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What exists between the work you’re doing now and the work you really want to do? What’s stopping you from making that idea into a reality? You look around and other people have done it, so you know it’s possible to start. In fact, there are entire podcasts dedicated to archiving founder stories. So, what stifles your motivation to launch out into the unknown?
Any new change is often met with excitement, anxiety and fear. Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat. The most powerful word in this definition is belief. We are inhibited by the possibility that something negative could happen. Let’s bring these imaginations out into the open, define their characteristics and deflate them.
1. The fear of FAILURE.
While failure feels like a big, heavy concept, we often give it too much credit. When we think about failing, we don’t automatically associate our failure with public humiliation on an epic scale. Our ego likes to suggest what failure would feel like if we disappointed the people whose opinions we value most—friends, family, former colleagues or managers, etc.
However, allow me to share a founder secret: our deepest concerns about failure live only in our mind. Most of the people around us are simply impressed that we had the courage to start something!
So here are a few ways you can get out of your own way and start to tackle your fear of failure:
Failure is defined as: Lack of success.
So flip the script. What does success look like for you? Success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. Break down large goals into smaller milestones. In doing this, you might realize that incremental wins are easier to think about achieving. When you string them together, you are on your way to accomplishments, which breed success.
Find someone to believe in your idea with you.
Most great companies are built on ideas that improve the lives of people in some small way. Your idea should mix the reality of a human need with the fantasy of a solution. Seek out like-minded individuals and engage them in your daydream by illustrating your idea through a story. Create curiosity by proposing how present day experiences could be changed.
2. The fear of the UNKNOWN.
There is an inherent belief that you should know: how to take care of yourself, function in society, be in the “know,” etc. Having a similar knowledge base helps us establish a common ground among our peers and can foster richer conversations about everyday life. Retaining knowledge can help you excel in scholastic environments, thrive in corporate culture or develop expertise on a particular subject matter. And when is the last time you sought out someone who doesn’t “know”?
But it’s OK if you don’t have all the answers, because you’re a pioneer. Perhaps you’re jumping into a completely different industry than you’ve ever been before. Realize that you won’t always have every answer, and that’s OK. You can always read about it, phone a friend, listen to a relevant podcast and continue to figure it out. You’re going to constantly be learning new things, it’s both one of the scary parts and one of the most the exciting parts of starting something new.
In fact, not knowing can be a powerful force. For example, when you already have a deep knowledge of a particular subject matter, it can cause you to take familiar paths to reaching a conclusion or solving a problem. When you approach an area that is unfamiliar, your curiosity fires up your problem solving abilities. As a reminder of your fantastic ability to learn new things, you can keep a list of all the things you didn’t know but figured out and how you arrived at the conclusion.
If you are overwhelmed by your uncertainty, here are a few things you can do to smooth out those anxiety wrinkles:
The best way to be prepared for uncertain outcomes is to understand how you might handle one. Tame your uncertainties by thinking about and writing down:
- What areas of your business do you have the most confidence, trust and certainty?
- What you can predict based on your knowledge of the situation?
- What type of student are you and how do you learn when you encounter something new?
Of one thing you can be certain in business: things will change. While you’ve established your long-term goals, you should also be thinking about what’s just ahead. Ask yourself, “what is the next thing that will break if I don’t plan for it now”? Use these milestones to gain confidence in your ability to uncover the unknowns.
Find a partner
Did you ever have that moment as a kid where you would only go into a dark place…with another person? Knowing that you’re not alone can exponentially multiply your courage. Who do you know that could make a great co-founder of your idea, project or company? Or maybe it’s simply someone who will be a great collaboration partner—someone who is also trying to start their own thing, too. Get together regularly with this person to share challenges and best practices.
Beyond just getting started, a partnership can offer you continued strength:
- Having someone to bounce ideas off of—two minds are greater than one.
- Your partner will become your greatest cheerleader.
- Other people see strengths in you that you don’t/can’t see in yourself.
- When you’re needing motivation, they’ll be there to keep you going.
- You’re in it together and you’re not alone.
3. The fear of not having ENOUGH.
There is an incredible resourcefulness that follows entrepreneurs into the very first days of starting a new company. And it’s helpful to make this shift in both your personal and professional life so that you can feel energized by each compromise. Having fewer resources can fire up your creativity. And finding ways to save money can be exciting!
Life is full of trade-offs. We have a propensity to put our entire life in order before we begin. We want to intimately understand each compromise that this journey will require of us. And while we can plan, we have to be open to new forces that will impact these decisions.
If you’re wondering how you will possibly make this work for you and your family, here are a few things to consider.
Evaluate [Re-evaluate] your needs.
