How To Get Your Head in the Right Place when You’re Starting a Business
Photo courtesy of jbguess.

How To Get Your Head in the Right Place when You’re Starting a Business

Written by Emilie

Topics: Entrepreneurship

Hi Emilie,

I don’t know if you remember our coaching call last year? Well, I’ve finally given myself permission to give the business a proper go. Until now, it has just been a hobby. I’m terrified, but I’m going to go for it.

I think I’ve read most of your blog posts but let me know if there’s one I’ve missed that answers this question. I just wondered if you could give me (or everyone, as a blog post) a bit more of an in depth insight into how you got Puttylike started, and got your first however many readers etc.? What I’m interested in is how you felt, how seriously you approached it, how much time you spent on it, what you prioritized, how you treated it etc.? So less the actual things you did (like guest posting), and more your approach or attitude towards it? And how you dealt with the response you got?

Seeing you do what you do kind of makes me believe that I could do something similar because we must be similar ages, and you’re so ‘real’ and approachable. So I hope you don’t mind that I’m asking for your advice.



Hey Jo,

That’s so exciting! I definitely remember our session and I’m so glad to hear that you’re moving forward with your project. I think it has a lot of potential.

What a great question. There’s so much fear and uncertainty involved in starting a business, that the right mindset really makes the difference between taking action and getting stuck.

When I launched Puttylike, I was living in Denmark, finishing up my last semester of law school. I had a few things going for me:

  1. I had a looming deadline in the form of graduation and a frantic desire to NOT become a lawyer
  2. I had a compelling vision of how I wanted my life to look
  3. I had zero social life

I was miserable living abroad. I had very few friends in the area, didn’t speak the language, and was staying in a dorm building full of 20 year old kids who just wanted to party (I was 26 at the time, and way over that). But instead of getting depressed about it, my response was to isolate myself in my room and build build build. I became obsessed.

Tony Robbins says that to change your life you need either desperation or inspiration. Anything short of either, and you will be too comfortable to make the change. I used both forces to fuel my action.

One way to get in touch with your “inner desperation” is to ask yourself where you will be 5-10 years from now if you don’t do this now. Use that as fuel for action and BRING IT.

I made a radical mental shift back then too. I decided that working an unfulfilling job was unacceptable to me. I *would* make this work. There was no alternative. I would rather move in with my mom, and do freelance web design for a while than settle on a career I didn’t love (I actually did move back home for 5 months, while growing my business and preparing for my move to Portland).

On the inspiration side of things, I had just read The Four-Hour Workweek and The Art of Non-Conformity. I had undergone a sort of personal Renaissance, and I knew how I wanted my life to look.

I was incredibly excited about the prospect of working for myself, of working from anywhere, of sharing a message that mattered so deeply to me and of helping people. I got butterflies in my stomach when I thought of a life that involved doing many things, playing in multiple media, exploring constantly.

And I kept this excitement alive with daily inspiration. I can’t stress how important this is. Every single day began with an interview on Mixergy or BlogcastFM. Hearing about how others built their businesses, where they started, their early failures, how they overcame. It made all the difference. I also visualized daily and posted reminders on my wall.

As Puttylike grew, I started meeting other people who were doing similar things. I made great friends and we supported each other, retweeted each others’ blog posts, commented on each others’ sites, brainstormed on Skype. If only I’d had a space like the Puttytribe when I was starting out. I can only imagine how much easier it would have been if there were regular huddles for me to jump in on.

As you may have already guessed, I took Puttylike incredibly seriously from day one. There were some days when I put in 10 hours, and I loved it. I don’t think you need to put in that kind of time, especially if you’re building your business on the side (and have a social life). Do what you can with the hours you have, but treat it seriously. It is your work.

I also thought a lot about which actions had the greatest impact and tried to use the 80/20 principle as much as possible.

Now in terms of the responses I got, here is the post I launched the site with. It’s a little embarrassing to read now, but I think it’s important to recognize how far I’ve come, and for others to see that I was just as scared as they/you may be now.

In short, I was terrified. Afraid of what people would think, that people on Facebook would laugh at me, that I would fail, etc.

However, when I launched, the response was overwhelmingly positive. So many people told me how impressed they were, how I was inspiring them. I got emails from people I hadn’t seen since elementary school, saying how cool my website was.

I try not to base my confidence on other people’s reactions – be they positive or negative – but it was a relief to see that most of my fears were unfounded.

So in sum,

  • I had a strong Why, both in terms of the life I didn’t want and the life I longed for.
  • I had daily rituals that provided a dose of inspiration in the morning and got me into a flow state to work.
  • I surrounded myself with other people who were doing it, both by immersing myself in inspirational podcasts/books, and by connecting with new friends who were pursuing similar paths.
  • I took my work extremely seriously every day.

