When I was a little boy my grandmother used to tell me the story of the “Little Train That Could,” whenever I got frustrated, because I didn’t seem to be able to do something. Perhaps you remember it too: the little train had a very steep hill to climb, steeper than it had ever climbed before, but as he chugged up the hill, the little train kept saying to himself, “I think I can, I think I can,” all the way to the top!
Grandmother also used to tell me when I was struggling, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
I’m a pilot, and by most measures that matter, a pretty good one. Recently I took some training for an advanced pilot rating. It was a miserable experience! I couldn’t seem to operate the radios, to remember how to fly procedures I fly every week, or to maintain heading and altitude. I had other problems as well and it was incredibly frustrating. I remembered my grandmother’s admonition to keep trying but all I got was more tired and less effective.
This reminded me of how I felt when I started my business, in fact how I’ve felt at different points in the entrepreneurial journey, as I’ve tried to do new and difficult things. Does this sound at all familiar? In my pilot training, I realized that I had completely lost confidence in myself. I began to question whether I should even fly airplanes at all? The more I tried, the worse I flew.
Suddenly, I remembered how important confidence is! I didn’t think, “I could”, so, of course, I couldn’t. Unlike the little train, I’d lost that most important asset that I needed for success: belief in myself. I believe that every entrepreneur goes through similar points, in the effort to start and build a successful business. That off balance sheet asset, confidence, is spent and she runs out of the ability to move forward.
What do you do about it?
I decided to go backwards, just a little, to a place where I have always performed well, to something familiar. As I flew my Decathlon airplane I found I was crisp on the radio, I could maintain heading, and altitude with precision and every procedure I attempted was well done! What this teaches me is that trying is important but believing in yourself is critical. That belief sometimes needs to be restored by returning to something you’ve been successful at previously so you can refuel the confidence tank.
When you get stuck, and try, try, trying isn’t working. When you lose your self-confidence, back up to something you’re really good at, restore your greatest asset which is your confidence, and then say, “I think I can, I think I can,” all the way up the hill!