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Overcoming The Beast that is Self Doubt

How does one mitigate the self doubt felt when starting a new business venture?

Woodshop Bear

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So you’ve decided to start a business. You’ve got a product or service in mind, you’ve got everything mapped out, and you’re excited about jumping in. Those dreams of finally severing the ties with (insert company you despise working for here) finally seem within reach. And then the self doubt begins.

When deciding to start a business, many people will inevitably fall victim to the ridiculous notion that in order to succeed they must create the best product known to man, or provide the best service that anybody has ever experienced. Although striving for excellence is a great trait to have and much better than the alternative, the idea that anything but the absolute best equates to failure is inherently false, and can do a lot of damage not only to your business, but yourself as well. I fell victim to this for a brief moment upon starting my business, and I’m going to share with you all how I navigated through the torrent of thoughts and emotions which boiled up at that time.

We live in a culture today that strives for perfection. You see it everywhere you look. Filters on every single camera, app, and video sharing platform. Mega corporations constantly telling you you’re not good enough, but their product will help you become better in some way. You’re not cool unless you have the newest phone, which is exactly the same as last years but with a larger price tag. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably broken through that spell and know it’s all nonsense. But the spell is by design, you can get a degree in it (Marketing), it is a multi billion dollar a year industry, and it is incredibly effective. When one is bombarded with both conscious and subconscious programming which tells them they are less than adequate, it eventually seeps in to the back of your mind and will manifest later in ways which many wouldn’t even correlate to the advertising.

Prior to the launch of my website, building my first product, or even knowing what it was that I was going to produce, the feelings of inadequacy crept in. And those feelings nearly stopped me from moving forward with something I was genuinely thrilled about making a reality. One day, while I was in the midst of building my shop, a thought popped into my head which both startled and unnerved me. “What are you doing all of this for? Nothing you’ve ever tried has worked out the way you wanted it to. You’re just wasting time. You’re broke, quit spending the little money you have on plywood and tools that you’ll never use. Give up”. And I nearly did. Were these thoughts a reflection of my woodworking ability? Absolutely not. I would consider myself a very decent woodworker by today’s standards. Were they because I know nothing about business, or building a website, or how to market my products? Couldn’t be that, as I did that years prior with a small business attempt making small batch beard care products. I searched for days trying to find the source of these thoughts which had taken ahold and were clinging on for dear life. Those few days were extremely trying, until I realized where it was all originating from.

I was indeed scared that I would fail miserably. And that fear was coming from the idea that I was, for some reason or another, contractually obligated to create a product that was superior to every comparable product in existence. As I think back to it now it’s quite funny, but at the time it was a sincere fear.

In today’s world people are starving. Starving for attention, starving for approval, starving for meaning and purpose. When one is existing in a state of mind where they’re not enough, it’s no far stretch of the imagination to conclude that they will prescribe that same inadequacy to every aspect of their life. I found myself falling victim to the “meaning and purpose” class of starvation. I had recently found my way home back to God, He had blessed my wife and I with a beautiful daughter, but I still felt like I was not living up to the call He put out. It is my belief that I somehow correlated the quality of the not yet decided upon products with the path God had ordained for me. As if there was a looming expectation of not only perfection, but grandeur, and anything less than that would be inexcusable. I was still tripping over cords and dropping tools on my feet while trying to build a shop, but in my head I was fighting battles against thoughts which were highly irrational.

Our daughter was around 8 months old when this happened. As a first time parent, I was enjoying every moment of this stage. She was becoming much more self aware, she was laughing hysterically, she was grabbing the spoon as it came towards her mouth because she wanted to try it herself. With each new milestone, I became more proud of her. While driving to the store one day, with a tear in my eye while thinking about how the last 8 months went by in a day, I had the revelatory realization that if I felt that much joy in my daughter for doing something as simple as holding a spoon, imagine how overjoyed God must be that I turned my entire life around, relinquishing the control all of my earthly desires had over me, and how I now want nothing more than to provide for my family. If I was that hurt when I had to use my dad voice to mildly scold my daughter when she yanked my beard harder than even the strongest man on earth could and she stuck her bottom lip out in response, how much hurt does God feel when millions of His children go down a path of conscious sin, or refuse to even attempt to live a life he would approve of? In that exact moment, I gained a much deeper understanding of God, of being a parent, of how those two are connected, and of how silly those feeling of inadequacy pertaining to business were. I didn’t care if my daughter stumbled while standing, and I did not expect her to go from crawling to running the first time she stood on her own. I was elated watching her grab hold of the couch and pull with all of her might until she was standing up, smiling and scanning the room to see if we had witnessed it. God does not expect perfection from day one either. Just improvement and a desire to do good. This calmed me tremendously, and I went back into the shop with a renewed and much stronger sense of optimism.