I hope this helped give you some insight into my mindset when I was starting out. I actually sort of miss the drive (obsession?) that I had back then.

Now that things are a bit more settled, it’s harder to motivate myself to put in long days. That’s also one of the reasons that I’m always trying to push myself into new and uncomfortable situations.

Your Turn

How did you cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset when you were starting out? Or if you’re starting now, what strategies are you using to motivate yourself?


  1. Cassie says:

    Emilie, this is an incredibly useful post; I’m so glad Jo asked this question. I definitely need to work on solidifying and strengthening the four items you outline in my own process (and I’m missing the daily inspiration thing entirely). I’m excited to incorporate these ideas!

  2. David Delp says:

    Oh, I still have several methods for staying on track and the Why question is always in the background. Here are the elements that work for me:

    – Know the role I want to play when I’m at my best in the business. There are several for me, Teacher, Writer, Design are the easy ones, Entrepreneur, Connector, and Breadwiner require more effort, but each of them is an important role that needs definition and a powerful why to keep me motivated.

    – Short term goals. I need 2-3 month goals, and even better 2-3 week goals so I can see and test my progress.

    – Weekly and daily planning. This is key, prioritizing what I will not do during a week or day is just as important as what I will do. That’s the best way I can get into flow, short doable goals with a timeline. They are magical.

    – Support from friends, mentors, clients, critiques, and colleagues is essential. That’s part of being a Connector. At the very least, form a board of advisors, people you meet about your short term goals who will advise you and love you at the same time. That’s been essential for me.

    Good luck!

  3. Janelle says:

    Emilie, I’m so glad I clicked over from the newsletter to read this post. I quit my job at the end of the year to pursue my dream of starting a business – something I’ve wanted to do for years (literally). My husband wasn’t very supportive of my decision, and it’s been very slow-moving since then as far as getting my business off the ground goes, so to say I’ve been frustrated and worried and, honestly, freaking out the past few months is an understatement. It’s been easy for me to forget how excited I was at the beginning because of the nervousness I’m feeling now that things won’t work out, and I’ll have to go back to doing soul-sucking work instead. While clients and income would be lovely, I think a lot of it has to do with my mindset and how seriously (or not) I’m taking myself and my business. I think I really need to work hard to shift my thinking back to where it was a few months ago when I was eager and excited about all of the possibility in front of me, and reading this has made me realize that. So, thank you so much for that!!

  4. Oz says:

    First, let me admit that when I found Puttylike I was both skeptical and elated. I’ve done submarine duty, went to Harvard for grad school in Public Policy, founded a nonprofit, developed a cookie that’s gone international (I’ve visited those commercial kitchens and got sanitation certifications) … definitely a multipotentialite. But I was worried that Puttylike would give me permission to be spread too thin as I immersed myself in my next curiosity.

    This blogpost of your is gold! At some point, there’s got to be some level of focus, consistency and dedication–as you describe.

    What I’ve done to keep my head right for business is keep focused on where the money comes from. I teach Excel workshops. As much as I would love to build my own WordPress plugins I remind myself: NO! NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO GO DOWN THAT RABBIT HOLE. If my workshops aren’t filled, learning PHP has to wait.

    One day … you betcha! I’ll be down that rabbit hole, but not today.

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Oz,

      Thanks for your honesty. I think a lot of people are surprised to hear that I am a pretty intensely focused person. I have a lot of projects on the go, but the ones that I “upgrade” to priority projects, I really work hard on. I’m a bit of a workaholic actually because I enjoy what I do so much. It’s that multipotentialite obsessiveness, it can be harnessed in really helpful ways sometimes.

  5. Keith says:

    Very cool post. Interesting to see how you got started and the desperation and inspiration that fueled you. I’m in a similar situation right now, coming to the realization that most jobs I’ve worked at have only made me miserable. Rather than adapt to the average American way of life I’ve decided to start taking the steps to create a life I’ll love. Like you, my daily inspiration comes from various books as well as a number of blogs. Writing posts for everyone to see can definitely be a nerve-racking experience. However, seeing all of the successful bloggers out there reinforces the idea that this is possible. So thanks for the inspiration!

    • Emilie says:

      That’s awesome, Keith. Go you! I remember when I started, there was a blogger I knew who had moved to Portland with $3000 in his bank account and then hustled to build his business and write his book and he made it work. Since I wanted to move to Portland, he was a perfect role model. I just kept him in mind. If Ev could do it, I could to. So helpful.

  6. Kate says:

    This is so great, thanks Emilie! Also, when you posted this Jo was like ‘oh my god I’m famous!’ and it was fantastic :) You are totally an internet celebrity.

    Strategies I’m currently using-

    Don’t fill up my schedule. Do less, but make what I do count. Don’t skip days of working on what matters. Take time to wander around or doodle or stare out the window. Stop following advice that doesn’t resonate wholeheartedly with my why. Surround myself with people who support me and have visions of their own. Know that things will happen as they are meant to happen, and as long as I am showing up, listening, and creating, all is well! :)

    • Jo says:

      Ha, thanks Kate :P

      I love your approach towards these things.


