Fear, fuel and being an entrepreneur
Part of being an entrepreneur is being afraid.
I've heard it described as a wave 🌊. A big, looming, intimidating wave. When people see this wave, they typically choose one of three reactions:
- Turn around and pretend the wave isn't there
- Hold out a hand and yell, "stop!"
- Figure out how to ride the wave
With the first two, the wave knocks you right on over. Maybe this is why successful entrepreneurs opt for the last option – figuring out how to ride the wave 🏄. They've learned (maybe from being knocked down) that if the wave is there, and if it's going to wash over you anyway, well, you might as well leverage it.
If you experience fear, you're in good company
Fear can make you feel like you're on an island, alone with your doubts. But, you're not the only one crippled by thoughts like "what if it doesn't work?" or "what if I disappoint all my friends and investors?" 😱 All founders wrestle with these same thoughts – even the very successful ones:
- Nick Francis, CEO and co-founder of Helpscout, said raising funds is one of the scariest things he's ever done.
- Alex Turnbull, CEO and founder of Groove, still has six major fears, even after his company has become profitable.
- Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures, has spent decades dealing with the fear of failure, both as an entrepreneur and mentor to brilliant entrepreneurs.
- Shopify, a major e-commerce platform, found fear was the second biggest obstacle preventing store owners from making a sale.
If you explore any of the first three links, you'll notice something pretty interesting about these fearful, successful founders. They all say that, when they work hand-in-hand with fear, it actually fuels their success. It doesn't decimate them or doom them to the chronicles of failed startups. That's a little surprising, isn't it?
Turning fear into founder fuel ⛽️
Smart founders know that the worst thing you can do with fear is to avoid it. They also know that the best thing you can do with fear is to face it head-on. Through repeated application, they've discovered that a moderate amount of fear provides alertness, guides decision-making, and supplies motivation to improve. They've learned that fear can be fuel.
Here's how they tap into it:
- Name and face what scares you: Tim Ferris recommends a strategy called "fear-setting," a method for naming your biggest "what ifs," contemplating worst outcomes, then accomplishing things you didn't think you could accomplish.
- In case you missed it: naming your fears is something we practice at Krit and highly recommend.
- Connect with mentors: Dave Ramsey recommends naming your fears, too. He also recommends reaching out to a mentor who has gone before you for helpful advice and insights.
- Practice Exposure Therapy: This boils down to repeatedly doing what scares you. (The idea is backed by science and practiced by successful founders.) Exposure therapy might sound painful at first but it's proven to significantly reduce fears down to a healthy state.
There are many more ways you can harness fear, of course, but the main approach typically stays the same – name what's scaring you, face it, and figure out how to leverage it.
So, what fears are going to be your fuel this week?
"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy."