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EXECUTION [PROGRESS] Bekit's Progress Thread

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BlackMagician

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I am glad you finally posted! Glad to hear about your breakthrough from mental struggle. Thats HUGE!

Keep us posted with your journey.
 

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Bekit

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I am glad you finally posted! Glad to hear about your breakthrough from mental struggle. Thats HUGE!

Keep us posted with your journey.
Thank you so much! Yeah it took me long enough to post. It's a relief to not be in the middle of a mental struggle on a daily basis.

I'll keep you posted!
 

Walter Hay

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I found this thread today and was so taken with Bekit's circumstances and attitude that I had to keep reading.

This thread absolutely shines! The spirit of community is outstanding. Bekit has been brave in adversity, but her need has brought many wonderful members of the forum hastening to her aid.

What a joy it was to read towards the end and see what outstanding progress she has made through adversity.

All that I have read today reinforces my long held belief that this forum is like a beacon of light in a dark world.

I want to thank from my heart all who have contributed, especially Bekit.

Walter
 

Bekit

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I found this thread today and was so taken with Bekit's circumstances and attitude that I had to keep reading.

This thread absolutely shines! The spirit of community is outstanding. Bekit has been brave in adversity, but her need has brought many wonderful members of the forum hastening to her aid.

What a joy it was to read towards the end and see what outstanding progress she has made through adversity.

All that I have read today reinforces my long held belief that this forum is like a beacon of light in a dark world.

I want to thank from my heart all who have contributed, especially Bekit.

Walter
@Walter Hay, what a beautiful and touching post. Thank you for all you said. Coming from you, this means a lot, as you are one of my heroes on the forum. I always love learning from you, hearing your stories, and gleaning from your experience. Thank you for all that you have contributed to so many people's lives through your posts.
 

Bekit

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OK, time for an update.

I'm curious what you all think.

I'm developing a physical product, so this is a brand new thing for me to do.

Here's the process so far.

I noticed a need back in the spring and started experimenting at home to make a prototype product. I went through a lot of iterations.

I wanted to skew value in a particular area that nobody else was doing well. There are a number of practical challenges that pose a barrier to making this value skew. A few people had already tried it in a few ways, but nobody was really hitting the nail on the head.

Imagine two factors that are inversely connected. If you amp up factor 1, you sacrifice factor 2 almost completely. If you amp up factor 2, you sacrifice factor 1 almost completely. But I wanted a solution that offered both factor 1 and factor 2.

I finally settled on a design that I think struck a good balance between the two. It's still not perfect, but I think the laws of physics will prevent it from ever being truly perfect.

In other words, there's a reason no one has done this. It's a hard problem to solve.

Anyway, once I had my design fairly set, I did some research to validate demand. I was satisfied that there was ample demand.

Then, I started looking for a manufacturer.

I started by looking at local manufacturers in the USA, but then I moved on looking in Mexico.

I had visited some factories (in a different industry) in Mexico on a business trip back in 2009, and I felt really impressed with the professionalism that I observed among the Mexican business community. I had also spent 2 years doing sales calls to Mexico, selling email marketing software to Mexican small businesses, and I felt even more impressed.

So I did some research and found a list of potential factories. I added a Mexican calling plan to my phone. Let's use this black rectangle. I took a deep breath and rehearsed my speech in Spanish.

I knew I was going to come across as a total outsider who was pretty clueless.

So I was a little nervous about getting outright rejected on one hand, or being taken advantage of for my naivete on the other hand.

I called the first factory on the list.

"Hola, me llamo...."

This wasn't as hard as I thought. My heart stopped beating so fast. I didn't spend two years calling Mexican businesses for nothing. It all felt strangely familiar.

The receptionist transferred my call to someone in a department that could help me.

I talked to this woman and said I was looking for someone to manufacture my product and wondered if they would be open to working with a new client.

I briefly explained my vision for the product and the need it would meet.

At first, she started talking to me like I was an industry insider. When she threw around some terms that I didn't understand, it quickly became apparent that I was not. I was pretty transparent about the fact that this was new to me.

She paused and changed her tune.

"Listen, you know what? I'm going to help you. I want to help you make this dream of yours a reality," she said. "Here's my name. Write down this number. That's my personal cell. Do you have WhatsApp? You can message me there. Now, here's what I need from you. I need you to send me a technical drawing. I need you to send this, this, and this. I need you to email me this before I can give you a quote. Once I get that from you, we can go from there."

I got off the phone full of amazement.

"WOW!" I thought. "That was easy. First place I called and it went like that!?"

So I got busy YouTubing my way through how to make the technical drawing that she needed. I cobbled together a baaaaaasic understanding of what a "normal" one would consist of, and then I just barely had enough skills in illustrator to make it.

I put together the email. "Here goes nothing!" I thought.

I knew my version of the technical document was probably lame compared to what a professional would do... but I sent it off. I apologized for the fact that it was probably not quite "normal."

It occurred to me that they could just take my design and make it themselves and sell it. I didn't have any kind of contract in place. I didn't have any kind of patent. I thought, eh, let's just go for it and see what happens. I figured that if I needed to pause to get a whole bunch of lawyer stuff done, I would just get NOTHING done. So I took the risk.

And then I got a quote back.

It was going to be $3-4 per piece to manufacture. MOQ was 1,000.

Terms were 50% upfront, 40% when the order was complete, and 10% after the final shipment arrived.

I was going to sell the finished product for $15.

I thought, "OK, let's go for it."

But first, I had them make a sample.

I'm really glad I did this part, because the first two samples weren't quite right.

This was partly because the design I sent them was not in the standard format for a pattern that they would usually get, and partly because they innovated a bit to see if they could improve on my design (which I appreciated, but it didn't quite work).

For the third sample, my liaison at the factory even paid for the $57 shipping to overnight it to me herself.

I sent her a bouquet of flowers the next week to thank her for all the work she had done to get the project to this point.

She said it made her day.

In the meantime, I put up a basic Shopify site to just have something in place.

I also kept my eye out for potential competitors.

When I started the design process, the options that were out there were terrible.

My version was going to be a no-brainer for how different it was and how much it skewed value.

But now, a couple of people online are selling something comparable to my version. They don't have the same design as mine, but they're tackling the same problem in a fairly comparable way. They're making sales. I've read the negative reviews and they're all about the "big problem" where optimizing for Factor 1 completely defeats Factor 2. I've learned that if someone doesn't want Factor 2, they'll probably leave a negative review if there's ANY of Factor 2. But unless you eliminate Factor 1 completely, there's always going to be some of Factor 2 present.

Hmmm. That's a challenge.

#1, I'm no longer first to market with a decent solution. Other people have beat me to the punch. I moved about as fast as I could, but I wasn't already set up with relationships and procedures to execute on something like this. So that's a learning experience for next time.

#2, the amount that people care about Factor 2 is bigger than I bargained for. So at this point, since I do have some Factor 2 in my design, I guess I'm just going to have to set expectations that "this is going to have some Factor 2, and this is approximately how much." I can show this through video. Hopefully, this will help people not to buy it in the first place if they're looking for something that completely solves Factor 2.

So we are now at the stage where I've paid the 50% upfront deposit, and they've ordered the materials to make my product.

They think it will be done and ready to ship to me in 2-3 weeks.

Now - all of a sudden, I get an email that says the minimum order quantity has gone up to 1300 pieces, because the provider of one of the plastic parts has a minimum order quantity of 1300.

Ok, fine, that's not a big deal. I asked if I could just buy the 300 extra plastic parts alone, but that's not an option. Oh well, 300 extra products is going to be better than 300 extra plastic parts that don't have a use. Selling them should be doable. If I can sell 1000, I can sell 1300. (I think there is demand for at least 10x or 100x that amount.)

But I don't know if I should be worried. Is this a bad sign that something's not quite right?

Hopefully not.

My liaison at the factory seems really helpful. She said she has negotiated down the minimum order quantity of other components in my product, thanks to the fact that she places thousands of dollars of orders with the materials providers, and the retail price would be 4x that amount. So they made an exception for her. I feel really thankful for that.

But I can be overly trusting and overly gullible.

I can be swept away by the giddy excitement of doing a new thing.

What do you think?

Did I luck out with an amazing factory to work with, or is the wool being pulled over my eyes?
 

BizyDad

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What do you think?

Did I luck out with an amazing factory to work with, or is the wool being pulled over my eyes?
Only time will tell. But I think you got a little lucky so far. One call, and product is on the way...
giddy excitement of doing a new thing.
Don't lose that. It's important. Hold on to it. If anything bad comes of this, just chalk it up to a learning experience. And, as learning experiences go, this is a good one. So nothing bad will come of this. Your worst case is you learned a lot that you're going to use to propel you forward. For the equivalent cost of about 6 college credits, you are getting some serious real world learning experience here.

Stay giddy.
I can be overly trusting and overly gullible.
Don't you start with that negative self talk.
Selling them should be doable. If I can sell 1000, I can sell 1300.
You absolutely can do this. So what if there are a few faster to market? You are already learning from their mistakes, like Google did to Yahoo or Facebook did to Myspace, or Ford did to whoever invented cars before Ford.

Just work on your positioning, use your marketing and customer service to differentiate your offering. This happens all the time. (Is Pepsi really better than Coke? Coke better than Pepsi?)

