Almost everybody who has every thought about starting a business has been afraid of something, and most entrepreneurs I know who have been in business a while still harbor lots of fears. There’s fear of screwing up. Fear of having a bad week/month/quarter/year. Fear of being different. And, that old devil, fear of failure.
I also count myself among these fearful people. I am afraid of the unknown, what will befall my life and my businesses tomorrow, next month or next year. I am afraid of what the economy might do or not do. I am afraid that the world won’t embrace another (albeit improved and decidedly different) project management software tool. And, yes, I fear failure, falling flat on my face for the whole world to mock and laugh at.
Truly, to fear is to be human. We all have fear hard-wired into our genes, and in many cases it has served us well, from fleeing saber-toothed tigers back in our caveman/cavewoman days to avoiding phishing emails that kindly request a credit card and social security number. However, in many other cases, fear keeps us from going outside ourselves, taking a risk or pursuing our dreams.
I find that fear is part of what Buddhists call our monkey mind, which is the fidgety, unsettled, restless, apprehensive part of our psyche. You know, that part of us that is a constant 3-year-old, easily distracted by whatever thought or shiny bauble floats in front of us. Fear is such a distraction, because it distracts us from finding happiness and the full expression of our innermost selves.
So how is fear our friend if it holds us back, both as people and as entrepreneurs?
Let me recount a piece of great advice I got from a friend back when I was thinking about starting my first business. When I started recounting all the ways in which I was deficient as a business owner/manager and in which I was ill at ease, he said, “Well, you ain’t learning and growing unless you’re outside your comfort zone.” And he was dead-on right.
Being an entrepreneur and starting your own business isn’t about knowing everything or having all the answers. If it were, nobody would ever start a business, develop amazing new technologies or make the world a better place. We would all be sitting in our cold caves, paralyzed by fear, waiting for the next squirrel or raccoon or opossum to run by so we could bash it on the head with our club.
Basically, you can let fear keep you from doing what you love, or you can embrace the fear and use that restless energy as fuel to move you forward in achieving your goals – whether it be opening a clothing store, launching an eco-friendly cleaning service or building an online project management program . Every time fear raises its ugly, unwelcome head, you can use it as a reminder that such apprehension comes part-and-parcel with doing something that isn’t the tried-and-true, isn’t dreadfully predictable and certainly isn’t boring.
You have a passion and a vision for your business, and fear will always be looming somewhere trying to get you to do what’s safe, doubt yourself, change direction or even slow down or stop. By recognizing the fear and using it to motivate you, you can make it work for you. In fact, when fear starts talking, it could be an indication that you are exploring a whole new direction and taking a big step forward. The point here is not to let fear dictate what you do, but instead use it as an opportunity to reflect and to motivate you as you pursue your dreams.