Be Your Own F***ing Fan

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Before you have a tribe, it’s just you.

I recently attended a networking event for entrepreneurs. My jaded L.A. self wasn’t expecting to gain too much from it to be honest, but my dream-chasing L.A. self thought, “Hey, at the very least, it’ll put more fire in my belly. Also… free wine.”

There was a panel of guest speakers on stage discussing various phases of starting and maintaining a business. The topic of a “support system” came up and a couple of speakers went into how important it was to surround yourself with the right people, people who will be honest about your work, etc… I could feel myself restraining an eye roll. Then, another guest speaker spoke up with words that halted the initial school of thought and made me think “Preeeach.”

“You have to trust your own instincts. You have to be your number one fan. You have to be your own f***ing fan. Do you think Bowie ever stopped to ask his friends ‘Hey guys, is this like, good?’

Of course, I believe in a strong support system, should you be so lucky. Of course, “finding your tribe” is super valuable. But starting up your own thing typically means being a loner in the beginning. Your tribe comes in later. Your support system of friends might be there from the beginning but really, they are simply playing the friend role more than they are supporting “that thing you just started that they don’t fully understand yet.”

Then consider the infant stage that your idea is in… do you really want it to be subject to the criticisms and feedback of dozens of people who don’t quite grasp the intention or vision yet? If you’re building something really different, you have to confidently create it to the point that it peaks the interest of others. And you have to share it (when it’s ready) in a way that builds trust in your authenticity and expertise in your unique brain child.

Once you dive in, own your mission, and then begin to spread the word, an authentic tribe will grow into existence and your friends will have an “aha” moment of what you’ve been up to all along. And it feels good to have people finally believe in your “thing” instead of just cheering you on  because the “thing” after all, is supposed to become about something much greater than even you.

I’m not the peppy, wide-eyed and bushy tailed cheerleader type. Being my own fan gets really tough for me but I started with a really strong conviction and I think my initial enthusiasm hooked just a couple people- but that was enough to keep me going when I had my downer days. And I kept a calendar of milestones to hit throughout the year and planned my Monday-Sundays at the beginning of each week so that whether I was in the mood or not, I had to check off the tasks on my day’s to-do list. It’s amazing how simply getting up, getting into the grind, and seeing progress can bring that spark back.

Recently, I had my friends taste test my ice cream creations and was able to witness their “aha” moments or rather “Oh, I get what she’s been up to!” epiphanies firsthand. It so lightened my heart and made me step back to reflect on just how much I’ve actually accomplished.

Now when I feel a bit in a slump, I also feel a certain sense of responsibility to keep going because I’ve already rallied others into the journey and see their excitement and belief about where this can go.

But first and always, be your own f***ing fan.