You've done all this and you haven't even gotten to the part you know you are good at... copywriting!

Stay giddy, stay focused, and know that your Fastlane Fam has your back. Don't worry, you got this.

(Lastly of course Coke is better than Pepsi. Pepsi is yuck)
 

amp0193

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But I don't know if I should be worried. Is this a bad sign that something's not quite right?

Hopefully not.
Changing the deal after you've already put down a deposit is really shitty.

You made a mistake going along with it. You have to push back on stuff like that and take a hard line.

Did I luck out with an amazing factory to work with, or is the wool being pulled over my eyes?
What determines if it's amazing is:
1) The quality is excellent and consistent from unit to unit in a production run.
2) They do what they say they are going to do, when they are going to do it.


There very well could have been external factors, and there could have been an unforeseen minimum order of 1300... but there's no reason you should have had to pay for that. All the weirder, they wouldn't just let you buy the 300 extra plastic parts. They seem like they are either a) dishonest or b) disorganized... neither of which is great in a factory.


It might end up being ok. In my experience though, behavior like this doesn't get better.

If possible, I'd go check out the production run in person before paying the next 40%. Or hire a 3rd party inspection company to do some quality checks.


Great job taking action. You learn the fastest by doing.
 

amp0193

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Imagine two factors that are inversely connected. If you amp up factor 1, you sacrifice factor 2 almost completely. If you amp up factor 2, you sacrifice factor 1 almost completely. But I wanted a solution that offered both factor 1 and factor 2.

But what if you could figure out how to have both?

The engineers of the first Lexus set out to design a car that was fast yet efficient, quiet yet lightweight, elegant yet aerodynamic. All factors that contradict eachother.

The result was a car that was

1. 28km/h faster than the top luxury car on the market
2. 24% more fuel efficient
3. 5% quieter
4. 10% better drag coefficient
5. 50kg lighter


By anyone else's estimate, it was a car that was impossible to build. Until they did it.


Just food for thought :)
 

Bekit

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Only time will tell. But I think you got a little lucky so far. One call, and product is on the way...

Don't lose that. It's important. Hold on to it. If anything bad comes of this, just chalk it up to a learning experience. And, as learning experiences go, this is a good one. So nothing bad will come of this. Your worst case is you learned a lot that you're going to use to propel you forward. For the equivalent cost of about 6 college credits, you are getting some serious real world learning experience here.

Stay giddy.

Don't you start with that negative self talk.

You absolutely can do this. So what if there are a few faster to market? You are already learning from their mistakes, like Google did to Yahoo or Facebook did to Myspace, or Ford did to whoever invented cars before Ford.

Just work on your positioning, use your marketing and customer service to differentiate your offering. This happens all the time. (Is Pepsi really better than Coke? Coke better than Pepsi?)

You've done all this and you haven't even gotten to the part you know you are good at... copywriting!

Stay giddy, stay focused, and know that your Fastlane Fam has your back. Don't worry, you got this.

(Lastly of course Coke is better than Pepsi. Pepsi is yuck)
Thanks for the encouragement! I love the analogy of viewing it as a college course. It's not money that's going to break me, so if it bombs, it'll certainly be a rich learning experience from taking action.

You made a mistake going along with it. You have to push back on stuff like that and take a hard line.
I didn't push back this time. I just accepted it. Welp, not sure how to walk back that precedent, but it's good to know.

What determines if it's amazing is:
1) The quality is excellent and consistent from unit to unit in a production run.
2) They do what they say they are going to do, when they are going to do it.
OK. Those are good criteria to keep in mind. Thank you.


If possible, I'd go check out the production run in person before paying the next 40%. Or hire a 3rd party inspection company to do some quality checks.
I would not have thought of that. I was thinking of having a zoom call and asking for photos of the finished products to verify that they were there, but I hadn't thought of the possibility of independently verifying the quality.

Great job taking action. You learn the fastest by doing.
Thanks! I'm learning and having fun while I'm at it. :)

But what if you could figure out how to have both?

The engineers of the first Lexus set out to design a car that was fast yet efficient, quiet yet lightweight, elegant yet aerodynamic. All factors that contradict eachother.

The result was a car that was

1. 28km/h faster than the top luxury car on the market
2. 24% more fuel efficient
3. 5% quieter
4. 10% better drag coefficient
5. 50kg lighter


By anyone else's estimate, it was a car that was impossible to build. Until they did it.
That's an inspiring example! I guess I shouldn't write it off as impossible to solve (although at the moment, it seems impossible to solve it fully). While I've gotten a little closer to a solution, you've definitely given me food for thought, because there's definitely still room to keep improving.
 

amp0193

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I didn't push back this time. I just accepted it. Welp, not sure how to walk back that precedent, but it's good to know.

I will say, my response was from a lens dealing with Chinese suppliers.

Culturally, I don't know how Mexican manufacturers might behave differently.


You may have had to go along with it either way, because they already had your money and you didn't have much leverage. The only leverage you have is the promise of huge future business... and taking it elsewhere if you need to. If I were you, I'd be working on a backup supplier right now, just in case you end up needing it.


The biggest mistake I made with my company wasn't starting off with a bad factory (I didn't know what I didn't know), but not finding an alternative supplier sooner. I ended up being stuck with them for a year while trying to transition to someone else.

Even bad factories can have really sweet/nice reps, who are good people and try to help you out. Mine did.
 

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I didn't push back this time. I just accepted it. Welp, not sure how to walk back that precedent, but it's good to know.
My general thoughts here:
If it is a $3-4 product to make, this is certainly not the only factory that can make it. If the relationship can't be adjusted moving forward, then I just can't imagine it would be a huge burden to move to another factory.
 

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Walter Hay

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First @Bekit let me say that I admire your courage and initiative in taking on this challenge, but also I like the way you have conducted the process.

I don't see you being overly trusting and overly gullible in this situation. As I read the behavior of your contact, she came over as trustworthy, and after all, what is she going to gain by selling you another 300 pcs at $3 or $4? She would obviously know that it could put a sour taste in your mouth, and jeopardize future business prospects.

As for the idea of inspecting the goods, I think that if you can do that in person during production it is a good way to go for two reasons:
1. You can confirm: accuracy of meeting your design specs, quality, production capability, plant systems etc. You might also get more ideas, including possibly other product ideas as you see the factory in operation.
2. You will consolidate a valuable relationship. Never underestimate that. The Chinese idea of Guanxi can work in other countries too. You know the old saying: "It's not what you know but who you know that counts."

Ever thought of teaching people how to source products in Mexico?:smile2:

Walter
P.S. The flowers were a touch of genius.
 

Bekit

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First @Bekit let me say that I admire your courage and initiative in taking on this challenge, but also I like the way you have conducted the process.

I don't see you being overly trusting and overly gullible in this situation. As I read the behavior of your contact, she came over as trustworthy, and after all, what is she going to gain by selling you another 300 pcs at $3 or $4? She would obviously know that it could put a sour taste in your mouth, and jeopardize future business prospects.

As for the idea of inspecting the goods, I think that if you can do that in person during production it is a good way to go for two reasons:
1. You can confirm: accuracy of meeting your design specs, quality, production capability, plant systems etc. You might also get more ideas, including possibly other product ideas as you see the factory in operation.
2. You will consolidate a valuable relationship. Never underestimate that. The Chinese idea of Guanxi can work in other countries too. You know the old saying: "It's not what you know but who you know that counts."

Ever thought of teaching people how to source products in Mexico?:smile2:

Walter
P.S. The flowers were a touch of genius.
Yay! @Walter Hay I'm so honored that you responded to my post!

Your perspective is helpful. Thank you so much!

As for the idea of inspecting the goods, I think that if you can do that in person during production it is a good way to go
The order will probably be ready in the next two weeks, and there's no way I could arrange to travel in the next two weeks.

I do have a few friends in Mexico, though. Or I could hire a 3rd party service, as Amp suggested.

If I could get someone to go inspect the goods for me, I'm wondering how the logistics of that would look.

If it was a friend, I'm not sure how they would know to verify the quality of what I'm looking for.

If it was a 3rd party service, I'm not sure how to find them, but I guess it wouldn't hurt to google "manufacturing quality inspection service mexico city" and see what comes up and ask for a quote.

I guess I'm also just wondering how to pitch the request to the factory for someone to come by and do an inspection. I don't want it to sound weird to ask for this.

I'm pretty happy with the manufacturing quality of the three samples I've received. I figured there might be some defective ones in the batch, but I haven't actually raised the question of quality control and their guarantee and what happens with defects.

That's an important topic that I just sort of glossed over.

P.S. The flowers were a touch of genius.

Haha - about the flowers...

You'd never believe how hard it is to order flowers in another country! I had to be really persistent.

I called at least 6 different places and emailed 2, spending at least an hour over two days to just find somewhere I could place an order.

Turns out my method was all wrong.

What I did was what I would do if I was ordering something here in the US. I pulled up the factory address on Google maps and then searched for "Florist" near that location.

A bunch of places came up, and I called them one by one.

No answer.

For the ones that had websites, I emailed them.

No answer.

Finally, feeling like I was exhausting my options, I went to Facebook and searched for "florists in Mexico City."

