Life doesn’t have a “pause” button. Even if it did, I’d tell you not to push it. Yes, being an entrepreneur during COVID-19 is scary, but fear of failure in business is simply part of the journey. Ironically, it’s also a great motivator.
When I launched my first business, I was scared to death. I was supposed to be the breadwinner. What would our family do if I failed? I didn’t want to find out, so I became incredibly resourceful, never allowing the risk and uncertainty inherent to business capsize my dreams. My experience showed me how to use fear as a positive springboard rather than as a reason to throw in the towel.
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been kind to the startup community. Nevertheless, plenty of entrepreneurs will come out on top when all is said and done. Those business leaders will have something in common: They’ll share an unwillingness to quit in the face of something out of their control.
If you’ve toyed with putting your business on hold or pulling back over the past few months, ask yourself whether you’re allowing fear to take the wheel. I can assure you that fear is not a good navigator because it blinds your perspective. Case in point: Consider all the companies slashing their advertising budgets. They’re afraid of overspending. Undoubtedly, they’ll save upfront — but at what cost? Without advertising, they’ll lessen the likelihood of securing new customers when they need them most.
“If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness, and creativity.” — Eckhart Tolle
How to Overcome Your Business-Related Fears
Now is not the time to hesitate — it’s the time to go the extra mile and do the extraordinary things that entrepreneurs experiencing fear of failure aren’t considering. Recently, a barber told me he was afraid to renovate his shop during quarantine. If I had been his advisor, I would have encouraged him to do it anyway. What better time to spruce up your environment than when you don’t have to worry about displacing customers?
I realize that money might be a sticking point, and economics does come into play. You might be working with the thinnest shoestring budget on earth. But whether you’re facing COVID-19 or not, that’s a common experience for all entrepreneurs and not a reason to bring your operations or desire to innovate to a standstill.
If you’re feeling unsettled because you haven’t figured out how to overcome fear, I understand. But you have more power than you might think. Instead of drowning in negative thoughts, engage in a few strategies to move past your initial fear reactions.
1. Find an anchor in your beliefs
Entrepreneurship and faith go hand in hand. Without faith, you’ll have trouble facing entrepreneurship and failure with a winning attitude.
When I started my career, I tried to sell vacuum cleaners and then life insurance. I couldn’t sell either. Was I a bad salesperson? No — I just had zero faith in my products. Once I realized the core issue, I transitioned to working in fields that aligned with my beliefs. And you know what? I worked harder than ever and spurred tremendous momentum.
Today, I own nine businesses. I believe deeply in their missions. I also trust that they can be successful. Rather than give in to self-doubt, I embrace the idea that the teams we’ve built so carefully will keep us going. Our employees won’t stop plugging away, even with the uncertain business environment brought about by the pandemic. Neither will I.
Remember, entrepreneurship without faith is a recipe for disaster. Longtime entrepreneurs often speak of “miracle” stories when recalling their pasts. Those miracles happened because the founders had the faith to avoid the trap of negative thinking. In other words, they used faith to tackle their fear of failure.
2. Adopt a knowledge-centric lifestyle
If fear is a snake bite, education is the anti-venom. It can be tough to read about COVID-19. Do it anyway. Find out about the incredible steps businesses around the world are taking to disrupt and stay the course despite the coronavirus.
The more you study crisis management in general — and with this crisis in particular — the better your leadership skills will become. Plus, having a wealth of information will help you overcome your fear of failure. You’ll be surprised at how quickly thoughtful reading and contemplation will ease your stress. Fear has no power when you know what you’re up against.
In addition to learning about other leaders’ responses to the coronavirus, use these moments to become more of an industry expert. Expertise helps you envision and create the future, and experts inspire those around them. Help your teams build their collective know-how, too. Set up virtual or on-site trainings, discuss ways to make your operations more efficient, brainstorm customer service upgrades, update your website content, and leverage any downtime to prepare for a major rebound.
“Faith means living with uncertainty – feeling your way through life, letting your heart guide you like a lantern in the dark.” – Dan Millman
3. Surround yourself with support
As entrepreneurs, we’re going up this twisting, turning, crazy mountain together. I know I want at least a few guides who have been through similar journeys so they can provide advice and encouragement. You should have some, too.
Now isn’t the time to seclude yourself. Get in touch with the guides in your community so they can help you navigate through this period. It can be lonely and isolating if you let it.
Your network of friends and colleagues could include a social organization, Facebook group, formal advisors and mentors, or even investors. Look for ways to counsel one another without judgment; this will help everyone overcome business fear and setbacks.
Make no mistake, I understand the desire to stop in the middle of the road. Don’t give in to negative thinking, though. Instead, chug forward after business setbacks with help from your passion, knowledge, and support team. An oasis could be just around the bend, but you’ll never find it if you’re guided by fear.
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