The First Small Steps To Making It Big

My immune system crashed during my last semester of journalism school.

I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, and made an appointment to find out why I was chronically exhausted, and getting sick every time I worked out.

A nurse practitioner did a series of tests, leaned against the white counter in my room, and told me to imagine myself as a vehicle dragging two flat tires.

“Imagine a car, trying to speed along at its normal pace with two flat tires,” she said. “That’s you.”

There was nothing diagnosably wrong with me. Instead, my root issue was where all health begins. I was at half mast, and there was no going around it – I was going to have to work on boosting my system back to strength before I could carry on as usual.

YFS Magazine founder and CEO Erica Nicole writes that, “a deficit of faith & confidence is the root issue behind small business failure.”

“Statistics will signify one hundred and one reasons strategically and tactically why you’re climbing an uphill battle,” she continues. “But the root of the issue is self doubt.”

If an entrepreneurial business was the human body, belief would be the immune system – the lifeblood.

I once thought you could compartmentalize things like insecurity and self doubt. Now I know that these things will define things like your finances, your price points and the way you approach your clients if you don’t have something much deeper defining you first.

If I could take the Shanley of two years ago to coffee, I’d tell her to begin with herself. Before writing a business plan, before launching into fundraising campaigns or projecting her revenue, I’d tell her to begin with her own belief. I’d tell her that work without it was going to be like limping along with two flat tires. And, it was. For a year and a half, I limped along with my self doubt and disbelief dragging me down every single day until I met my entrepreneur coach, Amber Chand.

Amber began our work with developing my beliefs about my life and my business through creating a map of my future.

I returned to this exercise several times as many times as it took to believe in myself and my work. Each time, it felt as if someone was bringing my failing immune system back to health.

Here’s a little how-to:

1. Open up

The goal of this exercise is to find what it is that you want out of creating your own business, not what your limited beliefs tell you that you should or would have. So begin with openness, and letting go of self doubt.

For me, the Buddhist meditative practice of labeling thoughts was helpful. Whenever a negative thought about myself or my business rose up in my mind, I labeled it – “thought” – and let it go.

2. Start with the future

This map looks out on the life and business you plan to have in three years. “This is like your future self speaking to who you are presently,” she told me. “What does she have to say?”

3. Doodle

If you’re anything like me, you quit drawing around the time you finished seventh grade. But I found myself sprawled out on the floor drawing plants and shelves and coloring in the shade I’d like my sofa to be in 36 months. I filled in key phrases. I taped pieces of lifestyle magazines together. Meshed together into a big, colorful, sheet, they created a visual collage of my future life. It was beautiful. It was exciting. And, for the first time, it was sitting right in front of me.

4. Fill in the in between

Once you’ve got a good handle on what you’d like your life to look like in three years, you need to fill in the in between. If you want to be spending your early mornings on conference calls to London, when do you plan to start getting clients there? And, what kind of work will you do before you pitch to them? If you plan to have a product or service bringing in x amount of dollars, what will the production process look like before you offer it?

5. Follow up with affirmations

Once you’ve finished mapping out your plan to live and grow your business up to your future life, you’re going to feel a flutter in your chest. Feel a little funny?

That’s called hope.

You’re going to have to learn to let it swell.

 6. Expect

I read recently that what you expect will come to pass, rather than what you hope for.

I believe this with my whole heart.


Shanley Knox

Shanley is the CEO/Founder of Nakate Project, a global accessories brand created in collaboration with celebrity stylist Antonio Esteban and individual artisans in Uganda. She live in New York, where she runs her business in a little Brooklyn flat off the M train.

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