I found a place that had updated their Facebook page in the last 5 hours, so I contacted them. We completed the order over WhatsApp and Paypal, and it was a VERY easy and positive customer experience.

I've never used WhatsApp to interact with a US business in my life. But for both my factory and this florist, it's the most normal thing in the world.

So interesting how cultural and regional differences affect the preferred channels of communication for different people.
 

Bekit

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Guys, just in case you hadn't already figured it out, this is a progress thread of somebody who struggles really, really inexplicably hard to do normal things.

Somebody told me to give up this week.

I was literally given the advice to stop trying to be an entrepreneur, take a $20/hour full-time job, tighten my belt and live on a strict budget, and give up on pursuing things I want (like being able to afford to fix my husband's teeth).

If this had come from some random person, no big deal, just shrug it off. What do they know? They're obviously on the script.

But it was from someone I respect and trust a LOT, someone who knows me very well, someone who cares about my well-being, and someone whose advice has consistently been good (really good) in all kinds of other situations.

That stung a little bit.

So why in the world would they advise me to give up? (And no, it wasn't "reverse psychology," it was their sincere recommendation.)

It was because I shared that I had been struggling. A lot. It has been nearly impossible to force myself to work. And I asked for advice on how to get myself moving. Was there something in my environment that needed to change? Was there something I could implement that would support better progress? Did they have any ideas that I could try?

They were basically like, "It's not a matter of your external environment. It's your internal environment. You could be in the perfect environment and you'd still struggle to motivate yourself. (Fair point.) There's one thing I've always said about you. You should never put yourself in a position where your livelihood depends on your discipline and ability to execute. Just put yourself in an employment situation where you know you can function. And be content with that."

:wideyed::duh::inpain::arghh::eek:

I'm guessing the root of this is undiagnosed ADHD. That seems to be the thing that matches the closest with my daily experience.

My executive function is badly out of order. This leads me to struggle to do very simple, normal things. It holds me back in countless ways.

I sincerely would never wish this issue on anyone else. But I know there are others on this forum who struggle in similar ways. So I'll write out a couple of observations about my experience in case some of what I share can help others who read this. Maybe some parts of this will give someone an insight of something that you can try for yourself.

If you don't struggle with this, feel free to skip the rest of this post.

Description of (ADHD?) (Executive Function Issues?) (Why it constantly feels like I'm dragging myself kicking and screaming to work instead of working happily and diligently)

For me, it's kind of like having a fully functioning car. The engine and transmission and steering and mechanical stuff works great. Maybe it even has a really powerful engine and a luxury interior and new tires.

But I can't find the keys.

I can't start the car until I have the keys.

So the entire vehicle is absolutely useless to me.

And it's even worse...

I can't always remember that there ARE keys.

It's like I'm standing there, yelling at my car, saying, "WHY WON'T YOU START??? I used to be able to start you. Why can't I now?" And I don't even know to look for the keys, or what they will look like when I find them.

So I start to get frantic, because now I'm running late for an appointment, and I NEED MY CAR to get to the appointment, and time is running out, and the car just won't start.

Because I don't have the keys.

Now imagine that EVERY time you go to start your car, you can't find your keys.

So you know that EVERY time you need to go somewhere, it's a toss-up whether you'll actually have your car available to you or not.

So you can't really trust your car, because you never know if or when you'll be able to get it started.

But being forced to walk everywhere isn't a viable option. It's too slow. You just won't survive.

And you watch other people just go out to their cars and start them every time. And you don't know whyyyyy you can't do the same thing. It's incredibly frustrating.

So my brain works great when it's running. It's not a matter of intelligence. There's tons of potential under the hood. When it's running, I can do anything!

It's not a matter of "wanting it bad enough." If you've ever been late for an important appointment and frantically tore your house apart, searching for the keys, that's basically how I feel on a daily basis, until I'm exhausted and say to myself, "Being frantic about it won't help me find the keys any faster, so I'll just calm down and keep on searching." To the outside observer, it maybe even looks like I'm being apathetic, but it's just sheer exhaustion, plus the uselessness of getting all worked up over something that is not going to improve by me being worked up.

It's also not a matter of the importance of the task. When I can't find the keys to get my brain started, it doesn't matter how important the task is. Even hugely important things like security or shelter or food just...don't happen until I can find the keys. The "intelligent" part of the brain is incredibly distressed by this. It's like every conscious thought is constantly roaring, "YOU HAVE GOT TO FIND THE KEYS!! I DON'T WANT TO BE HUNGRY!"

What do I do about it?

I've had to do a lot of experimentation to find ways to get myself to do ANYTHING.

I've tried depriving myself of every leisure activity in my life, sticking my butt in the chair, and forcing myself to sit there until I get a task done. But unless I can "get my brain started," my progress is excruciatingly slow.

You'd think it would be motivating to realize, "You can get to bed sooner if you get done sooner." But in reality, it is just torture, because I'm just screaming at my car, "WHY WON'T YOU START? I WANT TO GO TO BED BEFORE 2 AM!" In times like that, there's nothing I can think of to get my brain to turn on. This has been the case ever since I was a kid. "You can have recess if you just get your math done." I wish that kind of thinking had any power to get me moving, but nope. So I just sit there and slog through, hopeless about getting any recess or early bedtime, making maybe 5 minutes of progress per hour.

I've tried punishing myself with fasting. "If I don't do X, I won't eat for the entire next day. That'll teach me."

No. No, actually it won't.

After fasting every other day for two weeks, I realized I would be capable of fasting myself to death before that would have any effect.

Plus, it just leaves my brain starving for nutrients, extremely irritable, and overall worse off than before.

I'm discovering that in order to do "normal life," I need to support my executive function with techniques that ordinary people don't have to do. It's kind of like... whereas normal people would just hang their keys on the same hook every day so they know where to find them, I have to have a key making machine at the house, and maybe even replacement ignition cylinders laying around, with the know-how to install them. Yeah, it takes longer to install an ignition cylinder in your car before you can leave for your appointment - but if it's the difference between being able to drive your car at all, might as well just bite the bullet and do it.

I'm learning that I have to be vigilant and unfailing in implementing the techniques that work. I can't relax or think, "Oh, things have improved now, maybe I can be normal."

To use another analogy, I'm realizing that this is kind of like wearing glasses. Forgetting my glasses or contacts is not an option, because my eyesight without glasses is equivalent to being legally blind. (I'm NOT legally blind, because my eyesight can fortunately be corrected up to 20/20. But if my eyesight weren't able to be corrected, I would be legally blind.) So I don't have the option not to wear my glasses.

If I were to drive to the airport without my glasses, it would be an incredibly stressful, frustrating and dangerous experience. I wouldn't be able to read the signs. I wouldn't be able to see the gauges on my dashboard. I wouldn't be able to see what was happening with the cars around me. I wouldn't have time to react to things that other people would have seen long in advance. So a task that's simple (driving to the airport) would be impossibly difficult without my glasses, and it could easily result in a wreck.

In the same sense, I need my "brain glasses" as a matter of basic survival.

Brain Glasses. Brain Keys.

I'm still figuring this out.

I'm looking around at successful people who are incredible hustlers. It feels like their "brain keys" are always in the ignition. So when they go out to start their car, the keys are always there. All they have to do is turn the key, and it starts. So for them, it's confusing to know how to help me. "Why are you standing there screaming at your car? Just sit down in the driver's seat and start it. Or just don't bother to try things that require using a vehicle." Using the key is invisible and automatic to them. They don't even realize that they're doing it. So they don't know how to mention it.

So I'm over here with an ignition that didn't come with a pre-installed key glued into place, and I'm trying to figure out how to get a key and reliably have it in my hand so that I can reliably get my brain started when I need to use it. I haven't figured out the pattern yet, so these are more like "hints that help a bit." At the end of the day, I may have to come up with a completely out-of-the-box solution, like hotwiring my car instead of using a key. Whatever works. I don't particularly care.

But here are the "brain glasses" or "brain keys" that I have found to be the most effective.

1. Prayer. I'll skip this one since this forum isn't about religion, but if you want more details, feel free to message me.

2. Stimulants. I haven't gone on medication for ADHD, but I've definitely used a lot of coffee. It helps, but only to a certain extent. I'll always reach a point where caffeine stops working. When I get to that point, I will quit caffeine cold-turkey for a few weeks and then gradually re-introduce it again. Based on how caffeine goes, I'm guessing Adderall or another similar medication would be the exact same effect. It would work at the beginning, and then I'd have to gradually increase the dose to maintain the effect, until I was on the maximum dose, and then it would stop working, and then I would have to go through withdrawal. Lately, though, I've thought about asking a doctor about getting drugs that might help, just because I've been so desperately dysfunctional.

3. Diet. I'm currently experimenting with a strict adherence to the dietary recommendations in the book, The Mood Cure. This involves 1) eating 3 meals a day spaced 5 hours apart, 2) making sure each meal contains at least 4 ounces of protein, and 3) a ton of supplements (mostly vitamins and amino acids). The point is to give your brain the building blocks it needs to manufacture the neurochemicals that you might be deficient in. I'm really hopeful about this approach, as the biology of it makes total sense, so I'm going to give it a really good-faith effort.