Do I make the best cutting boards on earth? Probably not. But I don’t need to, because my cutting boards are great, they’re affordable for the quality you’re getting, I’m very friendly with customers and those who support what I’m doing, and most importantly I’m trying and improving every day. If you’re starting a construction company, there is no stipulation that you must erect the finest house that has ever been built. Just build a good house that a family will call a home. We as humans are constantly over complicating things, as a result of decades of programming. Deprogram yourself, and realize it’s all nonsense. You don’t have to make the best product or provide the best service. Just make something good. Try. As people are starving for the aforementioned things, they are also starving for products that are simply good, and not made 6,000 miles away, and which will not break in 3 months. And they’re willing to pay a little extra for that quality. And in my experience they are delighted to support a small business here in the US who is doing just that. People are starving for service that is simply good. A short and friendly conversation with another real human being who happens to know how to fix your toilet or cut down the giant tree in your yard is not something that can be taught in marketing school.

As it turns out, you don’t have to recreate the wheel in order to succeed. You just need to sell a good wheel to someone who needs one.

One more word of advice, easily observed in the wild. In nature, the male lion may seem like he’s got it all, being the king. But he also has to risk his life fighting the other males who challenge him. If you desire perfection to the point of being the king of your industry, enjoy the endless lawsuits and ridiculous expectations from your customers that come with it. We recently saw many heads of the tech community testify before congress. What we didn’t see is the guy quietly running a small automotive shop in the country testifying before congress.

Do not let self doubt or irrational fear stop you from trying. You did not put that self doubt inside of your head. The people who don’t want you to dip into their billion dollar profits by starting your own business did. We need less mass production, and more of the masses producing.

Until next time bears. Onward!

-Woodshop Bear

Business

Learn Before You Earn

Don’t Let Your Dreams Cloud Your Vision

Woodshop Bear

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Most of us long for the ability to make our own way in this life. I’d venture to guess that most people reading this article would much rather live a life of self accountability, self reliance, and self employment instead of being dependent on an employer to provide the necessary funds for them to feed their families, keep a roof over their head, and give their children a good life. It doesn’t matter who you work for, the act of being beholden to somebody else when it comes to your financial security is stressful. This is why most people start their own business. And this is also why a lot of small business startups fail.

When you hit that wall and can’t possibly work another day in your dead end, soul sucking job, you naturally start dreaming. And man are those dreams big. Many dream so big in that moment that they lose sight of reality, and this can be detrimental to an otherwise great game plan. Dreaming about making a change isn’t bad, but letting that dream cloud your vision when it comes to what you’re truly capable of at that moment can cause a lot of problems. In this article I’d like to share some simple advice for anyone who’s hit that wall and is ready to make a change.

People typically go into creating their own business with one of two mindsets. The first is “I’m done with this job, nothing is going to stop me from doing (insert business plan here), I’m going to be the greatest”. The second is “I know what kind of life I want to live, and thinking about doing this scares the daylight out of me, but I’m ready and willing to learn whatever I need to in order to get there”. There is a fundamental difference between these two starting points, and it is that the second mindset starts you in a position of wanting to learn, whereas the first positions you in a place that is much more prone to failure. When we assume we’re ready for anything in life, we usually aren’t even close.

When we are humble, admit that we need to learn, and open ourselves to the opportunity to gain new knowledge, we often succeed.

When I started my business 1.5 years ago, I was about 10% excited and 90% terrified. I knew that although I was decent at woodworking, I had so much to learn. And I believe that starting point is why I’ve succeeded. I couldn’t begin to guess how many hours of woodworking videos I watched, learning new things and taking mental notes the entire time. I researched every tool I purchased, I learned the ins and outs of how to maintain them properly, how to safely handle them, and how to properly store them. I spent countless hours hunting for the best way to ship orders, package orders, which carriers provide the best rates depending on size and weight of packages. I spent weeks researching different woods, which ones were good for food prep and which were better for non-food related items. I spent months learning before I constructed my first cutting board. Had I not invested this time into learning about the craft, I would have most likely seriously injured myself using a tool I wasn’t familiar with, wasted a huge amount of expensive exotic lumber, and I would not have been prepared for the logistics of running a business. Learning gave me the foundation I needed to be successful.

