Entrepreneurship: What To Do When You’re Scared Sh*tless
(Originally published in 2008)
Somebody (Tim Ferris? Gandhi? Princess Di?) once said that if you’re not offending anybody, you’re doing it wrong. You’ll be happy to know, I’m clearly doing it right.
When I clicked “Publish” on one particular post, I can honestly say I didn’t know people would be so bothered. I had no less than five snarky emails in my inbox before the damn post hit people’s feed readers. (Remember those? I’m dating myself.) Seriously, people were mad. Really mad. People were mad at my word use, people were mad that I called them cocky, people did not dig it. (For those of you who did like it and emailed, thank you. That was very nice of you.)
Anyway, somebody else (Chuck Norris? Paris Hilton? The Will It Blend guy?) said the following, and I think you’ll agree that it deserves some funky red type.
The absence of fear is not courage. The absence of fear is mental illness.
When I got those emails, I was not exactly delighted. (OK, the exhibitionist part of me was a little bit delighted.) Am I afraid that no-one will come to my blog? That people will stop coming? That I won’t meet the goals I’ve stated quite publicly to people I don’t like and who will gleefully revel in my failure?
Of course I am. But I can’t let that water me down. I can’t let that fear dominate my actions. I can’t let myself become one of those writers who just rehashes everybody else’s crap.
I have to hang out, being afraid, and going about my business anyway.
I’d love to make this into a handy bulleted list with lots of outgoing link love. Then everyone could “like” it and tweet it and I could be the linkbait queen of the world.
Sadly, I can’t.
I can tell you what I know about fear, though. It sucks. A lot. It can paralyze you and sicken you and leave you cold and lonely. I got pregnant at 17 with a man who wasn’t exactly my soul mate. I dropped out of college and people told me I would never make anything of myself. I have been on welfare. And I run my own business.
This is scary shit, people.
So here’s my not-very-linear advice on fear.
First, acknowledge it. Get to know it. The worst thing to do with fear is pretend it’s not there. You’re not fooling anyone, least of all fear itself, and by denying its existence you just look like an idiot. Get to the root of your fear. Analyze where it comes from. Find out what you’re really afraid of.
If you think you’re afraid your business will fail, you’re not. You might be afraid of poverty, of humiliation, of never finding happiness, but you’re not afraid your business will fail. Figure out what the problem really is and stop pretending the Big White Elephant of Fear hasn’t taken up residence in the corner of your home office.
For myself, I used to be almost constantly afraid. It’s gotten better, but here are some things that are still on the list:
I’m afraid if I move to the country, I will become isolated. I’m afraid that if I’m unhappy there, that will mean I’m vacuous and shallow.
I’m afraid that if we move to the city, I will be happy and Jamie will not. I’m afraid I won’t be able to enjoy it because of the guilt.
I’m afraid of finding out five years from now that we should have had more kids. I’m much more afraid of actually having more kids.
I’m afraid that now that I’m living my dream, I will be struck by a fatal illness and not live to enjoy it. (The dream, not the fatal illness.) I’m afraid that if I tell anyone that fear, then I will jinx myself and the fear will come true.
I’m afraid that all of my gigs will fall through at the same time and I will have to go back to working for the man.
I’m afraid people will decide that given my background (see: pregnant teenager, college dropout) I have no business calling myself an authority on anything.
I’m afraid my oldest son will stay a Mormon, serve a mission, and be brainwashed to hate me.
I’m afraid if I rest, I will fail.
Guess what, folks. Fear is normal.
As a bloggers, artists, writers, business owners, we are afraid. Trying to avoid fear, circumvent fear, or remove fear is an act of futility. Fear will not go away.
Live with fear, do your thing anyway.