Ever since primary school, going into secondary school and even sixth form, I've always been a high achiever - educationally.
I've always been a naturally smart person and so everything I've ever done, I've been held to a somewhat high standard.
My sister grew up to be a doctor, cousins have bright futures studying good subjects at university and then there's me.
It almost feels like I was the black sheep of the family, the one who has wildly different expectations and standards than everyone else.
Being part of a Muslim-Arabic household, it's very hard to steer off the traditional course of - going to university and getting a good 'high-paying' job.
My parents (mum) and grandparents would often act like I wasn't being realistic and try to joke about the choices I've made as if they're a phase that will eventually pass once I come to my senses.
Although on the outside, I always tried to portray a nonchalant persona, like I didn't really care about school, or the grades I got.
But on the inside, I was terrified when the exams came around because I had some sort of standard to live up to.
I somehow always get away with good grades, but the overthinking and stress were always overwhelming prior to the exams.
I wouldn't revise because I couldn't bring myself to do something I hated so deeply.
As soon as I made the leap of faith to put my future completely in my own hands, these emotions and thoughts grew all the more vivid.
I was immediately introduced to a whole new battlefield, a whole new atmosphere that I had to quickly adapt to or - go extinct.
I've talked about the start of my journey previously, but before this turn of events happened, I had never personally taken the responsibility to step out of my comfort zone.
I did everything possible to be as comfortable as possible.
Like they say, humans are inherently lazy, and I was living up to that without really knowing.
It felt like I had to relearn everything because nothing I've really done before now applies to my current reality.
With my first venture, the e-commerce business, I had to learn many new things including:
- Finding products
- Building online stores
- Speaking to people and negotiating
And without any teacher or mentor of some sorts, I was all alone - like the final soldier left in a fight against the world.
It made me second guess everything I did.
Every step I took, every choice I made carried whopping amounts of self-doubt.
Once the store was launched, the wave of silence that swooped my store were horrifying.
With such high expectations of fast and easy success, the results truly shocked me.
This led to nothing positive, just a loss in morale and my own self-esteem.
It felt like the mountain I've tried so hard to climb the past few months just came tumbling down.
With no other option other than becoming a successful self-made man, this failure had burnt a hole through me that nothing could repair.
The negative self-talk started, the stress overwhelmed me, and the overthinking clouded my mind.
"What if I can't make something work?"
"Why did I choose to go out on my own - all my friends chose to go university, maybe I should too whilst I still can."
"No one wanted to change my mind and stop me from going down this path?"
"By the time all my friends are done with university, I'll be the only one with nothing good going for them!"
There was so much disappointment, worry, stress and anxiety just circling around in my brain.
No one else could help, I'm all alone now.
With the next venture that followed, learning to trade the forex (foreign exchange) markets, I had carried most of those emotions into it.
"What if I lose all my money in the markets?"
"What if I'm unable to make a good living off this?"
With every other venture that followed, I had this underlying fear that made me question if I could ever be successful at what I do.
Even when I had my first ever job, the sales job, I questioned if I was capable of knocking on doors and making cold, hard sales.
And of course, the self-fulfilling prophecy came true.
Every door I knocked, every door that was closed in my face fed into the negative emotions I was facing.
If you've experienced this feeling, you know that this is probably one of the worst feelings ever - going into something with the expectation to fail.
No matter how hard I tried to be optimistic and believe in myself, as soon as one thing went wrong, my optimism escaped me.
My mind and body failed to reach a single point of equilibrium.
Once I started the marketing agency, that is when things got out of control.
I tried to follow the words of gurus to a T.
Everything they said about how to run the business, how to live, how to work, how long to work, the mindset you should have, I tried to replicate.
I was doing everything right and not seeing the success I wanted to see.
Every day I woke up, I would start outreaching to real estate agents (because we helped them with their marketing) with the expectation to get 0 replies, and no interest at all.
I was reaching a state of depression and I had no one to open up to or talk to about this.
No one understood.
My family would make it worse by questioning my choices and telling me to choose the easy way out and go to university.
I felt like a densely packed porcelain jar, ready to break at any second.
I knew how negative the thoughts and feelings were on me.
I knew that instead of improving by 1% daily, I was rapidly declining.
This is when I finally thought that enough was enough and I had to do something about this.
Don't Talk About It - Write About It
Since I had no one to talk to about what was going on in my head, I decided to write about it instead.
It was sort of a way to really put things I was experiencing out into the real world.
And it actually worked.
When you're overthinking and experiencing stress or anxiety, everything is stuck in your tiny brain.
Although powerful, it also has its limitations.
When you start to carry around a notepad or even write things down on your phone or laptop, it's like deleting useless apps off your phone.
I would write down a lot of things such as what I was feeling, what I was doing, how I was dealing with situations, and why they happened.