My advice to anybody looking to start their own business and take control of their own finances would be this: No matter how much you think you know about something, learn more first. It doesn’t matter how good of an electrician you are if you don’t know where to source the materials/supplies you need to perform your job. It doesn’t matter how good of a handyman you are if you don’t know how to schedule appointments, create an invoice, properly bid out a job, etc. The benefit of working for a large company is that the infrastructure is already in place for all of this and you never have to even think about it. You just perform your job and somebody else handles the rest. This is not the case in self employment. You have to juggle 100 things at the same time, all of the time. This is impossible to do without a proper understanding of how each piece of that puzzle fits together.

Before you earn, take the time to learn. Short term income gains can be exciting and appealing, but not at the expense of a failed business when it becomes too overwhelming and you don’t have enough time to catch up with your own dreams.

Until next time my friends, Onward!

-Woodshop Bear

Website: https://www.littlebearwoodshop.com

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Price Vs. Value

Woodshop Bear

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In these modern times, two of the largest gripes people have when they buy just about anything are the price of an item, and how terribly built it is. We’ve all cursed a Swedish piece of furniture, or raged when a spark plug change is preceded by tearing the entire top end of the engine off just to get to them. Typically in that moment, we also reflect on how much the item cost at the time of purchase, and more often than not we regret even buying it. It wasn’t always like this however, and to be successful in business it is imperative to understand what led us to this perpetual annoyance with cheaply made stuff.

Not that long ago, the quality of most things one could purchase was substantially better than today. There is a reason old washing machines were better than new ones, why old tools were indestructible, why cars were built so solidly and would run for a million miles if properly cared for. Manufacturers of old cared much more about the quality of the product they were producing than they do today. There’s no simpler way to put it. For whatever reason, that began changing a few decades ago, and has spiraled out of control and led us to where we are today.

Where I believe it went wrong is a tale as old as time. People got greedy, and began chasing higher and higher profits. And in doing so, the quality of their products decreased. Tool companies realized if they used a slightly softer steel that was considerably cheaper to purchase, then they could increase their profit by 5% on every socket or wrench sold. So they did it. Then they realized if they shipped manufacturing overseas, they could pay 1/10th of the wages that they were paying American workers. So they did. The result of having unskilled workers using cheap steel was an inferior tool which broke easily. But the price never changed to account for this downgrade in quality. The company continued charging the same amount of money for an entirely different tool. I would classify this as not only dishonest, but also disrespectful to the customer.

People work hard for their money, and many people struggle just to keep their lights on. Far too many people go to sleep at night feeling as if they failed, because their children went to bed hungry. I witnessed my own parents go to bed without eating more times than I can remember, because there wasn’t enough food but they made sure we children ate. Were they lazy parents? Not at all. They both worked incredibly hard to provide for myself and my 3 siblings. But a blown furnace here, an unexpected car repair there, and funds become very tight faster than we can often adjust. So when the time comes and someone has a bit of extra money and they’re ready to invest in that tool, or that washing machine, or in the case of my business that butcher block, they want to know that their money is being exchanged for something of good quality. That exchange of money for either goods or a service is the most crucial calculation one can make in business.


Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.

Every business owner needs to objectively look at the value of what their customers are getting before they should ever set a price. If you set the price too high in relation to the value, nobody will buy your product. If you set it far too low, people will assume it’s cheap and, again, not buy your product. There is always a sweet spot where the price is reasonable, and the customer is able to justify the cost based on the value they know they’ll receive.

A quick example of this, as it relates to my own business: There are many companies who produce butcher blocks for the kitchen. Many of these companies use one type of wood (usually maple or walnut). Little, if any, care is taken into the creation of the block. There are even a couple of big name companies who market, quite literally, a single piece of wood as butcher blocks and charge absurd prices for them. For context, those styles of blocks take 2 cuts on a miter saw and 2 minutes of sanding to produce. Since they’re also a single piece of wood with no joints or wood glue used, they are capable of warping much more easily, as wood does. When doing market research prior to launching my butcher blocks, I asked many people what they thought of these blocks. Every single person said “That’s ridiculous. It’s a piece of wood. They’re asking how much for it?!”

On the contrary, the butcher blocks I produce are made using a mixture of many kinds of wood, both domestic and exotic. They are cut into 3/4″ thick strips, and glued together with alternating grain orientation so the board will not warp after years of washing. I hand pick every piece of wood for every board. In a single board, you could have Wenge wood from Africa, Purpleheart from the Amazon, Hard Maple from New England, etc. I spare no expense in the construction of each board design, because I understand that if I were to be spending $150, I’d expect something that would last for decades.

When I set a price for my butcher blocks, I looked at one thing above all else. What was the value of the board. I don’t mean the price, I mean what was the customer receiving. Was it good quality? Was it aesthetically pleasing? Could the customer find the same board somewhere else? How long would it last? What was the cost of the materials used to produce each board? All of these things went into my final set price. And that price gave me a fair profit, while still coming in $100 cheaper than the above mentioned single piece of wood butcher block.

