Working with Fear

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As entrepreneurs, we take risks.  That’s what sets us apart from the rest of the population.  As rational humans, we’re all in various states of ‘risk-aversion’.  Massive amounts of fear accompanied the creation of my first business and even with my 3rd and 4th business there was a healthy dose of fear.  Most of the businesses I’ve started have failed.  However, the few that were successful have made enough money to more than cover the cost of the failures.  Fear is a natural response to risk and one we must overcome if we’re to achieve the level of success that we desire.

The Nature of Fear

Fear is a survival mechanism.  It’s what forces us to take a step back after we recognize danger.  Fear has served us a species very well.  It keeps us from trying to feed sandwiches to random bears we encounter in the woods.  It keeps us from juggling chainsaws without proper training and practice.  Fear keeps us from a whole host of dangers.  It only becomes a problem when irrational fear keeps us from realizing our full potential.  Fear itself is unavoidable, but it’s possible to maintain a level of discipline that will allow us to face fear and take action in spite of it.

Identifying Irrational Fear

Irrational fear is sneaky.  On its surface, irrational fear can feel very rational.  In your mind, the logic behind why a certain opportunity may be too risky can seem very cohesive.  That’s why it’s important to maintain a healthy skepticism to any fear that you experience.  Keep in mind what the worst negative outcome could be and what the best positive outcome could be.  If the worst negative outcome doesn’t seem that bad and the best positive outcome is really good, that’s a good sign that you should perform a more thorough analysis of the risk at hand to determine whether or not it’s an irrational fear.

Overcoming Fear

The easiest way to keep your fear in check is to perform a risk-analysis.  Performing a formal risk analysis could take up its own article and can get complicated quick.  Thankfully, you don’t need to do anything too involved for your average situations.

Before taking on any risk, draft a list of what-ifs and how you would respond to them.  Think of as many ‘worst case’ scenarios as you can think of and how the outcome could change based on that.  Then determine the percentage likelihood of that negative outcome happening.

After that, think of the varying positive what-ifs, what the outcome of that positive event would be, and the likelihood of that happening.  When all the risks and possible rewards are laid out in a spreadsheet, it’s easier to come to a logical conclusion about whether or not the risk should be taken.

Keeping Fear In Perspective

It’s important to remember the times that you’ve been fearful and fought through it.  Looking back, it will be easier for you to determine whether or not that fear was irrational.  Whenever I’m experiencing fear over a decision, knowing that I’ve faced fear before and came out ahead motivates me to take that leap of faith.