4. Behavioral supports. Setting timers and using the Work Cycles spreadsheet have been the most effective methods for me to reliably get work done and improve my performance. What happens is, I drift away from these methods over time. But the more I use them, the more they support me in being productive. So I'm discovering that I can't allow myself to drift away from setting my timers and working in my spreadsheet. It's like laying my glasses down. Don't do it.

5. Mindset. If I "can't find the keys," it does me no good to get frantic and frustrated and create a bunch of drama. If anything, thrashing about intensely just clouds my ability to see clearly. So I take a deep breath and tell myself, "Don't give up. Just keep trying. Just keep looking. I'll find the keys and everything will be ok."

6. External deadlines. It's funny how I can suddenly "find the keys" and get working on a task at the VERY last minute before something is due. However, there are multiple problems with this approach.
  1. It doesn't work for deadlines I set for myself, only deadlines that other people set for me. (This is why I can more reliably get work done as an employee than as a self-directed person.) (sob)
  2. By starting at the last minute, there's no margin. So if something comes up (and it often does), then I'm going to be late. So this is a recipe to maximize my stress.
Despite the weaknesses of the external deadlines approach, I am finding that there are ways to use this method to help and support me, such as asking clients to impose a deadline, even when there isn't one.

7. Gamifying things. I wrote a thread about my dopamine hack game that got me moving again when I was in a period of tremendous burnout. I still go back to this (or use a modified version of it) from time to time when I'm really struggling to get myself moving.

8. Habits and routines. I'm a free spirit, not a routines person. My track record is abysmal with habits and routines. I have battled tremendously to implement things like making my bed, keeping my house clean, and brushing my teeth. But when I do manage to implement good habits, they do support my productivity. So they're worth fighting for. And it's also worth fighting to break a bad habit (like when I'm in the habit of turning to YouTube every time I feel overwhelmed).

9. Sleep. My performance nose-dives when I don't get enough sleep. What often happens is this: I wait until too late to start a project. Then, to get it done, the only option is to sacrifice sleep. I sacrifice sleep ("Just this once!") and get the project done. But then I'm useless for the next few days as I recover. So I'm discovering that sleep is non-optional, just like wearing my glasses.

10. Water. Staying hydrated seems like a little thing. It's not like I feel a surge of brain energy when I drink more water. It's more like I suffer a noticeable decline when I let myself get dehydrated. So drinking water is a little thing that helps keep me running smoothly.

11. Automating everything that can be automated. Everything that I can take off my plate is a win. For instance, I have all my bills on auto pay. If I have to actually take action on a little thing like paying my bills, that's one more potential area where I might not get my car started and something necessary might fall through the cracks. So it frees up my brain to have fewer things to dread that I might fail at.

12. Regulating emotions. For a lot of things, I'm finding that there's an emotional component to the tasks that I struggle to do. I've started noticing that when I feel emotional, that's when I'm triggered to just "zone out on YouTube for just a minute." This might be because a client rejected my copy - or I'm afraid that they might reject my copy - or something requires me to communicate with a person - or I'm required to do a task in a way that I feel is "wrong" and won't work - or I have to dig up an email from months ago and I have no idea what words to use to search for it - or almost any other thing.

When I'm procrastinating because something is emotional, I've discovered that it's helpful to ask myself a series of questions to probe into it and see if I can solve it. For example...
  • What emotion am I feeling right now?
  • Why am I feeling emotional about this?
  • What would it take for me to feel better about it?
  • What action can I take to help me feel better (WITHOUT solacing myself on YouTube)?
  • If I do that action, will I be able to move forward?
  • OK, what else needs to happen for me to move forward? (Maybe I need to face a hard conversation.)
  • OK, what's the worst that can happen in that conversation?
  • What's the best thing that can happen in that conversation?
  • What action can I take to help make it easier to face having that conversation? (Maybe it's writing up a script of what I will say when I talk to that person.)
  • Etc.
The questions are different every time and depend on the situation, but simply walking myself through the practical aspects of this can help me to feel free and safe to proceed.

13. Checking if I'm shutting down because of shame. This is an interesting one. I've noticed a chain reaction that is absolutely devastating to my productivity, and I think it's rooted in shame. It goes like this.
  • I haven't worked and accomplished something that I think I should have. For example, I had a 4-hour time block, and I used the whole thing on YouTube, so I have nothing to show for my 4 hours.
  • Now I'm ashamed of myself, because I know I should have used my time differently.
  • Shame makes me want to hide and not let anybody see me. For instance, I don't want to contact the client and confess that I have nothing. I want to wait until I actually have something to show them. So I don't email the client because I feel like if they remember me, they'll be asking me for the thing I didn't do.
  • But the next day, shame makes me feel emotional about facing the project. And there was probably already some kind of block in the project in the first place (likely one that would only be solved through communication). Instead of facing the project or the communication, I go back to YouTube.
  • This leads me to feel even more ashamed of myself.
  • So I retreat further inside myself, like a turtle who is closed up inside its shell.
  • If I come outside into the light, it means I'm going to have to face the situation I'm ashamed of and fix it. So I stay longer and longer in the cycle, feeling more and more ashamed of myself.
Getting out of this destructive cycle involves asking myself the question, "Am I ashamed of myself for something about this?" If the answer is yes, then I know that the shortcut to relief is to face it and 'fess up, no matter how painful it is.

Noticing this pattern has also helped me to choose to communicate right away rather than holding something in, because I know that if there's something that needs to be communicated, and I DON'T do it, I'll be sucked right down into the shame whirlpool.

14. Identifying precisely why I'm stuck. Another thing that has been helpful lately is to simply identify what exactly is the holdup when I can't get started on work. Just ask myself, "Why exactly am I stuck? What would it take for me to move forward?"

Usually, I can point to some aspect of the project that is the holdup. "Well, before I can do Y, I need to do X, and I don't really want to do X."

Then, I ask a series of questions to uncover what it will take to get me started, and usually, this helps me to see a path forward.

For example,

"What about X don't you like?"
"If you break X down into its smallest steps, can you do the first one?"
"Is there an area where you feel insecure or don't know how to do X (or a piece of X)? What would it take for you to gain that confidence?"

15. Exercise. If I take a walk every morning (outdoors, in the daylight), that helps my overall brain function in a small way. It's not a noticeable boost (like caffeine) for that individual day's work; it's more like an overall way to maintain a sustainable life rather than constantly feeling like I'm about to drown.

16. Seesawing back and forth between a task I like and a task I don't like. This is a tactic that has worked with me ever since I was a toddler. My parents would alternate between one bite of food I liked and one bite of food I didn't like in order to help me to get the disliked food down. And when I would do my math, I would alternate between doodling and doing a math problem, all the way through my lesson. And now, I find that I can face the task of work if I tell myself, "I'll work one hour, and then paint one hour." Often, I don't even need to do the hour of painting. Just the act of telling myself that I can paint after only one hour of work is enough to get me started - and once I'm started, and I'm on a roll, I don't even want to stop to paint.

I'll probably add to this list as I identify other things that are helpful.

If you struggle in a similar way, what have you done to help yourself to reliably do your work when you don't want to?

Side note: This is my 800th post on the forum.
 

sparechange

Platinum Contributor
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Nov 11, 2016
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Guys, just in case you hadn't already figured it out, this is a progress thread of somebody who struggles really, really inexplicably hard to do normal things.

Somebody told me to give up this week.

I was literally given the advice to stop trying to be an entrepreneur, take a $20/hour full-time job, tighten my belt and live on a strict budget, and give up on pursuing things I want (like being able to afford to fix my husband's teeth).

If this had come from some random person, no big deal, just shrug it off. What do they know? They're obviously on the script.

But it was from someone I respect and trust a LOT, someone who knows me very well, someone who cares about my well-being, and someone whose advice has consistently been good (really good) in all kinds of other situations.

That stung a little bit.

So why in the world would they advise me to give up? (And no, it wasn't "reverse psychology," it was their sincere recommendation.)

It was because I shared that I had been struggling. A lot. It has been nearly impossible to force myself to work. And I asked for advice on how to get myself moving. Was there something in my environment that needed to change? Was there something I could implement that would support better progress? Did they have any ideas that I could try?

They were basically like, "It's not a matter of your external environment. It's your internal environment. You could be in the perfect environment and you'd still struggle to motivate yourself. (Fair point.) There's one thing I've always said about you. You should never put yourself in a position where your livelihood depends on your discipline and ability to execute. Just put yourself in an employment situation where you know you can function. And be content with that."

:wideyed::duh::inpain::arghh::eek:

I'm guessing the root of this is undiagnosed ADHD. That seems to be the thing that matches the closest with my daily experience.

My executive function is badly out of order. This leads me to struggle to do very simple, normal things. It holds me back in countless ways.

I sincerely would never wish this issue on anyone else. But I know there are others on this forum who struggle in similar ways. So I'll write out a couple of observations about my experience in case some of what I share can help others who read this. Maybe some parts of this will give someone an insight of something that you can try for yourself.

If you don't struggle with this, feel free to skip the rest of this post.

Description of (ADHD?) (Executive Function Issues?) (Why it constantly feels like I'm dragging myself kicking and screaming to work instead of working happily and diligently)

For me, it's kind of like having a fully functioning car. The engine and transmission and steering and mechanical stuff works great. Maybe it even has a really powerful engine and a luxury interior and new tires.