This description of one of my products is not intended as self promotion. Those who are reading this most likely know who I am, what I do, and what my products are already. What I want you to take away from this is that there is a healthy relationship between price and value, and it’s a relationship that should be carefully considered by anybody who is selling anything. You must remove your bias as the one producing the product or providing the service, and be honest about what it is you’re offering. I know that I offer a quality product, so I charge what I think is a fair price for that product. If you know in your heart that your product or service is decent but could be better, then don’t set unrealistic prices. I know the idea of higher profit seems appealing, but a lifelong customer paying smaller prices is worth exponentially more than a one time customer who rides the roller coaster of regret when your goods and/or services don’t hold up.

Be honest. Be fair. Work hard to better whatever it is that you do, so when the time comes to raise your prices you can do so feeling justified in your decision and knowing that your reputation for quality will ensure your customers follow you.

Until next time Bears! Onward!

-Woodshop Bear

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Not Every Seed Sprouts

Woodshop Bear

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Many years ago, when I was a young kid fresh out of high school, I got my first full time job at one of the largest collision repair shops in the United States here in Lake Oswego, OR. I started as a Lot Attendant (a glorified car washer), and over the course of 1.5 years I worked my way up to Lot Manager. This new position had me being in charge of everything on the lot. I oversaw all of the other Lot Attendants. I was in charge of final inspection and polishing every car before it went out. I had my own bay in the shop, scheduled all customer rides after a drop off and delivered finished cars to customers, etc. I love mechanical stuff, I love cars, and I loved being able to work in a shop. I had endless amounts of fun learning from all of the mechanics and body techs, and every Friday before they left I’d give their cars a detail as a way of saying thank you. The guys at the shop loved having me there, and I started to build some great bonds with a lot of them. The work was grueling manual labor, but I was young, strong and loved it.

Fast forward to the end of my first run at this shop. Our manager moved on and we got assigned a floating corporate manager to oversee everything for a few months while we hunted for a suitable replacement. To put it bluntly, I was not a fan of his way of interacting with employees. As he quite literally arced his neck to look up to me and walked around with ILS (invisible lat syndrome), he quickly made a name for himself in the shop lunch room every day. I kept a professional attitude through the first couple of months, until he told me I needed to shave every single morning since I was driving customers around. I saw no rhyme or reason for it, as every single man who worked in the shop had a beard. I called the owner of the company and talked with him about how ridiculous of a request it was. I was fired the next day, and told I was nothing by this floating manager. This was, as one would imagine, a shock to me. Everybody was blindsided and couldn’t believe I was let go. I left on good terms with all of them, but harboring a strange feeling inside.

For the first time in my working life, I understood what it felt like to be expendable. Here I was, dragging half cuts of cars (literally half of a car, cut down the middle) across the concrete lot with 1 hand like a strongman. I streamlined the lot in numerous ways. Every shop was always clean so the bodymen and painters could work without any clutter. The shops ran like a well oiled machine under my oversight, and then it ended in a flash because I questioned authority.

A few months later I got called back after that manager had moved on, and was asked what it would take for me to work there again. I told them I’d happily come back for a $3 an hour raise, to which they immediately said yes to. They knew my worth, as did I. So, slightly apprehensive but excited to see the guys again, I returned. 3 months later, I was an hour late for work due to extenuating circumstances the night before. I hadn’t slept all night, and my alarm stood no chance after I had been up for nearly 40 hours. I was fired by the new manager over the phone when he called that morning, refusing to even talk to me about it. Once again, I had gone from a valued employee to disposable. It was at that very moment that I decided I wanted to work for myself in the future. I had no idea how I was going to go about doing that, but I knew I needed to make it a reality.

I didn’t immediately start a business. I was a young kid after all, with absolutely no idea how to even start or what I wanted to do. I ended up working a couple of other jobs over the next couple years, went to college for a few years, and aimlessly stumbled through life trying to find my purpose along the way. All the while, the notion of working for someone else in your typical corporate setting became harder and harder to stomach every time I thought about it. So, I started down the road to self employment. And boy was that a winding, wild journey.

I am a fine artist, specializing in photo realistic portrait drawings using both graphite, charcoal, and colored pencil. It is a skill that not many have, and definitely not something that comes easy to people as it did to me. Knowing that I had such a skill, I tried to start a “business” out of it. although I got many orders over the years, it was nowhere near enough to pay the bills, think about growing a family, or buying a piece of land in the future. I wanted so badly to be able to make my way in this world with my artwork, but finding people who were willing to pay a fair price for a one of a kind portrait was beyond difficult. So, I shelved that idea.