      Thank you SO much for doing this. It’s so good to have an insight into your mind!

      I think I’m at the point of desperation, after deliberately not getting a job after university so that I would have to make it work, and then, almost seven months later realising that I’ve not really made any progress, probably because I wasn’t really going after what I really wanted (Young Ambitions). Now I’m still in the same position of not having a job, I’m running out of money, I feel like I need to hurry up and prove to myself that I can really do this, and that, if I don’t start taking things seriously soon, I’ll have to give in and get a proper job. I’ve been messing around for a while because my heart wasn’t in it because I was going after the wrong thing. Now I’ve given myself permission to go after the thing I really want to do, I’m ready.

      I definitely have a compelling vision of how I want my life to look, thanks to my mastermind group and my life coach. The other day, my life coach got me to talk through what my life would be like if I gave in and got a conventional job. That exercise made me realise how not me that life would be.

      My mastermind group is probably the biggest thing at the moment, and if anyone here hasn’t got one, I recommend they get one. If you get the right people, they’re amazing. I think I’d probably be in a ‘proper’ job now if I didn’t have them cheering me on.

      The main thing I’m struggling with is the odd jobs and bitty bits in life. I’m trying to limit their interference in my time and life by setting specific times for doing jobs and for checking e-mails, and giving myself permission to get on with the most important (and exciting) work first. We’ll see how that goes.

      Thank you!

      • Emilie says:

        That’s great Jo, thanks for inspiring this post.

        I think Young Ambitions could really go far. I’m not just saying that. You’ve got a very unique style. I still think about the logos you made for Jon/DWTH, which were so brilliant.

        Scheduling is key. I do the same thing. I have a few hours every morning that are like my sacred time, where I do only my most important, high impact, usually creative work.

        • Jo says:

          Thanks, Emilie :-)

          I’m working on it, and feel like I’m getting closer to working out what it’s all about :-)

          And I’m making a lot of improvements with my scheduling. I feel like I’m realising so many things, and that everything is coming together. So excited, and so much of it is thanks to you/Puttylike/the Puttytribe.

      • Janelle says:

        Jo, I’d LOVE to hear how you went about getting involved in your mastermind group. I think they’re amazing and I’ve wanted to create/be a part of one for a while now, but am not sure where to start! I could totally use a group of cheerleaders and supporters (and be one for others) right now.

        • Emilie says:

          Hey Janelle,

          I’m not sure where Jo found her group, but we have a lot of “huddles” (our word for mastermind meetings) and huddle groups in the Puttytribe for this reason. I know several puttypeep have even created even smaller groups with people they met in the puttytribe and formed masterminds. I’m not trying to push the Puttytribe, just saying that mutual support and brainstorming is a huge part of what we try to provide in there. :)

          • Janelle says:

            You know, I actually had wanted to try out a huddle when you were first trying them out, but talked myself out of it (why?!). I think the Puttytribe would be a really amazing resource – how would I get involved? I suppose I can email you instead of taking up space in the comments here :)

          • Emilie says:

            Janelle, sure feel free to email me if you have questions. Also, if you get on the list, you’ll receive an email when we open the doors (next time will be in 2-3 weeks). Hope to huddle with you soon. :)

        • Jo says:

          It was through Live Your Legend. Scott created a Facebook group for his followers, and Liz Seda asked him if she could set up accountability groups for his readers. She set ours up :-) That’s also a big part of Scott’s How To Connect With Anyone course, and I *think* if you subscribe to his site, you get a free guide to mastermind groups. But, like Emilie says, the Puttytribe is amazing for this stuff too. It’s the friendliest, most helpful and welcoming membership site I’ve ever come across.

    • Emilie says:

      Haha NOT an internet celebrity. :)

      Love your tips. Breaks and trusting your intuition are hugely important and way underrated.

  7. Yvonne says:

    What great questions, insightful post and candid answers! I’m still waiting for desperation and I’m often inspired here, I have yet to push myself. I do realize something is not entirely right but the leap is far too beyond for me to attempt and i feel aimless. But I’m have pushed myself to do new things and challenge old habits. I am waiting for a sign and sometimes, I think it’s waiting for me…
    Thanks for this…

  8. Allison says:

    Thanks for this post, Jo & Emilie!
    I think the question posed is a great one. Many people who give online business advice seem to focus on the task-oriented what-to-do’s versus going in depth with the motivations and feelings that fuel taking the leap and launching the business. And actually, I think that’s where a lot of people get stuck. It’s one thing to have checklists of things to do, but that insight into how you find the motivation, inspiration, and determination to run with an idea is really valuable and inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

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