Starting your own business, becoming your own boss, hiring your own team… it’s the dream, right? Unfortunately, you may find that you’re too busy being your own worst enemy. You want to take steps towards your ambitions, but you’re consumed by self-doubt and fear. All you can envision is failure, and it paralyzes you completely.
Of course, what we so often fail to realize (or prefer to ignore) is that fear only wields as much power as we allow it to have. With enough determination and self-awareness, you can overcome your spirit-sapping negativity and start taking steps in the right direction.
But I’m not saying it’s as simple as carving through your fear with sheer will. It’s more a matter of taking incremental and manageable steps to change your behavior and your mindset. Let’s run through 5 straightforward tactics for cutting your fear down to size so you can start turning your business dream into a reality:
Face the worst-case scenario
Being realistic is absolutely essential when you’re dealing with fear, because otherwise it can get out of control and leave you feeling as though you’re trudging to the gallows for a painful execution. That’s why you must give some serious thought to the worst-case scenario.
If you fully commit to your business idea, give it your best effort, and leave no stone unturned, then how badly can you fail? If it all comes tumbling down, what will you have left? Will your friends and family be gone? Your life ruined? Your career damaged beyond repair?
Unless you happen to live in a particularly brutal part of the world, the obvious answer is that the worst-case scenario is bankruptcy, loss of belief, and disappointment. That’s definitely bad, sure — but is that irreparable damage? Plenty of entrepreneurs come back from bankruptcy. In fact, many have experienced all of those things before finding success.
When you finally accept that things can only go so wrong, you’ll find it hard to be quite as fearful as you were originally — especially since the worst-case scenario is rather unlikely.
Remember all your bad days
We’re terrible at remembering pain. Well, the details perhaps, but not the feelings. That’s why we get rose-tinted memories of the past. What we take away from our woes — what sticks in the memory for decades — is that we endured them with aplomb and moved on to bigger and better things.
So don’t be afraid to dwell now, particularly on the distant past. Think about all the times that you’ve felt completely out of hope. Think about the overblown fears of adolescence — how various childhood spats convinced you that your life was over. Now think about how those events seem trivial now, even laughable.
You’ll take away two vital points: that what stresses you today will invariably seem silly to you in the future, so you might as well take it a little less seriously, and that you have a fine track record of getting through difficulties. Why is this going to be any different?
You might think that it’s different because it’s professional rather than personal, but that’s an arbitrary distinction in this context. Win or lose, life goes on, and what really matters isn’t what happens but how you respond to it.
Talk to someone who’s been through it
Some people prefer to be alone, but no one wants to feel alone. We’re social creatures, and habitual sharers of information through storytelling, and that goes for any culture and any endeavor. Thankfully enough, you’re far from alone — the world (more practically, the internet) is littered with entrepreneurs of varying levels of success, and each one has tales to tell.
If you’re aiming to get into a particular industry, look for the companies that truly inspire you. You might want to avoid reaching out to those you intend to compete with (that would be bad form), but you should be able to find some people with relevant expertise who’d be happy to answer some questions about how they got started in business.
The more stories you hear, the more you’ll realize that their successes didn’t spring up fully-formed from the ground. They were the products of trial and error, mistakes and corrections, despair, frustration, and — of course — fear. Many began as half-baked side ventures. So even if you remain scared, you’ll know that it doesn’t need to stop you.
Get plenty of low-risk practice
If you aspire to be a concert pianist, do you first book a thousand-seat venue, pack it with musical critics, and tread nervously onto the stage to attempt a virtuoso performance? No, you don’t, because that’s setting yourself up for failure. In that scenario, being terrified isn’t something to be overcome — it’s a sign that you’re making a big mistake.
Instead, you build up to your goal. You master your basic piano skills. You learn to read sheet music expertly. You start performing to friends and family members, ironing out the issues. You start bringing in larger audiences. Then, when you’re as confident as you’ll ever be that you’re ready to enter the big leagues, you arrange your stage debut.
Business is no different. It’s ill-advised to fashion yourself into a CEO of a full business and try to get it working when you have no experience. And the reach of the internet makes it possible to hone your skills in your spare time with minimal risk should you fail:
- Cheap hosting lets you set up consultation sites to earn some recommendations.
- Online store marketplaces list for-sale businesses you can tweak and test.
- Handy business courses allow you to polish your knowledge on your own time.
The more you add to your skills and your knowledge, and the more you test yourself, the more comfortable you’ll start to feel with your prospects.
Ask yourself if it’s worth it
Let’s say you have a creeping feeling in the pit of your stomach, and it just won’t go away. It’s all going to fail. You’re sure of it, and it’s pointless even trying. Perhaps you’re attempting the things we’ve already mentioned, but you still don’t feel like you have a hope of succeeding.
If so, it’s time to ask an important question — the one question that you might have been avoiding above all others: is it really worth it? Your dream of becoming self-employed, of finding great success and charting your own destiny… what if you just don’t want it enough to go through the trials you’d need to face?
You have to ask this question because the answer will make your path much clearer. If the answer is no, then it’s alright, you can openly admit that you were more attached to the idea of starting a business than you were to actually doing it. It happens.
But if the answer is yes, then you can place all your fears and hangups in full context as unavoidable side-effects of something you’re going to do. As soon as you’ve conclusively decided that the final result will be worth all of the difficulties, there’s no longer any value in spending any time thinking about them. You can just feel them and push on regardless, like a fatigued runner concentrating on the finish line.