I am a moderate giant, standing nearly 6’4″ tall, and have had a full beard for many years. So my next business endeavor was to start a beard care product business. Beard balms, beard butters, beard oils, mustache waxes, handmade wooden beard combs, etc. I jumped head first into this, and actually had a fair bit of success for the first couple of months. I marketed my business like crazy on social media, designed awesome looking packaging for each product, experimented with different manly/woodsy scents that people loved, and created a whipped beard butter that hadn’t been done before. I thought this might be something that would work, but alas, competition presented itself immediately in the form of everybody around the country stealing my coveted beard butter and selling it themselves. I had not the capital or the manufacturing ability to keep up with these larger companies, and eventually the orders stopped coming in. It was an extremely fun couple of months, but I ultimately shelved that idea.

Fast forward a couple of years, and upon finding out we were expecting our first child, I decided it was time to kick it in to high gear. My next business idea was to build overlanding tow along off-road trailers. For those not familiar with these, they are all terrain camping trailers that you can tow behind your vehicle but will go many places a normal trailer would never be able to. I researched the market for months, planned out build designs, had every single piece I needed planned out and in online shopping carts ready to buy. One morning, after finalizing all parts needed online, I stood up to go use the restroom and fell into a wall. I was unable to walk for a month. After many trips to the doctor I finally landed at a chiropractor, had imaging done, and was told my spinal cord was crushed in 3 locations in my neck, I had 6 more herniated discs throughout my thoracic and lumbar spine, my vagus nerve was crushed, and I should by all accounts not be able to walk. So, I shelved that idea and spent the next 8 months learning how to walk again after that last spell of “fall into a wall”.

A year after that last adventure into wall falling, I walked out into my horribly neglected garage and just stared for what felt like hours. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew it was time to find something that stuck. As you all probably know, I worked for the next 3 months building a proper shop in my garage. I had no idea what I was going to make, but I knew if I was to succeed I needed a workable space, so that was step 1. The rest is history, and you’ve all probably seen at least part of the journey. But even in this, there are things that didn’t go as I had planned. My first idea was to make nice cutting boards and sell them to Realtors as closing gifts for their clients. I emailed over 100 Realtors in my area. Half of them didn’t respond. The half that did didn’t even acknowledge my pitch, and simply said “are you interested in buying…?” So, that plan was out of the question. Next move was to sell at our large local farmers market. 4 months of 12 hour days every single day batching products to sell ended in a rescinded invitation due to new “pandemic rules” which cut nearly half of the market space and left myself, as well as long time vendors, high and dry. Another plan gone.

You may be wondering why I just told that long story. The reason is this. Had I given up after my first business idea failed, or my second, or my third, I never would have ended up where I am today. I have a thriving business doing something that I love, I am fortunate and blessed to be able to work from the comfort of my own home which is a huge help and relief to my wife who is mothering 2 baby girls under 2 years old currently, and I answer to no corporate entity any longer. None of that would have become a reality if I would have thrown in the towel years ago and went to find a minimum wage job. It took a tremendous amount of patience, planning, and much trial and error to find the thing that worked, but it was worth it in the end.


When you plant a garden, not every seed sprouts.

Does that mean nothing will grow in your garden? Of course not. It simply means that some seeds, for whatever reason, were not meant to grow. This same idea is very real in business, and we need to be mindful of that as we start our journeys towards business creation/ownership. Just because you want to do something, does not mean that it’s the right time nor the right environment for your idea. I can take a picture and draw it perfectly. I have an incredible talent. But at the time, I couldn’t make it happen. Now I’m in a community full of crushers like Nero, HandDrawn, AJRhino, etc, who make beautiful works of art. I’m not resentful at all, because hindsight has shown me that it just wasn’t the right time. But now I get to do something else that I truly love, and it ended up working out better for me in the end.

Every single thing that happens in this life was ordained by God before any of this even existed. Above all else, we need to remember that. God’s plan will always unfold exactly as He deems it. It does not matter how much we want our plan to work. His plan is the only plan, and instead of fighting that plan at every perceived inconvenience, we must put our faith in Him and simply say “time to plant a new seed”. After all, if we gave up on the garden after the first seed failed to sprout, we would never get to sow the bountiful harvest later that came from planting more.

Until next time Bears, Onward!

-Woodshop Bear

IG: www.instagram.com/littlebearwoodshop

FB: www.facebook.com/LittleBearWoodshop

YouTube: www.youtube.com/littlebearwoodshop

www.littlebearwoodshop.com

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