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Fear: It’s What’s Holding Entrepreneurs Back




In one way or another, fear affects everyone’s decision-making from time to time. If you’re a full-time entrepreneur, then you probably felt some fear when you decided to quit your job and commit yourself to making your new business a success. The thing is, fear doesn’t go away when you make the leap.

In fact, entrepreneurs are continually facing challenges that can inspire fear and dampen their ability to grow their businesses—if they let that fear rule. If you’ve been thinking about starting a business but were too afraid, or if you have a business and you’re letting fear get in the way, here’s what you need to know about the impact of fear on your success and happiness.  

What Do We Fear?

You might not be aware of your fear. A lot of it might be more subconscious than conscious. Most of us fear similar things, and unless we desensitize ourselves to certain fears, we feel uncomfortable and try to avoid the stimulus that causes us to feel afraid.

Here are some of the common fears entrepreneurs face on a daily basis:

  • Fear of failure/inadequacy
  • Fear of change/the unknown
  • Fear of loss
  • Fear of embarrassment
  • Fear of rejection

Just about every entrepreneur at some point is afraid of their business failing, or of embarrassing themselves in front of potential investors, or of making changes to normal patterns. Entrepreneurs who manage to push past these fears and act anyway are those who succeed.

How Does Fear Work?

Fear is a physical reaction to potential threats. While it’s rare to come face-to-face with primal threats like an angry bear anymore, our bodies still respond to threats of all types by flooding the body with hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, serotonin, testosterone, and estrogen. This is designed to give us more strength and awareness.

It is, essentially, survival mode. That “fight or flight” response is very helpful during moments of actual danger, but can be actively detrimental when building a business. Pushing past this embedded physical response is something entrepreneurs need to learn—they need to learn to make logical decisions when confronted with illogical feelings.

“I think fearless is having fears but jumping anyway.” – Taylor Swift

Overcoming Fear of Failure in Entrepreneurship

For most entrepreneurs (or would-be entrepreneurs), fear of failure is the biggest obstacle to success. Just ask the 57% of Fortune 500 companies that first emerged during downturns in the market. Fear of the bear market didn’t hold them back—it helped their founders catapult to success.

That said, fear can keep you from getting started at all for fear you’ll fail. It feeds into procrastination, and the tendency to make safe choices that don’t advance the business, or worse, making no choices at all.

Overcoming the fear of failure means actually taking the scary step of embracing it. Of realizing that failure is an important part of growth. You need to be able to explore different options in order to find out which ones work best—and you have to forgive yourself for failures along the way. Successful entrepreneurs don’t look at failures as a waste of time or a signal that they aren’t good enough—they learn from those failures and use them as motivation to succeed. This isn’t an easy mindset to cultivate, but it can ultimately be life-changing.

Using Fear as a Tool

Is fear holding you back? You can change that reality. Fear can be damaging if it’s allowed to make your decisions for you. Fortunately, it can also be used as a tool to enhance your decisions if you harness it properly. Think about it. Fear is a powerful force. We need it to make common sense decisions, and to avoid danger—we needed it to stay alive for much of history. The decisions we make in modern times are rarely life-or-death situations, but the brain often treats them as such.

One way you can turn fear into a productive tool is to use it as a signal. When you feel fear and hesitate to move forward, take a moment to consider what’s going on. Is your fear simply trying to avoid change and new situations? Using fear as a signal, you’re doing something you SHOULD be doing instead of a signal to turn back can help desensitize you to fear and push you beyond your normal boundaries.

That doesn’t mean you should jump into any situation headfirst without considering the potential risks and rewards, but it can help you turn the dialogue of fear around and help you make empowering decisions.

“Just remember, you can do anything you set your mind to, but it takes action, perseverance, and facing your fears.” – Gillian Anderson

How do you control your fears while moving ahead in life? Let us know in the comments below!

Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of Fortune 500 companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs, with a keen focus on data collection and analysis.

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Are you completely new to networking?

Then this article is a great place to start. Networking isn’t hard on paper…you go along to online and in-person meetings, make new connections and build relationships, and those relationships lead to more work so you can grow your business! The challenge is that in reality, it isn’t quite so straightforward, as our emotions get involved and make things much tougher.

It’s incredibly common for nerves to creep in and to feel overwhelmed and apprehensive when it comes to networking – even when it isn’t new to you. But how can you become more successful at it, feel less self-conscious, and make networking work for you and your business?

Here’s a few tips to help you embrace every business networking opportunity you get, so you can grow your business and achieve your goals.

Rock up with confidence

If you want to keep those nerves at bay and ooze confidence at networking get-togethers, you’ll need to downplay it rather than seeing it as a big occasion. Try not to put pressure on yourself and see it as a casual meet-up with a bunch of people with similar goals to you. To help you relax in the run-up to the event, be sure to set achievable goals and expectations before you go.

Keep your chin up and your goals in mind – positivity is key. One easy goal for your first networking meeting is very simply to speak to one other person and see where the conversation goes. Introduce yourself and your business, but take the time to listen to their story, too. It’ll only take a few minutes and will be over before you know it, so it’s nothing to fear. You may even enjoy it and want to speak to a few more people, too!

“You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie

Where to go networking

If you’ve never been networking before, it might not be very easy to find a group – but only because there’s so much choice and you don’t know where to start your search! Groups come in different sizes and styles, so it’s important to find one that suits you and your business. Informal, formal, big, small… the choice is yours.

For your first meeting, start small to ease yourself in – a big group could prove too daunting, and stop you from feeling comfortable enough to get involved. After all, you want to make a strong first impression!

If you’re wondering which group to opt for in the long-term, give a few a go! Get a feel for them, speak to as many people as you can, and see which one suits! You’ll know when a group feels right for you, and you can see where those all-important relationships are most likely to be built. If a group doesn’t feel like the right for you, give a different one a go.

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This will happen for you, as long as you put the effort into building those relationships. If you take the time to get to know people, and then check in with them and support them, they’ll see you as a trustworthy and reliable contact who they can call on. And when they feel that way, those leads and referrals you’re looking for will come a-knocking.

Once you’ve made relationships with people who you trust, and they’ve had a positive experience working with you, you can even ask for referrals! But don’t rush this, as you don’t want to inadvertently push people away or try and force the relationship along too quickly.

When you do get an opportunity to work with someone you’ve met at a networking group, go above and beyond to offer more value than they’re expecting, as then, they’ll be much more likely recommend you and introduce you to more of their contacts!

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