Jarie Bolander has been a member of Founders Network since May 2017. He’s also been a prominent FN member in our San Francisco Chapter. To receive peer mentorship from Jarie and over 600 fellow Tech Founders, please request an invite and join our global network.
“Hello everyone. My name is Jarie Bolander and I’m the co-founder and COO of Lab Sensor Solutions.” The lights were glaring in my eyes as I began my 2-minute investor pitch in front of a thousand people. “We track the temperature and location of medical supplies so that they don’t spoil.” Whew. Glad I did not screw that up. All these lights and people are distracting, and I’m uncomfortably hot considering I’m in a lab coat.
I have never been uncomfortable in front of crowds but this was different. It was demo day for 500 Startups, Batch 14, and it was a big deal. There were hundreds of investors in the audience and hopefully one of them would like what I had to say. That made the pressure to perform in the uncomfortable, even awkward, situation even more important.
Pitching your startup is just one of many uncomfortable situations that founders routinely find themselves in. If you have never found yourself uncomfortable in a situation, then I’d venture a guess you’re not pushing hard enough.
“Pitching your startup is just one of many uncomfortable situations that founders routinely find themselves in.” @TheDailyMBA tweet
The World is Uncomfortable, Especially for Founders
Founders are a unique breed of person. Who else would have the audacity to believe that whatever newfangled idea they are working on will change the world? In most cases, that newfangled idea won’t even make it to market. In order to figure that out, a founder needs to push out of their comfort zone.
On my journey as a founder, I constantly work on being comfortable with being uncomfortable as a way to challenge myself to jump into the deep end of uncertainty. This is where I have found the most opportunity and inspiration. Here are the three ways that work for me:
#1 Stay Healthy
Poor health and fatigue exacerbate how you experience stress and anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle that is hard to break. Throw in an uncomfortable situation, which raises stress and anxiety, and you’ll soon feel the influences of poor health. I prioritize getting good sleep, exercising, and staying hydrated. Each of those things makes it a lot easier to handle stress and anxiety as well as keeping your mind sharp.
Note – Staying emotionally healthy is just as important and it may be worth working with a coach during high-stress periods.
#2 Practice Your Craft
I practiced my Demo day pitch for three months so that when the time came, it would seem effortless. Those countless hours of practice conditioned me to know my material without thinking. This is similar to how an athlete prepares for a game — they practice their craft until it becomes automatic. I can’t name a professional athlete who just “wings it” in competition. As a founder, neither should you.
#3 Pay Attention to Trends
As founders, we have invested a significant amount of time, talent, and treasure in our ideas. I’d say the majority of my most uncomfortable situations have been when an investor or potential partner full on trashes my idea – “I don’t get it. You’ll get crushed by some big company.” The list goes on and on.
The thing I have tried to do (sometimes in vain), is ignore the one-offs and focus on the collective wisdom of what I am hearing. A lot of times those trends tell more truth than any single comment. If you do this, then all those one-on-one comments lose their power and you can focus on data gathering instead of reacting.
Go Get Uncomfortable and Enjoy It
Our job as founders is to build things that have never existed before. That mandate makes our lives more uncomfortable than most. By being comfortable with being uncomfortable, we can push past the critics, stand up for our ideas, and hopefully, change the world.
Jarie Bolander is an engineer by training and an entrepreneur by nature. He is the founder and COO of Lab Sensor Solutions. He has over 20 years of experience bring innovative products to market, which gives him a unique perspective on the power of storytelling for businesses. He has published five books. His recent one, The Entrepreneur Ethos is all about how to build a better entrepreneurial culture. You can follow him on Twitter @TheDailyMBA.