Many of my friends are entrepreneurs. And when they used to tell me about their challenges, I would always think, I can never take those risks and face those obstacles. I liked to play things a little safer and found comfort in familiarity; it’s why I stayed in one job for six years straight. I wasn’t unambitious. I just wasn’t one to throw caution to the wind.
Eventually I did switch jobs, but the move wasn’t right. I spent a lot of time feeling angry, upset and trapped. Around that time, I started reading Stoic philosophy, thanks to Ryan Holiday and Tim Ferriss. This quote from Seneca jumped out at me: “We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.” It made me step back from my emotions and be more rational. I thought, All right, today I’m super stressed and worried. But why? I felt the same way yesterday, and yesterday turned out fine. So I printed out the quote, framed it and hung it on the wall across from my bed. That way, I’d see it each night as I went to sleep and first thing in the morning when I woke up.
Over time, that quote changed how I thought about myself and what I was capable of. Being in a job I wasn’t completely happy with made me question my very core: Am I good enough? Am I smart enough? Maybe I deserve to be this unhappy. But what if I am smart and capable? What if I’m forcing myself to be in a role I don’t enjoy simply because I’m too scared to change? I knew I needed to take a chance — to either confirm I was as good as I thought or discover that I really did deserve to feel bad.
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Four years ago, I quit my full-time job and formed my own company, Epic Signal, a social media agency. I pushed myself to pursue clients, accounts and business that challenged me. Then I sold the company to Mekanism, an award-winning creative agency, but stayed on to run it.
Do I feel a sense of impostor syndrome sometimes? Sure. I’ll always be adjusting to this new me. But like Seneca suggests, I need to look at reality instead of my imagination. And the reality is, I have a team of more than 30 employees generating eight figures in annual revenue.
I have since moved apartments, and that framed Seneca quote moved with me. It now hangs on the wall across from my new bed. I don’t actually read it every day like I used to. But I like that it’s there, just in case I need it.