Fear can paralyze us. It can be a catalyst for procrastination, avoidance, and sabotage of the very activities that we inherently know, are essential for achievement. Fears can stem from a variety of causes – painful past experiences, a lack of familiarity with a situation, or even the creation of an assumption about an outcome. A well-known acronym for fear is false evidence appearing real; what we believe to be true about an action or a situation becomes more important than the positives of the outcome after we address it.
Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book, once wrote of fear, ‘of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.’ In other words, we lie to ourselves about all of the possible negative outcomes that can occur if we take action to the point we incapacitate ourselves.
- We don’t make the sales call because we decide we will be rejected.
- We do not follow-up with a potential customer because we tell ourselves a story that we will be bothering them.
- We avoid doing a presentation because we think we will be criticized.
- We do not have the necessary conversation with an employee because we fear that they will cause an upheaval with the other team members.
The avoidance we create when paralyzed with fear ultimately will lead to chaos and sabotage. In my own business life, my fear of dealing with a situation eventually led to the loss of my business and homelessness. In the 1990’s, I was running a health club with my business partner, who was also my husband. I loved the marketing aspect, teaching classes, connecting with people, selling memberships, and all of the ‘fun’ stuff. What I didn’t like was reading balance sheets, remitting taxes, doing payroll, or employee reviews.
The reality was that I was afraid of the reality check. We had staff who were stealing from us, our finances were horrible, and we were overwhelmed. Neither of us wanted to admit that we were over our heads. We were afraid to. Ultimately, on Good Friday, April, 2000, a padlock on the door and a sign letting the world know that we hadn’t paid our taxes, led to the demise of the business, the marriage, and our reputation.
At 27-years old, I didn’t realize that my fears were sabotaging me. Living in such fear was also a catalyst for extreme stress; stress that led me to giving myself multiple sclerosis, hypothyroidism, and extreme fatigue. Had I faced my fears with strength, and not buried my head in the sand, would things have been different? Possibly.
Today, 20 years later, I have learned to deal with my fears because I have observed the consequences first-hand, and in other business owners, where fear destroys businesses, families, and health. A friend admitted to me that he gave himself cancer because of stress. He was building a startup that became all-consuming. Instead of accepting an early acquisition offer, he pushed harder, worked seven days per week, didn’t see his family, and eventually died at age 47. What was his fear? Dealing with the reality that he needed to let go of the business.
Fear will destroy our businesses. Left unresolved, these 3 fears will possibly also result in a tremendous amount of collateral damage including health and relationships. Let’s take a look at these 3 fears and how to effectively deal with them.
The Fear of Dealing With Reality
Whether it is getting a grip on taxes, firing an employee who is not keeping up, selling a business, downsizing, or bringing on the right people, the fear of dealing with reality often destroys businesses. Jay Keller, in his bestselling book, ‘The One Thing,’ wrote about the critical point where a consultant told him that he had the wrong team. He was also told to niche down. It was a tough decision however Keller faced the reality, let go of the wrong people, got hyper-focused, and grew the company exponentially.
If this is your fear, like Keller did, you need to bring in a qualified consultant. It is worth spending $500 to $5000, or more, to have someone give you a reality check and help you come up with a plan. It will be on you to execute on the plan however ask yourself what the consequences are if you do not.
The Fear of Rejection
Whether it is rejection by potential clients, lenders, investors, a room full of people, or going after the right person for your team, this fear will also destroy your business. Every business needs revenue like humans need oxygen. Revenue comes in three main forms – sales, investment, and loans. Putting ourselves out there can often lead us to feeling very exposed.
I have observed many people who have great products and services but shy away from sales and team building. Naturally, those businesses rarely make it unless this person brings on professional sales people.
When you hear the term, ‘you have to face your fears,’ this is indeed one of them. The only way to conquer this fear is to get into massive action and have such a full schedule that you have no time to tell yourself stories of how people are going to reject you. This is also a fear that can be neutralized with experience.
In the book, ‘Go for No,’ by Andrea Waltz and Richard Fenton, the premise is that if you go for ‘no’ you will take a massive amount of pressure off yourself and additionally, even through hapinstance, come across a few ‘yes’s.
The Fear of Success
The fear of actually making ‘it’ can be a silent saboteur. Feelings of guilt around having money, as an example, can fuel the fear of success. For people who grew up with very little, or have a skewed view of what success is, there can be a fear that should they become successful, they will lose friends, have increased responsibilities, or ultimately be responsible for the success of others.
People with this fear will often spend money they don’t have, create chaos in business relationships, lack focus at times, and flit from one enterprise to another, never staying with one thing long enough to get massive traction. Outwardly, they proclaim that they want to be successful, however their actions only take them to a certain level before they destroy their business or get ousted from their own company.
If this is a fear you have, it is essential that you not only build the right team, but that you give them the power to make the decisions that are best for the business. If you are a solopreneur, having an accountant and attorney to guide you is paramount. If you are building a startup, bring the right people together and then get out of their way.
At the end of the day, this fear can be neutralized with focus, discipline, and organization.