did your “kiddo” like her first day? Hope she loves every minute, has a great teacher and lots of friends.

    James, you have a gift for calming our fears. This is a terrific analogy and a touching story. Being a mom, a teacher, a person who says, “It’s okay to ask for help” is why Damn Fine Words is going to be a huge success.

    The funny thing about asking the “What ifs?” is that we always seem to think of the negatives. But, asking the “What ifs” for the positives–the potential– would be so much more healthy and productive.

    • I’m surrounded by ‘what-ifers’ like you wouldn’t believe. It’s been a hard road to grit my teeth and do my own thing anyways.

      “James!! You launched your course…? Omigod. WHAT IF NO ONE SHOWS?!! WHAT THEN!?”

      And I have to smile and say, “What if 100 people show up? What if it’s a huge success? Why aren’t you saying congrats? Why are you focusing on everything that could go wrong?”

      They often aren’t sure what to say then, and quite often they look lost. Imagine that, focusing on what GOOD might happen!

      S’funny. Makes me grin.

  2. Your daughter’s first day is such a great example of the heroic journey we all must go through. The opening of the bus doors seems so routine as an adult, but you captured that moment of terror in a young child’s eyes. I can imagine you see some of that same terror in fledgling writers/entrepreneurs.

    Joe 😀

    • I see that kind of terror all the time, and I really want to shake people up and get them doing what really isn’t that hard. They’ve made it hard in their heads.

      Another example was tree climbing and zip-lining this summer with my kiddo. She and I were about 50 feet up in the air, hanging on with just about everything we had in us, and my partner heard some adult on the ground whining about how the climb up looked scary and that he didn’t think he could do it.

      He pointed to kiddo and shouted down. “She’s six. You’re about 45. You have no excuses.”

      I’m happy to report that guy faced his fears, climbed the whole course AND managed to survive. He was pretty stoked 🙂

  3. This is such an awesome way to put things in perspective! So many of the things we become afraid of as adults we do without thinking as kids. Some will say of course that’s because we don’t know any better when we’re young. To that we should most often say, yes and that’s a good thing!

    Thanks very much for the reminder and I wish you and your little one a wonder, adventure filled school year :-).

    • We don’t know any better when we’re young. To that we should most often say, yes and that’s a good thing!


      What’s interesting is that people say teens think they’re invincible. They know better, sure, and they STILL take the risks.

      Personally? I don’t ever want to grow up so much that I start to believe knowing better EQUALS not taking risk.

  4. Most of life’s great moments are born from just taking that risk. Just think back to your best memories and how they came about. They all go back to a decision, conscious or not. Yup, not knowing any better can be a very good thing. I’d get a lot more done and have more fun doing it.

  5. “Don’t be a grown-up sissy about it ….”

    Love it.

    I was just working on a new proposal today with which to pitch some companies. And some of the old fears are rearing their ugly heads.

    We can be so pessimistic. Woe is me! It’ll never work! Or we so easily succumb to such minor barriers: it’ll take too long, there’s too much writing, too many forms, designing that feels blocked, or working with other people, ugh … you name it, we so often seem to call it anything but what it is … fear.

    Cuz we don’t wanna be that grown up sissy.

    Actually, to be fair, I mean, “I.”

    Thanks for the reminder to just do it. Get on the bus. Take the zip line ride. Feel the fear because of the risk, because it matters, because there’s leverage. You only have one shot at this thing called life.

    What if it might n- , er, … be awesome?

  6. Ha, I remember when I first opened my business, launched my website for real. I was terrified! Stayed up till 3 am all night tweaking things.

    Of course, it was justified – the copy sucked.

    But rather than be paralyzed by inaction the feelings were telling me I needed to act. So I worked at it, sought the advice of professionals and acted on it.

    I was unknowingly putting into practice what Peter Shallard recommends in his Demystify Your Fear. These days since I know the explanation behind it I’ll try to look beyond the fear and work out exactly what needs to be done.

  7. I just went for swim classes. I can do the breakstroke but not much else. And that too not enough to swim from one end of the pool to the other. So guess what? I was like your kiddo.

    I even sometimes dread the classes (I dreaded the one today, but it turned out fine). But hey, I can stay on land or have fun in the water.

    My choice, eh?

  8. That was supposed to be breast stroke. I have no clue what the break stroke is, though I have a faint suspicion I was doing my own kind of stroke anyway 🙂

  9. Thank you for this inspirational post. For me, it’s important to remember that I almost died in the late 90’s from a condition called Chron’s Disease. If I am mindful of this, NOTHING seems insurmountable, because it simply isn’t as bad as coming close to death.

    If we get trapped in our heads, it’s easy to become “a grown-up sissy about it.” And even then, it’s our choice whether we remain a sissy, or do it anyway.

    The question is, which is worse? Facing the unknown, or living a life that you’re “comfortable with” even though you’re miserable.

  10. Pamela Schott says:

    Thank you for this. My favorite takeaway is that you can always ask for help. All too often, we’re so intent on being superheros that we think seeking help is a sign of weakness, when in actuality, it is one of the strongest, most empowering things you can do. Also? People like to be in a position where they can help someone else. Nice win-win.

  11. Thank you! I am currently in the process of launching a product I’ve been working on for several years now. You are spot on about the thrill of design and development giving way to fear, uncertainty, and doubt! This is exactly what I needed today.

  12. This post was really timely for me today … just as everything is on the verge of being up and running, I am having a massive panic attack!
    It also reminded me of my son’s first day at school, when he insisted on getting on the school bus and going to school by himself. He had been to school with me many times as I was training to be a teacher, but it was still his first day and he was so little …!
    tears in my eyes thinking about it!

    I guess we all have that moment when we either get on the bus, or get left behind 🙂
    thanks again for the reminder!

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