The wonderful idea about having what you need is that it is open to interpretation. Most of us have more than we need and much of what we want. This doesn’t mean that we foolishly dive into starting a new company and hope that we can still feed our family or put a roof over our heads. However, there are so many ways to pair down our lives to accommodate new opportunities.
Have a look at the last two years of your expenditures and identify categories where you think you can shave off dollars and allocate them to a bootstrap fund for yourself. Are your living conditions flexible? Perhaps you could consider moving into more affordable accommodations for a year. Think about the little luxuries you afford yourself, choose one to keep and give up the rest for your first year. Embrace this process as a part of your freedom—the freedom to be your own boss!
Invest in yourself.
A vote for your idea is a vote for yourself. While it’s common to think about making an investment in a retirement fund, we don’t often consider other ways of investing in ourselves and our future. Boldly set expectations about the return on your investment in terms of monetary, knowledge gain, network growth, etc.
While it takes money to start a company, it also requires your time, which is arguably your most important resource. Be realistic about the time this commitment will require from you. And take a holistic approach this investment by building in time to keep your mind and body healthy. If you set your personal wellbeing to the side, you’ll regret that you didn’t keep up with this investment in your energy, creativity and productivity.
When following your passion becomes the most important thing, you will find a way to balance the rest of your life’s needs and wants to achieve your dreams.
4. The fear of not knowing HOW TO [fill in the blank].
It’s OK if you don’t understand Snapchat, how to build a web page or start a spreadsheet. The fact is, you may never need to use many of the things you think you need to know to be successful. But you will have to research which tools are right for your business. Then roll up your sleeves and dig into those first.
The landscape of online software is constantly changing and being improved. Many digital tools are becoming more intuitive and easier to use. Some professionals who work in major corporations spend their entire careers specializing in a single area of expertise. There is simply too much to know. So instead of feeling overwhelmed, here are a few ways to get started.
Go with what you know.
You can’t know everything, but odds are you probably have a tool or system that works best for you. Whether you are trying to organize your time or help keep projects on track, go with the process that you’ve used in the past and build on that. As you have time, research other tools that could improve your workflow once you have it established. Have confidence that you can find a better tool and learn it.
Master one thing at a time.
Start small. Prioritize what you absolutely need to know, and focus on learning one thing at a time. This will help you concentrate your efforts, while preventing you from getting overwhelmed by trying to take on too much at once.
While the Google search bar may be useful for many things, nothing replaces the wisdom of the people who are doing what you want to do right now. More importantly, you will find that these people want to help you because they can relate to your journey. And odds are, someone helped them when they were starting off—so don’t forget to pay it forward.
5. The fear of TAKING THE LEAP.
This is the big moment where you awkwardly tell the first person you don’t know that you’re starting a company. You’re expecting them to check your credentials, ask for proof or follow up with a question you won’t be able to answer. But most likely, they respond positively and the conversation moves along while you’re still thinking, “I just did it—I’m doing this.”
Don’t worry if you feel slightly like an imposter for longer than you expected. It will take time for you to grow into your new skin, tell your story with confidence and start to formulate great answers to your frequently asked questions.
Here are a few ways to establish this commitment to yourself:
Expect it to be hard.
And then don’t be surprised when you encounter difficulty. This could be the emotional pain of letting a former career, path or life go. It could take the form of intense processing or temporary depression. Making the actual, definitive decision can be excruciating. But then it’s over. And similar to ripping off the bandage, the anticipation is much worse than the act.
I wish someone would have said that the first few steps can be very difficult, like learning to walk again or working out after years of not working out. But I think if you set the right expectations, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when those expectations are met with resilience and preparation.
Do or do not.
Give your dream a fair chance. Regardless of whether it’s a side hustle or a full-time startup, you have to be all in.
Make it official.
Create a sacred space for your work. Dedicate a special area of your home or sign up for a floating or permanent desk at a co-working space. File for your business license with your state and local municipalities. Put up a simple landing page and start one social media channel that makes the most sense for you business. And then start telling people what you’re doing. Be bold.
Change happens over time. To self-initiate the kind of change that causes you to launch out into the unknown takes courage, optimism and a healthy amount of fear. Our fear will bring awareness to things that matter most to us. When we harness the right amount of fear, it can help us make thoughtful choices. When we squash our fear we can attain a new level of confidence.
So friends, use your fear! Be brave! Be bold! And start your own thing.
About the authors:
Kelly Nyland and Rhenee Bartlett are co-founders at Petalfox. They have 30 years of combined experience marketing some of the world’s greatest technology and consumer products around the globe. Kelly and Rhenee met and worked together at Snap before launching a new worklife brand in 2017. They start every day with flowers and they want to help you to do the same! They are based in Los Angeles. Visit www.petalfox.com to learn more about the Petalfox mission, shop and team.
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