But I can't find the keys.

I can't start the car until I have the keys.

So the entire vehicle is absolutely useless to me.

And it's even worse...

I can't always remember that there ARE keys.

It's like I'm standing there, yelling at my car, saying, "WHY WON'T YOU START??? I used to be able to start you. Why can't I now?" And I don't even know to look for the keys, or what they will look like when I find them.

So I start to get frantic, because now I'm running late for an appointment, and I NEED MY CAR to get to the appointment, and time is running out, and the car just won't start.

Because I don't have the keys.

Now imagine that EVERY time you go to start your car, you can't find your keys.

So you know that EVERY time you need to go somewhere, it's a toss-up whether you'll actually have your car available to you or not.

So you can't really trust your car, because you never know if or when you'll be able to get it started.

But being forced to walk everywhere isn't a viable option. It's too slow. You just won't survive.

And you watch other people just go out to their cars and start them every time. And you don't know whyyyyy you can't do the same thing. It's incredibly frustrating.

So my brain works great when it's running. It's not a matter of intelligence. There's tons of potential under the hood. When it's running, I can do anything!

It's not a matter of "wanting it bad enough." If you've ever been late for an important appointment and frantically tore your house apart, searching for the keys, that's basically how I feel on a daily basis, until I'm exhausted and say to myself, "Being frantic about it won't help me find the keys any faster, so I'll just calm down and keep on searching." To the outside observer, it maybe even looks like I'm being apathetic, but it's just sheer exhaustion, plus the uselessness of getting all worked up over something that is not going to improve by me being worked up.

It's also not a matter of the importance of the task. When I can't find the keys to get my brain started, it doesn't matter how important the task is. Even hugely important things like security or shelter or food just...don't happen until I can find the keys. The "intelligent" part of the brain is incredibly distressed by this. It's like every conscious thought is constantly roaring, "YOU HAVE GOT TO FIND THE KEYS!! I DON'T WANT TO BE HUNGRY!"

What do I do about it?

I've had to do a lot of experimentation to find ways to get myself to do ANYTHING.

I've tried depriving myself of every leisure activity in my life, sticking my butt in the chair, and forcing myself to sit there until I get a task done. But unless I can "get my brain started," my progress is excruciatingly slow.

You'd think it would be motivating to realize, "You can get to bed sooner if you get done sooner." But in reality, it is just torture, because I'm just screaming at my car, "WHY WON'T YOU START? I WANT TO GO TO BED BEFORE 2 AM!" In times like that, there's nothing I can think of to get my brain to turn on. This has been the case ever since I was a kid. "You can have recess if you just get your math done." I wish that kind of thinking had any power to get me moving, but nope. So I just sit there and slog through, hopeless about getting any recess or early bedtime, making maybe 5 minutes of progress per hour.

I've tried punishing myself with fasting. "If I don't do X, I won't eat for the entire next day. That'll teach me."

No. No, actually it won't.

After fasting every other day for two weeks, I realized I would be capable of fasting myself to death before that would have any effect.

Plus, it just leaves my brain starving for nutrients, extremely irritable, and overall worse off than before.

I'm discovering that in order to do "normal life," I need to support my executive function with techniques that ordinary people don't have to do. It's kind of like... whereas normal people would just hang their keys on the same hook every day so they know where to find them, I have to have a key making machine at the house, and maybe even replacement ignition cylinders laying around, with the know-how to install them. Yeah, it takes longer to install an ignition cylinder in your car before you can leave for your appointment - but if it's the difference between being able to drive your car at all, might as well just bite the bullet and do it.

I'm learning that I have to be vigilant and unfailing in implementing the techniques that work. I can't relax or think, "Oh, things have improved now, maybe I can be normal."

To use another analogy, I'm realizing that this is kind of like wearing glasses. Forgetting my glasses or contacts is not an option, because my eyesight without glasses is equivalent to being legally blind. (I'm NOT legally blind, because my eyesight can fortunately be corrected up to 20/20. But if my eyesight weren't able to be corrected, I would be legally blind.) So I don't have the option not to wear my glasses.

If I were to drive to the airport without my glasses, it would be an incredibly stressful, frustrating and dangerous experience. I wouldn't be able to read the signs. I wouldn't be able to see the gauges on my dashboard. I wouldn't be able to see what was happening with the cars around me. I wouldn't have time to react to things that other people would have seen long in advance. So a task that's simple (driving to the airport) would be impossibly difficult without my glasses, and it could easily result in a wreck.

In the same sense, I need my "brain glasses" as a matter of basic survival.

Brain Glasses. Brain Keys.

I'm still figuring this out.

I'm looking around at successful people who are incredible hustlers. It feels like their "brain keys" are always in the ignition. So when they go out to start their car, the keys are always there. All they have to do is turn the key, and it starts. So for them, it's confusing to know how to help me. "Why are you standing there screaming at your car? Just sit down in the driver's seat and start it. Or just don't bother to try things that require using a vehicle." Using the key is invisible and automatic to them. They don't even realize that they're doing it. So they don't know how to mention it.

So I'm over here with an ignition that didn't come with a pre-installed key glued into place, and I'm trying to figure out how to get a key and reliably have it in my hand so that I can reliably get my brain started when I need to use it. I haven't figured out the pattern yet, so these are more like "hints that help a bit." At the end of the day, I may have to come up with a completely out-of-the-box solution, like hotwiring my car instead of using a key. Whatever works. I don't particularly care.

But here are the "brain glasses" or "brain keys" that I have found to be the most effective.

1. Prayer. I'll skip this one since this forum isn't about religion, but if you want more details, feel free to message me.

2. Stimulants. I haven't gone on medication for ADHD, but I've definitely used a lot of coffee. It helps, but only to a certain extent. I'll always reach a point where caffeine stops working. When I get to that point, I will quit caffeine cold-turkey for a few weeks and then gradually re-introduce it again. Based on how caffeine goes, I'm guessing Adderall or another similar medication would be the exact same effect. It would work at the beginning, and then I'd have to gradually increase the dose to maintain the effect, until I was on the maximum dose, and then it would stop working, and then I would have to go through withdrawal. Lately, though, I've thought about asking a doctor about getting drugs that might help, just because I've been so desperately dysfunctional.

3. Diet. I'm currently experimenting with a strict adherence to the dietary recommendations in the book, The Mood Cure. This involves 1) eating 3 meals a day spaced 5 hours apart, 2) making sure each meal contains at least 4 ounces of protein, and 3) a ton of supplements (mostly vitamins and amino acids). The point is to give your brain the building blocks it needs to manufacture the neurochemicals that you might be deficient in. I'm really hopeful about this approach, as the biology of it makes total sense, so I'm going to give it a really good-faith effort.

4. Behavioral supports. Setting timers and using the Work Cycles spreadsheet have been the most effective methods for me to reliably get work done and improve my performance. What happens is, I drift away from these methods over time. But the more I use them, the more they support me in being productive. So I'm discovering that I can't allow myself to drift away from setting my timers and working in my spreadsheet. It's like laying my glasses down. Don't do it.

5. Mindset. If I "can't find the keys," it does me no good to get frantic and frustrated and create a bunch of drama. If anything, thrashing about intensely just clouds my ability to see clearly. So I take a deep breath and tell myself, "Don't give up. Just keep trying. Just keep looking. I'll find the keys and everything will be ok."

6. External deadlines. It's funny how I can suddenly "find the keys" and get working on a task at the VERY last minute before something is due. However, there are multiple problems with this approach.
  1. It doesn't work for deadlines I set for myself, only deadlines that other people set for me. (This is why I can more reliably get work done as an employee than as a self-directed person.) (sob)
  2. By starting at the last minute, there's no margin. So if something comes up (and it often does), then I'm going to be late. So this is a recipe to maximize my stress.
Despite the weaknesses of the external deadlines approach, I am finding that there are ways to use this method to help and support me, such as asking clients to impose a deadline, even when there isn't one.

7. Gamifying things. I wrote a thread about my dopamine hack game that got me moving again when I was in a period of tremendous burnout. I still go back to this (or use a modified version of it) from time to time when I'm really struggling to get myself moving.

8. Habits and routines. I'm a free spirit, not a routines person. My track record is abysmal with habits and routines. I have battled tremendously to implement things like making my bed, keeping my house clean, and brushing my teeth. But when I do manage to implement good habits, they do support my productivity. So they're worth fighting for. And it's also worth fighting to break a bad habit (like when I'm in the habit of turning to YouTube every time I feel overwhelmed).

9. Sleep. My performance nose-dives when I don't get enough sleep. What often happens is this: I wait until too late to start a project. Then, to get it done, the only option is to sacrifice sleep. I sacrifice sleep ("Just this once!") and get the project done. But then I'm useless for the next few days as I recover. So I'm discovering that sleep is non-optional, just like wearing my glasses.

10. Water. Staying hydrated seems like a little thing. It's not like I feel a surge of brain energy when I drink more water. It's more like I suffer a noticeable decline when I let myself get dehydrated. So drinking water is a little thing that helps keep me running smoothly.

11. Automating everything that can be automated. Everything that I can take off my plate is a win. For instance, I have all my bills on auto pay. If I have to actually take action on a little thing like paying my bills, that's one more potential area where I might not get my car started and something necessary might fall through the cracks. So it frees up my brain to have fewer things to dread that I might fail at.

