Is that REALLY in your control?

What can founders *actually* control?

I’ve never been a fan of math. 🤓 Oh, I love the idea of it all right—how it’s a universal language and underpins music and all that stuff—but I loathe the numbers and odd symbols.

I prefer equations like this one:

responsibility — control = anxiety

That summarizes one of the biggest lessons I learned a few years ago as a project manager, and it’s wicked handy in at least two scenarios:

  1. Managing others: If you want to help someone else to do a great job (and not hate you while they do it), give them responsibility and control over what you ask them to deliver. 🤜🤛
  2. Managing you: If you want to help you do a great job, only assume responsibility for what you can control.

That second one? It’s so freaking hard.

Truthfully, I get it wrong all the time. I assume responsibility for things I can’t control or influence and heap loads of anxiety on myself. 😅 From worrying about the dog when he cuts up his paws (as if I can make his cells repair faster 🙄) to biting my nails over what the world will look like in 3 months (as if I influence the economy).

The fact is, we can’t control a lot of what affects us. And that reality is a big, nasty pill to swallow.

Why am I yammering on about control? #

It’s not to make you feel more uneasy. It’s because we’ve done a lot of thinking about what a recession means for founders.

We’ve also done a lot of listening. I’m having conversations with founders who have over a decade of experience to figure out how they think about *waves hands* all this too. 👂

One founder I spoke with recently is Hiten Shah. And he reminded me that the economy, recessions, and depressions aren’t in our control.

He pointed out there’s a very small circle of things founders control, a small-ish circle of things they influence, and a massive circle of things outside their control.

Things you can control include:

  • What you do and say
  • Your reactions to other people’s behavior
  • Where you spend your time
  • How you pitch your business
  • Who you target as a customer
  • How you deliver value to that customer

Things you can influence (but not control) include:

  • Your team’s actions, perceptions, and behavior
  • Company culture
  • Word of mouth growth
  • What customers do with your product

Things you can’t control or influence include:

  • The weather
  • Pandemics
  • When a recession hits
  • What your neighbor does
  • What competitors are doing
  • The price of gas and groceries
  • Just about anything else that comes to mind

Putting things in these control vs. influence vs. outside your control buckets is an important exercise.

Because once you identify what you can control and influence, you put yourself in a position to be more effective as a founder. You start focusing on the right things. You manage anxiety...not to mention stop coming across as a control freak.

“Yeah,” some of you might be thinking, “that looks nice in an email...but it’s 1000x harder to apply.” I hear ya.

How do you figure out what’s in your control? 🤔

And if focusing on the economy isn’t the best use of founders’ time, what is?

I asked Hiten Shah these kinds of questions. And we’ll be sharing more of what we learned from that interview soon. 👀

In the meantime, we’re still gathering thoughts from other founders, and we’d like to hear from you. What can you control as a founder? And what stuff is outside your control and weighing you down?

Hit reply if you’re up for it. I’d love to know.