Aunia Kahn, CEO, Rise Visible
Firstly, can you give us a little bit of background about your business journey?
Owning a website design and digital marketing agency was not in my career plans. My dream was to become a therapist, but while in college numerous roadblocks occurred to change the trajectory of my life. One of the biggest hurdles was dealing with an onset of health issues that affected my day-to-day life with no medical support. I was told over and over again that it was in my head. 9/11 also happened in tandem, which resulted in a job loss. At that time, I was working as a dental assistant to help pay for school. It was extremely difficult to find work in that field right after 9/11. While searching for alternative ways to create income that could work around my health struggles, I leaned into website and graphic design. I had been doing them both as a hobby since 1998 and it had never occurred to me that they could be part of a career path until then. My whole life changed and as you can see, I am still doing this today and loving it. It has given me the freedom and flexibility that I need. I finally received my first diagnosis in 2018 and the final and most important one in 2021 which meant I was able to take my agency to the next level over the last few years.
What role has self-belief played in your journey as a business leader? How has it influenced your decision-making and overall success?
I would not be here today without self-belief. Being an entrepreneur as an alternative way to manage my health and financial well-being was paramount. Every decision I made takes into consideration my belief in myself and my willingness to fail or hit roadblocks.
Can you share a specific moment or challenge in your journey where your self-belief was tested? How did you overcome it and what did you learn from that experience?
As an entrepreneur with 3 rare diseases, every single day tests my self-belief. Balancing a thriving business with a body that is unpredictable while having enormous drive and tenacity challenges every fiber of my being. I keep a quality mindset and remain flexible to move through life with greater ease.
How do you cultivate and maintain a mindset of self-belief amidst the inevitable ups and downs of life?
Being told for 20 years that my severe health struggles were all in my head while becoming bedridden and on a feeding tube for 3.5 years, there has never been a day that mindset has not been the golden key to managing those hard times. Even as loved ones, doctors, and even partners in my life looked at me as if I was insane - I was the only one at times that believed me. Self-belief kept me alive. There was no other option.
Are there any specific strategies or practices you follow to boost your self-confidence when facing uncertainties or setbacks in your business?
The best way to boost self-confidence is to be true to yourself. Understand that confidence does not equal success, that confidence is the inner guidance system that lets you take risks (even if your fail) that brings your closer to what you want in life. Confidence is not a continuum. It is ever waving unless you are an egomaniac. You can still be confident with imposter syndrome, you can still be confident and fail and you can still feel confident and feel fear.
How do you handle self-doubt or negative self-talk that may arise as a business leader? Do you have any specific techniques for reframing negative thoughts?
The way I deal with negative self-talk as a business leader is to realize that there must be something greater lurking and I should be curious and investigate. It is common as human beings to have a negative Nancy in our heads telling us we suck, we are no good and we don't deserve anything. However, it is finding the root of why that can sometimes help. Other times it is just the mere awareness of noticing the negative and literally saying the words "stop" out loud (if alone unless you want to freak people out) and move on.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who struggle with self-belief? How can they start building a stronger sense of confidence and belief in themselves?
Even the most wealthy, successful, and untouchable entrepreneurs and business leaders are human and have self-doubt. no one is immune to those feelings. It is okay to have self-doubt, but remember life is short. Go for what you want and if you fail, pivot and change directions. It's better to try and fail than to never try at all.
Have you ever encountered external skepticism or negativity regarding your business ideas or decisions? How do you stay grounded in your self-belief despite external influences?
if people give me criticism or negative feedback, I listen. I have enough self-belief and trust in myself that I know I can be wrong, make a bad choice, or even hurt someone by accident. It is important to be open to feedback but then take time away from the situation to really think about the reason for the feedback if it is true, and what you can learn from it. Also, if the feedback is critical and true, this should not share your self-belief. Having a strong self-belief does not mean you are always right, perfect, and never make mistakes it means you trust yourself enough to go after what you want but also be open to feedback if applicable from others to help better your path.
Are there any books, podcasts, or people you'd recommend checking out for anyone who wants to change to a more self-confident and belief-rich mindset?
One of the best books that had a huge impact on me was “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”. This book can be applied to business, school, parenting and relationships. The wide application of this book makes it an extremely important resource for my life. I can’t tell you how many times I come back to it when I am in a challenging situation.
Finally, what are some practical tips or exercises you can recommend for entrepreneurs to strengthen their self-belief and mindset on a regular basis?
Know yourself. Really get to know what makes you tick, what challenges you and what you desire in life. The more you know yourself, the better you will be at being your own advocate and cheerleader.