12. Regulating emotions. For a lot of things, I'm finding that there's an emotional component to the tasks that I struggle to do. I've started noticing that when I feel emotional, that's when I'm triggered to just "zone out on YouTube for just a minute." This might be because a client rejected my copy - or I'm afraid that they might reject my copy - or something requires me to communicate with a person - or I'm required to do a task in a way that I feel is "wrong" and won't work - or I have to dig up an email from months ago and I have no idea what words to use to search for it - or almost any other thing.

When I'm procrastinating because something is emotional, I've discovered that it's helpful to ask myself a series of questions to probe into it and see if I can solve it. For example...
  • What emotion am I feeling right now?
  • Why am I feeling emotional about this?
  • What would it take for me to feel better about it?
  • What action can I take to help me feel better (WITHOUT solacing myself on YouTube)?
  • If I do that action, will I be able to move forward?
  • OK, what else needs to happen for me to move forward? (Maybe I need to face a hard conversation.)
  • OK, what's the worst that can happen in that conversation?
  • What's the best thing that can happen in that conversation?
  • What action can I take to help make it easier to face having that conversation? (Maybe it's writing up a script of what I will say when I talk to that person.)
  • Etc.
The questions are different every time and depend on the situation, but simply walking myself through the practical aspects of this can help me to feel free and safe to proceed.

13. Checking if I'm shutting down because of shame. This is an interesting one. I've noticed a chain reaction that is absolutely devastating to my productivity, and I think it's rooted in shame. It goes like this.
  • I haven't worked and accomplished something that I think I should have. For example, I had a 4-hour time block, and I used the whole thing on YouTube, so I have nothing to show for my 4 hours.
  • Now I'm ashamed of myself, because I know I should have used my time differently.
  • Shame makes me want to hide and not let anybody see me. For instance, I don't want to contact the client and confess that I have nothing. I want to wait until I actually have something to show them. So I don't email the client because I feel like if they remember me, they'll be asking me for the thing I didn't do.
  • But the next day, shame makes me feel emotional about facing the project. And there was probably already some kind of block in the project in the first place (likely one that would only be solved through communication). Instead of facing the project or the communication, I go back to YouTube.
  • This leads me to feel even more ashamed of myself.
  • So I retreat further inside myself, like a turtle who is closed up inside its shell.
  • If I come outside into the light, it means I'm going to have to face the situation I'm ashamed of and fix it. So I stay longer and longer in the cycle, feeling more and more ashamed of myself.
Getting out of this destructive cycle involves asking myself the question, "Am I ashamed of myself for something about this?" If the answer is yes, then I know that the shortcut to relief is to face it and 'fess up, no matter how painful it is.

Noticing this pattern has also helped me to choose to communicate right away rather than holding something in, because I know that if there's something that needs to be communicated, and I DON'T do it, I'll be sucked right down into the shame whirlpool.

14. Identifying precisely why I'm stuck. Another thing that has been helpful lately is to simply identify what exactly is the holdup when I can't get started on work. Just ask myself, "Why exactly am I stuck? What would it take for me to move forward?"

Usually, I can point to some aspect of the project that is the holdup. "Well, before I can do Y, I need to do X, and I don't really want to do X."

Then, I ask a series of questions to uncover what it will take to get me started, and usually, this helps me to see a path forward.

For example,

"What about X don't you like?"
"If you break X down into its smallest steps, can you do the first one?"
"Is there an area where you feel insecure or don't know how to do X (or a piece of X)? What would it take for you to gain that confidence?"

15. Exercise. If I take a walk every morning (outdoors, in the daylight), that helps my overall brain function in a small way. It's not a noticeable boost (like caffeine) for that individual day's work; it's more like an overall way to maintain a sustainable life rather than constantly feeling like I'm about to drown.

16. Seesawing back and forth between a task I like and a task I don't like. This is a tactic that has worked with me ever since I was a toddler. My parents would alternate between one bite of food I liked and one bite of food I didn't like in order to help me to get the disliked food down. And when I would do my math, I would alternate between doodling and doing a math problem, all the way through my lesson. And now, I find that I can face the task of work if I tell myself, "I'll work one hour, and then paint one hour." Often, I don't even need to do the hour of painting. Just the act of telling myself that I can paint after only one hour of work is enough to get me started - and once I'm started, and I'm on a roll, I don't even want to stop to paint.

I'll probably add to this list as I identify other things that are helpful.

If you struggle in a similar way, what have you done to help yourself to reliably do your work when you don't want to?

Side note: This is my 800th post on the forum.

Dump coffee for good (you will feel better in the long term) that will also reduce your anxiety although at first it may seem difficult. I think there are withdrawal symptoms for the first few days..

Break down what you need to do in baby steps, and make it achievable! When you look at climbing a mountain it looks nearly impossible, that is until you take the first step.

Your lack of action may be the reason of fear, it's in us all, fear of failure, maybe even fear of success, try framing in your mind the actions you need to take to alter your life's trajectory and picturing what your life looks like (imagine your dream life) Use that as the driver to propel you to take the required actions and go through the process of it. It won't be overnight, but you just need to get yourself into the habit of doing X & Y actions that will get you where you want to go.

It can be as simple as doing 1 important task for the day (maybe even start your day that way) and then move on. Make it a habit, and burn it deeply into your brain to stay with you.

Don't listen to the naysayers, there is so much opportunity in the world and the dummy telling you that you CANT do something is ridiculous. Anyone can do anything they put their focus if they truly commit, you can to. There have already been millions of people before you that have been successful with entrepreneurship and you can to.

How can you reach your goals in the next month? What are some things you need to do in order to achieve them? Tackle them, one at a time.
 

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Hi @Bekit . Your post has saddened me, and I would like to help. It does seem that you might have undiagnosed ADHD, but I would not recommend seeking a professional diagnosis because it is notoriously difficult to diagnose accurately.

I have sent you a link to an organization dedicated to helping those who suffer from ADHD, in which they describe a typical diagnosis of adults with that illness. I also attached a link to a doctor's site in which she extols the benefits of the low dose form of Lithium.

I suggest you explore the possibility of using Lithium Orotate, NOT Lithium Carbonate which is the extremely strong prescription medication that must be monitored for possible liver damage.

My very best wishes.
Walter
 

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My girlfriend experiences a similar problem. She suffers from extreme anxiety that can cripple her for weeks causing her to be unable to get anything done. But even once her anxiety has settled and she is happy and functioning again, she has still been struggling to get work done.

This is all new to her, because only 2 years ago she was a work horse. She could work for 12 hours straight on projects, get 5 hours of sleep, and work another 12 hours. I will recommend some of your brain keys to her.

#8 (Routines) was helpful for her for awhile. By putting herself on a schedule for not just work related things but her entire day and errands helped her consistently get things done.

As far as what your friend said to you, please remember that YOU get to choose and shape your internal and external environments. NOBODY can ever tell you what is best for you except you. You can overcome your struggles, and they will make you stronger. And when you do overcome them, you will be in a better place than if you had accepted yourself as content in an employment situation.

Please continue taking control of your life, it is nobody else's decision but your own.
 

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I was literally given the advice to stop trying to be an entrepreneur, take a $20/hour full-time job, tighten my belt and live on a strict budget, and give up on pursuing things I want (like being able to afford to fix my husband's teeth).

This is bad advice. Please recognize that. I understand the reasons why they gave it, and I understand why you might give it creedence, but don't.

It is one thing to take a job in the short term as a solution to a problem.

Someday you might even come to the conclusion that would be happier working for someone else.

But today is not that day.

And as long as that is true, do not let your entrepreneurial dream die. You can overcome these challenges.

Your friend should have been more supportive. This sounds like a decided lack of faith in your abilities and market value. $20/hr and tighten your belt? They don't think you can get, I don't know, a $75k salary? $100k?

Please let me know if you're available for $20/hr work. I'll pay you that just so I can help remind you that it's only temporary until you figure out whatever you need to really propel your business forward.

I'm sure there are people on the forum that could pay you even more. What your friend said was insulting. I'm sorry, but it was.

Checking if I'm shutting down because of shame.

Add I was reading I was wondering if this was playing a role, and if so how much. It sounds like you are aware of it, which is the biggest part of overcoming it.

If you struggle in a similar way, what have you done to help yourself to reliably do your work when you don't want to?

I think this is the wrong question.

I have struggled in similar ways. I get easily distracted at times.

So I build systems to ensure the work gets done. (Note the absence of the word your)

Any piece of the work that I struggle with, any work that I cannot trust myself to complete, I find creative ways to either:

1. Not commit to it in the first place.
2. Find someone to do it for me.

This is one reason why my partnership has worked out so well for me. My partner likes to do the work that is essential for our business, but I can't stand to do. And the reverse is true. He used to do what I do and can't stand it. And we both enjoy helping clients and handling sales.

As a result, most of my job duties are things I like to do. Things I find energizing, not draining.

But it wasn't always this way. It took us years to get to where we're at. And I'm still working on improving my commitments and offloading certain tasks. We still got a ways to go.

But I'm wondering how much of what you're struggling with us just a product of entrepreneur overwhelm. I've always had someone there to lean on as we grow this business.

