Harnessing Fear: Overcoming the emotional challenges of starting a new business 0

Every business endeavor begins with a unique idea and the passion to turn it into a new product or service.  But even when that idea is fueled by passion, turning a vision into a successful business often brings an entrepreneur face to face with fear – of the unknown, of taking risks, and of being judged by others.  Successful entrepreneur and author, Jonathan Fields, calls these fears the three psychic horsemen of creation:

“One of the single greatest determinants of high-level success as an innovator or creator in any realm is the ability to manage and at times even seek out sustained high levels of uncertainty, bundled lovingly with risk of loss and exposure to criticism. These three psychic horsemen of creation must often not only be sought, but embraced repeatedly and with increasing level of intensity over extended periods of time.” (Uncertainty, p. 10)

Even though fear is extremely common, advice about how to deal with it in the context of starting a new business is surprisingly sparse.  Thankfully, mentors are available not just through networking but also on your bookshelf.   Three experienced entrepreneurs – Jonathan Fields, Blake Mycoskie, and Danielle LaPorte – have written specifically about how to embrace, and even harness, the fears you may encounter on the path to building your business.

Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields

In his book, Uncertainty, author Jonathan Fields offers some great examples of entrepreneurs who successfully navigated their uncertainty and overcame obstacles to find success. What these creators all had in common was how they responded to fear and uncertainty at critical moments:

“Crux moves are the most challenging moments of the entire route; they often require you to push physically, emotionally, and intellectually and to take big, and often blind, risks…Your project may be defined in part by your day-to-day decisions and actions, but what really determines whether you succeed or fail is how you respond during a series of pivotal moments – the creation crux moves” (p. 10).

Jonathan suggests that establishing daily routines, even simple ones, can help you stay grounded during periods of uncertainty and that finding “creative hives” of like-minded people can turn the process of developing a business into a social collaboration.  His book also offers some daily practices to help you face the unknown with greater equanimity and increase your creativity.

Start Something that Matters by Blake Mycoskie

Having built TOMS (Tomorrow’s Shoes) from meager beginnings in his tiny apartment, Blake Mycoskie knows firsthand about the fears involved in launching a new business:

“I guarantee that in any new endeavor, there will be days you’ll feel completely doomed, convinced that failure is inevitable and that, no matter how hard you work, you will never succeed…When that does happen, you will be faced with one of the most important tests you’ll ever encounter. Setbacks and fear are inevitable. The thing that distinguishes ultimate successes from the ultimate failures is this: What do you do with them?” (p.52)

To reduce fear, Blake points out the importance of staying true to the authentic mission of your business whenever you take action or make decisions.  He also suggests surrounding yourself with enthusiastic people who will stay busy working to make your business a success.  For example, the youthful energy of the interns buzzing around at TOMS helped Blake to remain confident during moments of doubt.  Finally, he points out that encouragement is always available in the quotes and biographies of successful entrepreneurs who have already found their way through fear and have triumphed.

The Firestarter Sessions: A soulful and practical guide to creating success on your own terms by Danielle LaPorte

Business strategist and inspirational speaker, Danielle LaPorte, firmly believes that criticism is par for the course when you start something new in the public eye:

“If you’re showing up as honestly as you know how to — you’re going to annoy someone. Criticism and counter opinions are part of dynamic expression and creativity. If you’re not generating some resistance, you’re probably not fully stepping out. For every seven people applauding, one person will hiss-boo, one will be indifferent, and one will be less than sane. Show up anyway. ” (http://www.daniellelaporte.com/tag/dealing-with-criticism/)

Her book offers helpful tips for dealing with fears related to criticism, including avoiding that initial urge to react, admitting that criticism is always difficult to hear, and fostering compassion for the person offering the criticism by considering both the source and the intent.

The Take-home Message

Although each author delivers it uniquely, the message in all of these books is essentially the same.  Don’t try to eliminate or avoid the fears that will come along when you are starting a new business. Uncertainty, risk of loss, and exposure to criticism are inevitable.  Instead, develop strategies that help you learn to recognize your fears and keep moving forward in spite of them.  In time, you may even learn to turn those fears into fuel for your creative genius.

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