Fear isn’t an enemy you need to vanquish in order to start and grow your business with confidence. In fact, if you can learn to channel fear productively, it can be a trigger for action. You can learn to flip fear into courage and creativity.
Throughout the last month, we’ve explored how to get out of your own way, how to deal with your inner-critic, and how to stretch beyond your comfort zone. Now, we’ll turn directly to fear, which more than anything, can either help or hinder our ability to start and grow a business.
STEP 01: NOTICE YOUR FEAR
It probably goes without saying that you don’t want fear to drive all of your thoughts and actions. For example, if you’re operating out of a fear of:
- Failure: you might never start or launch your business
- Rejection: you might avoid asking customers for feedback
- Disappointing customers: you might try to be all things to all people
So, how can we flip fear into courage and creativity to give us the best shot at success?
The first step is to notice what you’re feeling. What do you need to get out of your system? Name the fear and talk about it, even if it’s to yourself in the mirror. Get the thought out of your head.
Good, now we can start seeing the fear objectively.
STEP 02: GET CURIOUS
I recently read an article from Harvard Business Review, How Fear Helps and Hurts Entrepreneurs. It’s worth a read. Here’s a quote that stood out to me on how fear can be helpful when you’re starting and growing a business:
“Rather than being repressed or ignored, these emotional flags can help entrepreneurs eliminate weaknesses and flaws in their venture idea.”
In other words, instead of being overcome with the sapping, repressive energy that fear can bring, the entrepreneurs they studied were able to channel their fear of failure into a productive and creative energy to help them problem solve.
Fear, like any emotion, is something we can learn to tap into in order to see our work from alternate perspectives and improve what we’re doing.
So, the second step is to look at the fear you named and get curious. For example, let’s say you’re afraid to fail. First, do you want that to happen? No? Ok, what would you have to do to ensure you were successful? What specific steps would you take? How would you go above and beyond and pull out all the stops?
Note: there’s no guarantee of success in business or life – the intent is to help you see from different perspectives so you can think creatively.
STEP 03: FLIP FEAR INTO COURAGE
This probably goes without saying, but to start a business, you need a fair amount of courage.
Courage, of course, doesn’t mean we’ve magically “let go” of fear and walk forward with absolute confidence and swagger. That’s not real.
Courage is when we act in spite of our fear. It’s when we can stare fear in the face and say, “listen, I get that this is a big deal and it’s ok to be a little frightened, but here’s why this matters and why it’s worth the risk.”
It’s okay to feel some fear in business, especially when you’re just starting out. The trick is to weigh that fear against something else to help you find balance. And, that’s the third step.
For example, which is stronger?
- Your fear of failure or your desire to make active choices about the direction of your life
- Your fear of rejection or your commitment to serving your audience, clients, or customers
- Your fear of disappointing people or your conviction in the purpose in your brand
What do you value more than the fear? Find something to weigh your fear against. Remember, you don’t have to eliminate it, just put it in the context of something more important.
I hope you’ll run the experiment this week. When you feel some fear, try using these simple steps.
Share some of your reflections in the comments.
- 20 Questions to Ask Yourself When You Feel Fear from Inc.com
- How Fear Helps and Hurts Entrepreneurs from Harvard Business Review
BONUS: FOR MY FELLOW MOVIE NERDS
These conversations about fear, remind me of an important scene from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.
In the movie, there’s a scene where Bruce Wayne is trapped in a prison at the bottom of a long shaft, with only a rope and some precarious ledges to climb:
Doctor (and fellow inmate): ‘You do not fear death. You think this makes you strong. It makes you weak.’
Doctor: ‘How can you move faster than possible, fight longer than possible, without the most powerful impulse of the spirit? The fear of death.’
Bruce: ‘I do fear death. I fear dying in here while my city burns. And there’s no one there to save it.’
Doctor: ‘Then make the climb.’
Doctor: ‘As the child did – without the rope. Then fear will find you again.’
It’s only after Bruce accepts his fear that he’s able to succeed and escape. What lessons can we draw from this for entrepreneurship? Share your thoughts in the comments.
ONE MORE THING
Starting and growing a business is not a straight line. It can feel messy. It zigs and zags. It starts and stops. It can feel frustrating even for the most seasoned business owners. And, that’s ok. It’s also an exciting challenge. It’s going to stretch you. You’re going to learn a lot – not just about business, but about yourself. And, that’s why it’s worth it.