Self-Talk Basics for Maintaining Your Solo Business in Tough Times


Attitude defaults for strength, support, and forward solutions


Whether you have a part-time or full-time, new or established solo business, it’s helpful to realize you are engaging in defensive entrepreneurship. You are working in, working on, building something up for yourself that’s protective. It’s insurance of a sort against unpredictability, uncertainty, other people’s whims, and external circumstances. It means when times are tough, you will always have skills, work, and self-reliance knowhow to fall back on.

Take a scroll through your newsfeed. Doesn’t that sound like something we all can use right about now? A greater pool of resources?

Some of those invaluable resources we naturally cultivate when working for ourselves are internal. Attitudes. Mindsets. Self-affirming habits and thoughts. We can further foster this set of supports by becoming more conscious of them and practicing them and turning to them deliberately. We can make them our default settings and they will create for us a rock-solid defensive foundation. (Here’s a great intro to the science behind self-talk.)

While the following self-talk basics may come across as centered in you and about you (they are), they are not championing a hyper-individualism — only focusing on things you can tell yourself to stay grounded and moving onward with your enterprise. Nurturing good relationships are vital to your business and personal well-being, and all of the things on this list can be used to enhance your network, itself a critical aspect of a sustainable solo business.


Confidence and boldness I got this. I can do it if I have to. I will do it.

  • Faking it till you make it sounds suspect and artificial but there is good science behind acting as if something were already true. Richard Wiseman writes about it in his book, The As If Principle.

  • If you need the work, if you have to do it, nothing requires as much boldness as Diana Schneidman’s 30-day challenge from Real Skills, Real Income: Make 1,000 phone calls in 30 days — about 50 every workday. But it will jumpstart your business every time it needs a serious jolt. She guarantees it has worked every time she needed it to and that she never had to actually make 1,000 calls to get the work she needed.

Awareness of alternatives There are many ways to live, to work, to make money, to address my concerns.

  • When you keep front of mind that there is a universe of alternatives out there, that there are always options, your job becomes much simpler: Discover them. Imagine them. Create them. Test them out and choose the ones that work and that draw you in.

  • How do you uncover alternatives? James Altucher writes down 10 ideas every morning and advises that this creative exercise can rewire your brain and change your life. Coach and master salesperson Steve Chandler suggests brainstorming 20 solutions to your most pressing problem every morning, then picking the best idea as your first to-do item of the day.

Creativity I can always count on my creativity to generate enough ideas and solutions.

  • Creativity is not just innovation, cleverness, or how we express ourselves. There’s also the meta sense of creativity — we are creating our own path, direct or circuitous, perhaps sunny, shady, lush, sparse, cobblestoned, or with gentle rolling hills. Create your business forward.

  • Coaches offer their clients some meta tools that are all proven ways to tap your creativity in service of your goals — walking, journaling, meditation, and practice/taking action. Put these to good use to bolster every aspect of your venture from mood to sales results.

A growth mindset I can and will learn what I need to in order to get through this.

  • Motivation and mindset scholar Carol Dweck has shown that where a fixed mindset consigns us to the belief that our intelligence and talents are fixed, unchangeable traits, a growth mindset opens us up to embrace challenges, learn, and develop our natural abilities. Growing research on the brain plasticity, its ability to rewire and change with experience, further supports the idea of a growth mindset.

Turn to the Tao This is not a problem, it’s an experience. My troubles are the stuff of my path.

“When you’re feeling hurt, sad, angry, overburdened … fully feel whatever pain or sadness or anger you’re feeling…And as you feel it, don’t think of the difficult feeling as a problem you need to solve. A thing you need to get rid of. Think of it as an experience you’re having. It’s not a problem, it’s an experience.”

  • Taosim, a philosophical tradition dating back to ancient China that addresses how humans can best live, accept themselves, and align with the natural forces of the universe, shows us the opening in our challenges. Tao (pronounced dow) is often translated as way or path. Taoism often finds that one’s own troubles are just the place to start any journey and may in fact be the stuff of one’s path.

  • If you happen to discover that the problem you’re having is actually that you are just in the middle of it, on the journey that you chose, that you want to be on, well, congratulations for getting to this point! Maybe there’s a goal you’re headed for but maybe there’s no defined endpoint to arrive at — in the middle of it is the thing and it’s ongoing. Here are strategies for living with that reality.

Personal responsibility I can’t control everything, but I am responsible for doing what I can with what I have from where I’m at.

  • Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie, Les Brown, Tony Robbins, Rich Dad Robert Kiyosaki, and all the others. All the (male) titans of personal success champion personal responsibility. Maybe they are too quick to brush aside the contexts and the support systems that make success possible, but that doesn’t negate one’s personal role. When we stop putting energy into blaming others and situational obstacles and take responsibility for what we can do, things change.

  • Jim Rohn has some of the best quips in this area to take to heart: “Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenges, wish for more wisdom” and “For things to change, you have to change. For things to get better, you have to get better. For things to improve, you have to improve. When you grow, everything in your life grows with you.”

  • “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” With these lines from “Invictus,” you can practically feel the bravado well up within. You can also take inspiration from the fact that Nelson Mandela said it was this poem, repeated often, that gave him strength during his 27-year imprisonment.

  • We don’t have to take blunt-force responsibility and control solutions into existence. We can take responsibility by focusing on learning what we need to (see above), asking for the help we need (see below), or asking someone to help us learn the next thing (beautiful blend).

Asking for help I don’t have to do or know or have or be everything. I can count on others and ask for what I need.

  • Just ask. Give it everything you have as an individual and ask for help. Or just ask for help without depleting yourself first.

  • Ask a favor. Studies show that people tend to like you more after they’ve done you a favor. One explanation is that their after-the-fact reasoning is: I’ve done you a favor, you must be worth it! You did it. You’re now part of the favors economy, the circulation of an invisible currency of paying it forward. Sure, give. But take too.

  • Yes, many things are “an inside job,” but we also have external resources. Brian Tracy makes other people part of his basic formula of Focal Point. Leverage other people. Their knowledge, their energy, their money, their successes, their failures, their ideas, and their contacts.

Grit and resilience I will prevail.

Choosing yourself without being only for yourself “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And being only for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?” — Hillel the Elder

  • First, be on your own damned side. Imposter syndrome much? That’s okay. Take some advice from above and act as if you’re on your own side. You might just be showing others, this person must be worth it, they did themselves a favor… As you make choices for yourself and vote on your own behalf, you are giving implicit permission for others to do the same.

  • The underlying message of Rachel Rodgers’s book, We Should All Be Millionaires: A Woman’s Guide to Earning More, Building Wealth, and Gaining Economic Power, is just this: Do well for yourself because it’s also a great way to do well for others. She knows that when you have more money, power, and influence, you not only will be enjoying it, you will be sharing it and putting it to good ends.