Are you carrying the weight of, I don't know, maybe EVERYTHING on your shoulders? Do you have someone you can talk to? Sometimes just talking to somebody can help break the cycle.

Do you have help? If there's no help, can you figure out a way to get some help in a win win kind of manner?

I think I've shared with you my solution for partnering with graphic designers to overcome the problem that no one at my company wants to do design, and we don't want to hire anyone to handle design, and neither one of us wants to manage a designer type personality, but clients expect us to be able to handle design. There's no escaping that expectation when you build websites. Who starts a web firm and doesn't do design? (My partner. )

Long story short, we give the client an option. If they have websites that they like the design of, we can do our best to ethically copy those designs. If they want to go out and buy a template, we can take any template and install it on our platform. Or, usually the most expensive route, they can hire a separate graphic designer to do a complete custom design of the site.

And then we send them to one of our preferred designers that we partner with.

The best part about this, is these designers send us business in return. We don't ask for finders fees when we send the business to them, so they really like sending the business back our way. And our end of the development work is often way more than what they charge for the design.

Can you find symbiotic relationships like this to ensure your work gets done?

I suppose you got to be real and ask yourself what parts of your job do you like doing most? Then keep those, and offload the others.

I suppose the real question is, how do you get from here to there?

And to me the answer lies somewhere in the ability to make as much money as possible with as little time investment as possible. Because with more money:

1- you frankly could work less, if you choose. And that unloads a lot of these mind game problems.

Or

2- you can afford to hire someone instead of bootstrapping.

But what does that mean for you?

Is there a way that you could simply be charging more for the same amount of work?

Is there a way you could be improving your marketing to help find clients willing to pay more for the same amount of work?

Could you produce the work once, and find multiple clients willing to pay you for the same work?

Is there a way you can change your pricing structure so that you do the work once, but enjoy some of the upside and earn residual income from the project?

Could you partner with other copywriters, close the sale with the client and pay these copywriters on a project basis?

Could you be developing deeper relationships with your clients to uncover other needs, and referring them to other experts to fulfill those needs, while getting a cut of that fee?

Is there some kind of product you could be an affiliate for that would tie into your business cleanly thus providing additional revenue?

Is there some other revenue generating activity that could be taking place to supplement you while you continue to build your business and put these process in place to offload the work you "don't want" (I'm not sure if "don't want" is the right phrase, hopefully your get the point)?

And someday, having build large enough revenue streams, can you run a small (or large) team of workers to give you a solid stable, growing income steam with little to no effort from you (if that's your goal)?

At the end of the day, none of these really "solve" your problem. The brain chemicals will always need maintaining.

But they will make the consequences happen less often, and/or relieve the pressure your are likely putting on yourself. It can also give you the time you need to take tackle this without feeling guilty or "less than". And that will feel like real progress.

My executive function is badly out of order

Something about this comment is really really bothering me. I can't put my finger on it. First off, I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "executive function". I understand the term generally, but what that term means to you specifically, I have no idea.

Whatever it means to you, I don't know if it is true.

If it is true, I don't know if it is an actual problem. Yes, it sounds like a problem, but there are people whose brains work differently and they are able to see things differently and it is a source of strength with some consequences attached (the genius who can't seem tie their own shoes), as opposed to a dibilitating source of self talk (I can't tie my shoes, why can't I have tie my shoes, all normal people can tie their shoes, what's wrong with me, who's ever going to love someone who can't tie their own shoes, how am I ever going to make it in the world, what if a client notices that I can't tie my shoe? And on and on...)

And if it is an actual problem, how serious a problem is it really? (I'm not trying to trivialize, I know it sounds serious, but I'm just trying to keep an open mind to the possibility that maybe it's not as serious as this post makes it sound).

And what is the nature of the problem? Is it a problem of the mind (like brain chemistry) or of mindset (if you believe your executive function is broken, and how good could your executive function possibly be)? Is this some self-fulfilling prophecy rooted in something from childhood. (Sorry I don't want to get too woo woo here)? Could the cause be environment or something else external?

Which kind of brings me back to the idea that maybe you just don't have enough support. I don't think that's that far a stretch considering one of the best advice givers you know just gave you that advice.

It also brings me back to the idea that maybe you're just way overwhelmed. Are you taking on so much that your brain is trying to process 15 things at any given time? And all these things feel like they are equally important, and you feel stuck in analysis paralysis on where to even start, which, feeling stuck might lead to the shame spiral, so to break the cycle boom there's YouTube?

To go back to your analogy, maybe it's like you've got five different cars in your garage, and you've got five places to get to, but each one requires a specific vehicle, and you're terrible about finding your keys for any one, but now you find your jeep keys, but you're sitting in your sedan and you need to get groceries, so should you go have fun off-roading since you found these keys, or do you go back in the house to get the keys to the truck so you can haul what you need to haul today and get the job done? The sun's starting to set and you still haven't gotten the groceries.

And now having written all that and starting to go back in circles, my brain is starting to go in circles too, and it's late and I need sleep. But I probably have like 30 other follow up questions to ask on this one facet alone.

I hope this post made sense and you got some value out of it, because I'm not going back and editing it anytime soon. :rofl:
 

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6. External deadlines. It's funny how I can suddenly "find the keys" and get working on a task at the VERY last minute before something is due. However, there are multiple problems with this approach.
  1. It doesn't work for deadlines I set for myself, only deadlines that other people set for me. (This is why I can more reliably get work done as an employee than as a self-directed person.) (sob)
  2. By starting at the last minute, there's no margin. So if something comes up (and it often does), then I'm going to be late. So this is a recipe to maximize my stress.
Did you try an accountability coach yet?

Maybe you can find a good coach and create short (maybe even daily deadlines).
 

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what have you done to help yourself to reliably do your work when you don't want to?
1) I chip away.

2) I work at things that deeply fascinate me. You couldn’t pay me to NOT do what I do.

3) Where I can, I make it about other people. I don’t want to see people suffering or struggling.
 

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@Bekit you 100% got what it takes to make it (and some extra!).

I feel really similar to you in many ways since we have talked over these things before off the forum.
I don't know if I also might have ADHD but I wouldn't be surprised if I did.

While I am still working on this too a few things have helped a lot:
- consistent sleep cycle > I go to bed around 9:30pm and am up around 5:30am
- no stimulants > I have tried to cut out all coffee, energy drinks, alcohol, drugs etc
- way less phone time
- morning walks and exercise everyday
- simple but set workflow plan > still struggle with this but the days I follow this I get 10 times more done
- tracking what I do > this got recommended in to me in my own similar thread and it is something that helps a lot when I do it

Since we are working on some stuff together at the moment maybe we can get a system going together - would be happy to help with this.

Bottom line is all of these things you improve on and you have more than enough talent to hit whatever goals you want. Whoever said that you can't is totally wrong.
 

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6. External deadlines. It's funny how I can suddenly "find the keys" and get working on a task at the VERY last minute before something is due.
I think this is telling. You *can* do the work ... when you feel you have to.

It seems like you’re beating yourself up. Maybe you’d do better figuring out how best you work and lean into that?

As an example: I deliberately leave things to the last minute because my brain only kicks in properly when I hit record or hop on a call. I know how I work, and I don’t beat myself up about it. Tell me to create a PowerPoint lecture and I know now to tell you to get someone else. I (try to) structure my work, life, and business to leverage my strengths and personality rather than follow someone else’s path or blueprint. I don’t worry about my weaknesses.

A really practical test I took that I found extremely helpful was at www.marketingdna.com

I’m always happy to have a chat with you Rebekah. Anytime, and I hope you know by now that I’m not a scary person to talk to.
 

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Thank you so much to everyone who responded.

Your lack of action may be the reason of fear, it's in us all, fear of failure, maybe even fear of success,
Oh, great point! I'm going to add this one to my list. It reminds me of another point, too...

17. Check if it's fear. Like you said, it might be fear of failure - or it could be fear of success. And then there's fear of talking to people, fear of rejection, fear of navigating the unknown, fear of feeling foolish... so many fears. If I identify that I'm avoiding a certain task out of fear, my motto is, "Fearless! The fear is the way!" I mean, yeah, you have to distinguish between legitimate fears (where you get that gut feeling of real danger) and bogus ones (where you're just chickening out of something). But for the most part, whenever I feel that fear is trying to steer me away from a certain direction, I try to purposely go in that exact direction.

18. Check if I'm believing a lie or lying to myself. Example: I sit down to work, but instead, I open up YouTube and tell myself, "I can afford to watch YouTube for a while longer," or "I can work with YouTube in the background." No, I can't. If I'm straight up believing a lie, I need to reject the lie, uproot the lie, and shatter the lie with truth. The longer I go on believing the lie, the more power it has to affect my behavior. If I keep on acting on the belief that "YouTube won't affect my work today," haha who am I kidding?

The way to eliminate the lie is to focus my attention on the truth. The truth says, "Every single time you get on YouTube, you lose hours of good time when you could have been productive. Every time you spend hours on YouTube, you hate yourself afterward. Every time you get sucked into YouTube, you then have to end up working past midnight, so your sleep schedule gets destroyed. It's not worth it." If I fill my mind with the truth, then my behavior will come in line.

