Being an entrepreneur is a little like being a glutton for punishment. We voluntarily sign up to be scared out of our mind 24/7, except for those times we successfully lie to ourselves.
The conversation that started it all
I was listening to Brian Gardner’s (@bgardner) podcast, No Sidebar, last weekend in which he turned the tables on himself and had his guest, Darrell Vesterfelt (@dvest), interview him about the process of merging Brian’s company, StudioPress, with Coppyblogger Media. While this was an interesting story, it was a smaller aspect of this story that is the motivation for this blog post.
UPDATE: While I was writing this post, Brian Gardner and Darrell Vesterfelt announced a brand new, yet to be named, joint podcast for entrepreneurs that will be starting in the next couple weeks. I will update this post with a link to that show when they release it.
Just get over it!
It was when Darrell, himself a successful entrepreneurial consultant, shifted the conversation to overcoming fear. In Darrell’s narrative he made the point that people who tell you to just overcome your fears and everything will be fine are essentially full of shit, (my paraphrasing). He said you never really overcome fear, you just find a greater fear and it’s that greater fear that pushes you into action, or pushes you through the lesser fear.
This rang so true with me and my own journey. There is always something to fear, but this concept is probably even easier to understand if you think about peer pressure. As youth we are always faced with a greater fear, that of our friends thinking we are weak and making fun of us, or worse, no longer liking us.
How we learn to naturally overcome fear
My first leap off a train bridge into the Columbia river as a teenager was scary, but as scary as my friends calling me a chicken? Not even close! By summer’s end I was doing back flips off the same bridge.
As entrepreneurs we are always facing fears and it seems as soon as one fear goes away we replace it with another, but do we ever really get over being fearful? Not even close. Some say being an entrepreneur is such a difficult life because of this fear and the toll it takes on us.
Understanding this concept, though, that we don’t really need to get over fear, but let a greater fear motivate us into taking action and eventually pushing through the first fear is a freeing concept. We can speed the process by taking control and reminding ourselves of that greater fear. Maybe it’s that we risked our home by going into debt to pursue our business dream. Or maybe it’s that our family is counting on us to put food on the table.
Whatever your greater fear is, use it to motivate and drive you. Doing this not only gets you through the lesser fears at a faster pace, but it frees you from being powerless to your greatest fears as well. When you harness and control them, they no longer have the ability to whip you around helplessly taking us down into inaction or depression.
We all experience fear as entrepreneurs
It was great to listen to two successful entrepreneurs who have built incredibly successful businesses admit that they still face a variety of fears. Even ones that we might consider more trivial in ourselves, such as hitting “Publish” on a blog post, are shared by these to blogging professionals.
According to Darrell, “You have to have a greater fear that propels you past those stupid fears.” “You have to have a fear of not doing something more significant with your life to over come the fear of what if I put this out and nobody likes it.”
Earlier this year I did a few blog posts where I included short interview questions and answers from other professionals. These were my first ventures into reaching out to others to interview them, which was a minor fear of mine. This fear is one that roots itself as impostor syndrome. What if I reach out and interview people and they realize I’m not a highly experienced writer, or I ask stupid questions, or any number of fears that can arise from this.
The greater fear associated with not reaching out to others is that no one reads my blog, my website doesn’t generate enough leads, my business fails, my wife and dogs end up on the streets begging for dog treats, etc. See where I’m going with this? In the end, those people I reached out to were more than happy to contribute their thoughts and ultimately shared my posts with their audience, which, along with adding more value to my posts, was an important goal.
Q&A with Darrell Vesterfelt
Let’s venture a little deeper into the subject by asking Darrell himself.
Q: What’s something you think would surprise new entrepreneurs about how successful business leaders face and deal with their fears?
A: Fear never goes away. NEVER. Successful entrepreneurs know how to navigate discipline and execution in the face of fear and they learn to use bigger fears to propel them to accomplishing their goals. For example I am more afraid of not doing anything significant more than I am of being rejected for what I do.
Q: So what you’re saying is we can harness our greater fears to propel us through whatever is holding us back at the moment rather than just being limited to a process that has to happen naturally?
A: Yes. It doesn’t happen naturally. It takes practice and accountability. You have to constantly remind yourself that the greater fear will be more painful in the end, especially since the current fear might be more apparent in the moment.
Did you catch the gold in Darrell’s first answer? “Successful entrepreneurs know how to navigate discipline and execution in the face of fear…” That’s the hack as–my would-be friend had he only driven 300 miles out of his way for coffee–Jon Nastor would say on his podcast, Hack the Entrepreneur.
Overcoming fear in a nutshell
So here’s my summary or takeaways from this post:
- Greater fear will propel you into action when a lesser fear is holding you back.
- Fear is an illusion so as soon as you realize you’re letting fear hold you back, make up that greater fear and take it to it’s ridiculous extreme to help.
I’m not an expert, just a foolish entrepreneur living the life, so I’d love to hear from you. How would you add to or improve this theory? Have examples of fears, successes, ridiculous extremes? Why not leave them in the comments and let’s see where this goes. Are you scared? 😉