I even wrote down ideas that I'd like to revisit but had no bearing on what I was doing currently.
Every time I wrote something down, it made it real so that I can now physically confront it and solve the issue that was going on in my brain.
Stress and all these other negative emotions are all an inside battle with your mind - that is where they thrive.
Once you write them down and stare them in the eye (or the words), then you are now able to have an upper hand because you've placed them in a place of inferiority.
This worked so well for me, that I even went ahead and wrote a book on it that is not yet published.
The book is similar to this article, but in a lot more detail and structured in a way to bridge you from hell to heaven.
(Leave a comment down below if you'd like me to publish it)
During my customer discovery interviews, I did for Condensr (my tech company), I also realised that a few people were also in the habit of writing things down.
Give it a try.
Once you start to overthink or stress, sit down and take some time to write it down, describe it and try to justify why it's happening.
This will give you a better chance to fix it.
The 5 Whys
I've learnt this method a while ago - but not in this direct context.
I was watching some course material on Skillshare on social media marketing when I was running my agency and the course creator mentioned 'The 5 Whys.'
He mentioned that in order to truly dig deeper into the underlying problems that one person faces, you should ask them why 5 times.
This is to get prospects to tell you why your service can benefit them which can be used as a pivot when trying to sell them.
In the morning today, when I was reading 'The Lean Startup,' Eric Ries also mentioned the '5 Whys' as a mechanism to get to the underlying reason that a problem is occurring in a startup.
So it had me thinking about the power of this simple principle.
Why don't we, as human beings with strong emotions, ask ourselves 'why?'
Such a simple 3-letter word can make the biggest difference.
It can provide clarity like no other thing or person can provide.
This can be the easiest way to officially get unstuck. To stop overthinking, ask yourself 'why?'
Let me paint a better picture with an example.
Let's use the situation that I've failed to reach my yearly revenue goal.
- Why have I failed? (Because we weren't able to make enough sales)
- Why weren't we able to make enough sales? (Because we couldn't find enough customers willing to buy the product)
- Why couldn't we find customers? (Because we didn't invest enough into our marketing)
- Why didn't we invest enough in marketing? (Because I was scared to invest and get no return)
Although we could stop at the fourth why since it has uncovered a human flaw in the system, we can take it one step further and ask 'why?' again:
- Why am I scared? (Because I've failed at marketing before and I don't want it to happen again)
Once you've done this, you should be at a much better place to get a tangible answer instead of sitting down and drowning in your own emotions.
Tread carefully though...
This exercise requires you to be realistic and honest with yourself.
Without these elements, you'll be solving for the wrong problem.
Don't Succumb To The Bully
Your emotions are like bullies.
They'll test you the first time to see how you react.
If you're strong and fight them off, they'll leave you alone and hide in the shadows.
If you're weak and easy to push around, they'll keep coming back for more.
The easiest way to get out of this mental block is to confront the bullies head on.
The next time they come around, fight them off and don't be afraid.
It might take a few tries and there will be many failed but valiant attempts.
But eventually, you'll finally be victorious.
Find Your Inner Place Of Peace
A final point I wanted to share and one that has helped me tremendously is to find your place of peace.
This shouldn't be a hard exercise at all.
Finding your place of peace is as easy as going on with your day-to-day lives normally but staying wary of what is going on internally.
To make more sense of this, I'm going to tell you what my places of peace are.
When I take a shower, I tend to stay in the shower for quite some time.
A lot of the things I do in the shower are not actually consciously having a shower (although I do and make sure I clean myself).
A lot of what goes on in the shower for me is internal and mental.
I use this time to think and reflect on my life, business, and future.
I use this time to be one with my thoughts and speak to them.
Thoughts are like trapped fireflies - they're constantly banging on the wall looking to get out.
You cannot realise this when you have so much distraction and noise around you.
But once you find your place of peace, you're easily able to hear their language.
You can now listen to these emotions as they will tell you what's going on and how to fix it.
When I go into the shower, I usually have an issue that I'm facing.
Once I leave the shower, I have a roadmap that I implement or take note of immediately.
Another thing that has worked for me is taking a walk - you can either listen to a podcast, calming music (no voices or speaking), or you can just listen to nature itself.
This may work better if you go and walk in a park rather than the streets since there's usually a lot more distraction in the streets.
Someone once said that going out to walk or truly think to yourself, is a lot more beneficial than sitting on your laptop or workplace and overthinking.
So next time you're walking, driving, laying down, or in the shower - be conscious of what's going on in your head.
Notice what you're thinking and find the place where you're most actively aware of your inner thoughts.
This should be your place of peace.
For me it is the shower.
What is it for you?
Have you found something useful in this blog?
Tell me below!
Till next time,