Where are you? Why aren’t you writing? What’s going on?

Hey there, I’m Lesley. Welcome to the latest issue of Failing Forward — A weekly newsletter where I share my experiences as a bootstrapped co-founder.

There’s no bravado here, I hate the sting of failure. I write this newsletter as a reminder that failure is not just okay, it’s often the best way forward.

Where are you? Why aren’t you writing? What’s going on?

Hey there lovely friends!

Sorry I’ve gone missing. This past month has been a lot.

Sales have been waaay down.

This set me on a downward spiral of feeling overwhelmed and anxious. It also, ironically, made me less productive and more prone to poor prioritisation. I ended up doing a lot of work – little of it useful for sales, but all of it effective for making me feel burnt out.

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I now have more empathy for founders who “only write about the good times”.

This is a common criticism of founders: They tend to only write about big exciting milestones, and neglect to talk about their embarrassing mistakes, decisions made out of insecurity, and hard core, full blown failures.

However, having been stressed AF for the past month, I now understand the main reason founders don’t talk about the bad stuff. It’s not that they want to hide their failures, it’s that:

When you’re neck-deep in an angry churning ocean, it’s all you can do to keep from drowning. Nobody has the wherewithal to write a coherent, introspective blog post in this state.

Seems obvious, but this never occurred to me until I experienced it first hand.

I’m not out of it yet…

But I’m feeling better. And have enough in me to write a quick explanatory post.

To be clear, I’m not asking for a pity party.

Well, I was, initially. In fact, I wrote this tweet in a state of self-pity:

Thankfully, I had the most lovely and encouraging responses, along with some amazing suggestions – half of which are already in motion, with some great new ideas I plan to start on.

But, that didn’t stop me from waking up with anxiety attacks two night in a row.

Fortunately, I now recognise that part of the reason for the attacks is because I kept playing the victim.

I felt overwhelmed by work. Underwhelmed by our product. And insecure about everything.

Then I realised, this state is par for the course.

If I wanted to never feel overwhelmed or worried, I should get a job making bubble tea in a quiet shopping mall.

Instead, I chose this.

So… I can either give up, or learn to better deal with the bad.

In my case, here are the tools I’m using to cope:

Put one foot in front of the next.

Instead of looking up into the clouds and feeling intimidated by the massive hill I have to climb, I can look down at my feet and keep moving forward. One tiny step at a time.

Remind myself that I chose this path, I’m not a victim, and I have room to fail.

My anxiety headaches are at their worst when I feel helpless and hopeless. Basic victim mentality.

I immediately feel better when I remind myself I’m not a victim and that I have control.

Having an awesome community to rely on for help and support.

This past year, I’ve received so much advice from experienced members of the WordPress community.

Words cannot describe the gratitude that swells in my heart when I think of all the people who have taken time out of their busy days to reach out and offer me their hard won wisdom.

Let me be clear – these are successful, busy founders with hundreds of thousands of active users. Not wannabe gurus trying to give me marketing advice.

I don’t think I could’ve come half as far in twice the time, if not for all this help.

When I wrote the tweet above, I received a lot of help and encouragement. I am so grateful. And plan to pay it forward as best I can.

Breathing exercises, long walks, head massages, acceptance, meditation…

Basically, the kitchen sink.

Self-care tools are personal to each individual. What works for me, might not work for you. It’s also easy to find these tools in any article talking about relaxation and de-stressing, so there’s little point in rehashing them here.

Instead, I wanted to share a universal, but perhaps seldom discussed, truth: One tool is not enough; you must have multiple tools in your arsenal.

You see, the more tools you have, the better equipped you are to diagnose and deal with a wider range of problems.

But also, it often takes multiple ingredients to make a potion of healing – A sprinkle of long walks, two ounces of journalling, a teaspoon of talking to a trusted advisor, a handful of positive self-talk, one cup of chamomile tea, and so on…

It’s rare that a single thing will make all your worries disappear.

Looking forward

I don’t know when I’ll post again. Maybe it’ll be next week, or maybe it’ll be next month (or more!).

You see, I’m not out of the woods yet, and writing this was tough. And the mental load of writing a weekly newsletter on top of everything else is too much for now.

Instead, the current goal is simply to keep moving forward, one tiny step at a time.

If I do that, success will take care of itself.

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