Dump coffee for good (you will feel better in the long term) that will also reduce your anxiety although at first it may seem difficult. I think there are withdrawal symptoms for the first few days..
I discovered from The Mood Cure that caffeine is the enemy of serotonin. Interesting.

I recently went 2 weeks without caffeine. I know there are withdrawal symptoms, but they're pretty minor.

Maybe I'll go caffeine free for an even longer trial to see if it helps.

Also, @sparechange, thanks for bumping this thread and tagging me:

I had been to that thread before, but couldn't remember where it was. One really great thing that came out of you tagging me there was that someone in the thread recommended the book Work the System by Sam Carpenter. I realized that I had both the book and the audiobook on my computer and hadn't finished them, but the amount that I did read was super powerful and helpful. So I'm going to go back to that to see what else I can glean.

Hi @Bekit . Your post has saddened me, and I would like to help. It does seem that you might have undiagnosed ADHD, but I would not recommend seeking a professional diagnosis because it is notoriously difficult to diagnose accurately.

I have sent you a link to an organization dedicated to helping those who suffer from ADHD, in which they describe a typical diagnosis of adults with that illness. I also attached a link to a doctor's site in which she extols the benefits of the low dose form of Lithium.

I suggest you explore the possibility of using Lithium Orotate, NOT Lithium Carbonate which is the extremely strong prescription medication that must be monitored for possible liver damage.

My very best wishes.
Walter
Thank you for your encouragement and caring, Walter! I hadn't ever heard of using Lithium, much less developed an awareness of the difference between Lithium Orotate and Lithium Carbonate. I definitely wouldn't want liver damage, as I've already had Malaria, which was a doozy on my liver.

This is all new to her, because only 2 years ago she was a work horse.
Interesting. I also used to be a work horse. I went through a pretty severe burnout over the past couple of years. It's definitely a learning curve when you have to manage a whole different version of yourself than the one you were used to.

But I'm wondering how much of what you're struggling with us just a product of entrepreneur overwhelm. I've always had someone there to lean on as we grow this business.

Are you carrying the weight of, I don't know, maybe EVERYTHING on your shoulders? Do you have someone you can talk to? Sometimes just talking to somebody can help break the cycle.

Do you have help? If there's no help, can you figure out a way to get some help in a win win kind of manner?
Good point. I mean, this is why I talked to the guy in the first place and asked for counsel.

I said to someone recently, if you imagine 3 concentric circles, where you've got your "comfort zone" in the middle, the "zone of proximal development" on the next ring, and the "zone of overwhelm" on the outer ring, I feel like I'm off the cliff (way beyond the outer edge).

So yeah, overwhelm is happening. Not sure what to do about it other than to just keep going.

I would add this to the list, but I'm drawing a blank of how to address it.

19. Check if it's overwhelm. If I'm overwhelmed, then do ______???

I think my default is to check out or shut down when I'm overwhelmed. I haven't found an alternative strategy yet. What's a healthy way to handle overwhelm? Without just swinging to the opposite end of the pendulum and throwing in the towel?

Which kind of brings me back to the idea that maybe you just don't have enough support. I don't think that's that far a stretch considering one of the best advice givers you know just gave you that advice.

It also brings me back to the idea that maybe you're just way overwhelmed. Are you taking on so much that your brain is trying to process 15 things at any given time?
Yes.

So I build systems to ensure the work gets done. (Note the absence of the word your)
"The work" vs. "your work" - I like it. Good paradigm shift.

Can you find symbiotic relationships like this to ensure your work gets done?

I suppose you got to be real and ask yourself what parts of your job do you like doing most? Then keep those, and offload the others.
Yeah, I have been taking baby steps toward this, but haven't managed to find a workable model. The parts of my job that I like the most are actually the opportunities that I get to teach. So I've been asking the question, "How can I make it so that I get to teach more?"

Something about this comment is really really bothering me. I can't put my finger on it.
Maybe it's because I'm looking for "something to blame" in a disempowered, helpless sort of attitude, rather than looking for a way to be empowered and find solutions? I didn't used to have a victim mindset. I wonder if that's creeping into the picture here. Seems like it might be. Thanks for pointing that out.

And what is the nature of the problem? Is it a problem of the mind (like brain chemistry) or of mindset (if you believe your executive function is broken, and how good could your executive function possibly be)? Is this some self-fulfilling prophecy rooted in something from childhood. (Sorry I don't want to get too woo woo here)? Could the cause be environment or something else external?

Here's a post where I go into more detail about what "executive function" means to me and where I first heard of it. Back then, though, it was just "this thing that affected certain tasks," whereas now, it feels more like "this unstoppable force that is destroying my whole life right in front of my eyes."

To go back to your analogy, maybe it's like you've got five different cars in your garage, and you've got five places to get to, but each one requires a specific vehicle, and you're terrible about finding your keys for any one, but now you find your jeep keys, but you're sitting in your sedan and you need to get groceries, so should you go have fun off-roading since you found these keys, or do you go back in the house to get the keys to the truck so you can haul what you need to haul today and get the job done? The sun's starting to set and you still haven't gotten the groceries.
That's actually a GREAT analogy. It's similar to another analogy that I shared with my husband the other day. Imagine that you're standing in a long hallway. Along both sides of the hallway are doors leading to rooms. In each room, there's a different task. So there's a room for doing the dishes, and a room for working in the garden, and a room for copywriting, and a room for working on my product development business, and a room for playing the piano and so forth.

All the lights are off by default in all the rooms. And it seems like other people can just go to the room that they currently want to prioritize, flip on the light, and start working on that thing. But for me, the light switches are missing, and the lights go on and off randomly. So when I approach my hallway, I just have to look and see which rooms have the lights on. If I go into those rooms, I can see to do those tasks. But sometimes, I go into a room where the light is off, and just stubbornly sit there until the light comes on. The problem is, I can waste hours or days like that. So I might as well go into a room where the light is on and actually accomplish something productive.

Did you try an accountability coach yet?

Maybe you can find a good coach and create short (maybe even daily deadlines).
Good point. I have started meeting with a friend for accountability once a week, and I've also implemented some additional accountability measures with my husband (like planning my work the day before).

Shorter deadlines is also a great idea. I've noticed that shorter time frames are more concrete and likely to succeed for me, whether it's 25-minute pomodoros or daily deadlines. Breaking down a task into the smallest possible milestones has been a helpful technique, too.

While I am still working on this too a few things have helped a lot:
- consistent sleep cycle > I go to bed around 9:30pm and am up around 5:30am
- no stimulants > I have tried to cut out all coffee, energy drinks, alcohol, drugs etc
- way less phone time
- morning walks and exercise everyday
- simple but set workflow plan > still struggle with this but the days I follow this I get 10 times more done
- tracking what I do > this got recommended in to me in my own similar thread and it is something that helps a lot when I do it
Great tips!

I got five days in a row of morning walks last week, and then it snowed and I broke my streak. I definitely saw the benefit of doing that and plan to continue.

I've also been working on keeping a consistent sleep cycle. My phone is always on Do Not Disturb so I don't get pings and dings and rings, but I've been noticing that I need to just put it in a drawer or something so that I'm not constantly glued to my screen.

The workflow plan and tracking what I do are really good ones. I've done this in the past, but had let it slide.

Thank you for your supportive words.

1) I chip away.

2) I work at things that deeply fascinate me. You couldn’t pay me to NOT do what I do.

3) Where I can, I make it about other people. I don’t want to see people suffering or struggling.
I love #1. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.

#2 is very rare for any of my paid work to fall into this category. Maybe that's a big reason why I experience so much resistance. I have to work to pay the bills, whether I like it or not.

#3 is awesome! Turning outward rather than inward. That's really powerful.


It seems like you’re beating yourself up. Maybe you’d do better figuring out how best you work and lean into that?

As an example: I deliberately leave things to the last minute because my brain only kicks in properly when I hit record or hop on a call. I know how I work, and I don’t beat myself up about it.
Yeah. I'm beating myself up because I'm desperate to make some headway in a positive direction instead of slowly watching myself slide towards combustion.

But I hear you. You're right. I deliberately leave things until the last minute, too, knowing that my brain will kick in then (and only then) so I might as well not stress about it and do something else in the meantime.

I guess I've gotten even that out of balance, though. It's scary when your brain doesn't bother to kick in, even at the last minute.

A really practical test I took that I found extremely helpful was at www.marketingdna.com
I couldn't find any test on this site, but I'd love to try it out. Can you check the link to see where to click for the test?


Thank you so much to everyone who offered encouraging words. Just hearing someone say, "you've got this," "you can do it," and "don't give up," it means more than you know. I will keep going. It's going to be ok.
Don't listen to the naysayers, there is so much opportunity in the world and the dummy telling you that you CANT do something is ridiculous. Anyone can do anything they put their focus if they truly commit, you can to. There have already been millions of people before you that have been successful with entrepreneurship and you can to.

You can overcome your struggles, and they will make you stronger. And when you do overcome them, you will be in a better place than if you had accepted yourself as content in an employment situation.

Bottom line is all of these things you improve on and you have more than enough talent to hit whatever goals you want. Whoever said that you can't is totally wrong.

do not let your entrepreneurial dream die. You can overcome these challenges.

Onward!
 

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