Diary of DIY Biz – Feeling Queasy, Feeling Bold

Thanks for all of your friendly comments, tweets and emails about his new series. I’m excited to continue writing it. –Alicia


When I left off last week I had my hopes up about getting into the business accelerator I interviewed with in Chicago. Well, good news because as you read this I am back up in Chicago for a second interview. So, maybe say a little prayer if you’re so inclined?

I’m sure you’ve heard someone compare starting a business to having a child before. Of course, I don’t have any kids so I have no idea if that’s true or not. But if it is, I think I know where I’m at right now- the first trimester. Because the first trimester is the beginning. It’s before you’re comfortable talking about it with everyone but it’s still so new and exciting you think about it 24/7. And because it’s when you feel nauseous all the time. (Extra important note: I am not pregnant! This is just a ridiculously extended metaphor!)

That’s how I’ve felt all week- queasy. It’s anxiety, of course, and it makes it hard to eat and impossible to sleep. (…she types at 3:01am.) Of course some anxiety is normal, especially before an important interview! It can even be helpful. But I know myself and we crossed the line from normal/helpful into unhealthy sometime late last week. In the past I’ve let my anxiety get the better of me, but not this time around. Tomorrow it’s straight to the yoga studio.

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(Love this print by Wendy MacNaughton via swissmiss)

I know from experience that the yoga will help a lot immediately, but underlying problem is just that I’m overwhelmed. It’s time to get some more smart, capable people on my team and stop trying (and failing) to do it all. Part of me wants to wait and see if I’m accepted to an accelerator because how things go the next few months will be different if (when!) I am. But I can’t wait. There’s always be a reason to wait a couple more weeks before making a decision or starting something. In my experience it’s almost never the right thing to do. So, starting tomorrow, I get some more help.

I was reading an article in TechCrunch this week where Paul Graham (Y-Combinator founder and smart dude) said “You can’t predict in advance where the bottlenecks will be so you just keep going until you hit the next one.” It’s simple and true. For a perfectionist like me it can also leave a pit in your stomach as you’re going along because you know there are tough challenges lurking ahead. Sometimes it starts to feel like walking through a minefield.

Random story- when I was in college I took Intro to Psychology (Freud, Pavlov, Piaget, blah blah) and every student was required to participate as a subject in a few experiments. Of course you never had to be in a study that you didn’t want to, and there were lots to choose from. That’s why I can’t understand why I on earth I agreed to this one: The room looks like a tiny hospital room with a glass window at the front. I’m hooked up to a bunch of machines- electrodes on my head, heart rate and blood pressure monitors, and a mask over my face that feeds me oxygen. Since the mask is prevents me from talking I have to hold up a card and point to a number every minute to report to the person behind the window about my level of ‘discomfort.’ This goes on for about 10 boring minutes until suddenly, I can’t breathe. But it feels like I’m still breathing? Every alarm in my body goes into crazy panic mode and then, just as suddenly, it’s over. I want to rip the mask off and storm out of there but instead I force myself to do some deep breathing and calm down as quickly as possible so as not to let these sadists see me sweat.

After a few more minutes of pointing at the stupid numbers someone comes in the room to explain what happened. They switched my air supply to carbon dioxide for about 15 seconds. You can’t smell or taste the difference, so I didn’t know until my whole body started freaking out. The purpose is to simulate a panic attack. Awesome, right? Then he says that I have to stay there for another 20 minutes and it may or may not happen again. And it does, of course. When it’s finally all over the sadists (researchers) explain that they are trying to study the physical effects of anticipating a panic attack. Because apparently for many people with panic disorders the anxiety of worrying about their next panic attack can actually cause a panic attack. Catch-22!

Although that was a ridiculous experience that I never want to repeat, I learned a few things that day that have stuck with me: (1) Anticipating something bad happening causes anxiety that can actually lead to the bad thing. So actually, moving forward boldly is often the safer option! (2) Deep breathing really works. Around the time of the experiment I had been taking a (non-credit) massage course from a woman named Red Feather (no joke). She was really into the power of breathing so I used those techniques to calm down after the panic attacks. As I was leaving the experiment the doctor that was there to make sure the grad students didn’t kill someone  remarked that he had never seen anyone’s vital signs return to normal levels as quickly as mine. Gold star in panic attack recovery! Oh, and (3) no more volunteering for experiments that require doctors on standby.

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(A favorite Goethe line, image via)

So, moving forward boldly it is! Easy to say, harder to do but it gets easier once you’ve got a little momentum going. Here one of the things I took bold action on this week: we’re changing to a new box. The good things are that the boxes will be custom made especially for us which will cut down on some of the labor we’ve had to do in the past applying the stickers and label holders. They’ll also be made locally which is great and will reduce the lead time and crazy expensive freight costs of the old boxes. And they are a larger, nicer box altogether that shouldn’t suffer from some of the quality problems I had with the old ones. But there are a few downsides, too. One is that I’ve been reluctant to change boxes until I’m sure I found something we can stick with in the future because I like the idea of using them for organization and you don’t want a bunch of mismatched boxes on your shelf. Another is that I had anticipated that when our volume grew and we found a new box that it would be less expensive because we’d be ordering so many of them. Well, that’s not the case at all and these new boxes are actually (rather significantly) more expensive than the old boxes. To try and get the best price on them I’m placing a large order, but that’s scary too because it requires a large amount of money. Still, I really like them and think that everyone else will too, so we’re making the bold change! I’m working on a bunch of other bold moves too and I’ll share them as soon as I can.

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Any bold moves in your biz (or life) to be made?


  1. David Kenney says:

    Retiring in 40 days. If there is anything that you think I could help you with please don’t hesitate to ask. Been with a few startups in my career and 2 of them made INC500. Good luck and love ya. Unca

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