So you’re feeling fearless, ready to charge head-first into business ownership. Is that a good thing?
At first, you might think so. After all, we Americans are generally positive people. We like to take bold steps, to go full-steam ahead. And you definitely need courage to launch a business of your own.
But “courage” and “fearless” are not synonymous. Ask any soldier who’s been in combat and he or she will tell you it’s possible to be scared to death and still perform courageous acts.
Most people mistakenly think that successful business owners succeed because they don’t feel any fear. They think fear is a warning sign that they shouldn’t do something. So if they’re scared to start a business, they assume it means they should forever remain employees. But in her bestselling book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, author Susan Jeffers points out that this is a misconception.
Fear is a natural response to the unknown, Jeffers explains. What separates people who succeed from those who don’t is that successful people “feel the fear and do it anyway.” In other words, they feel fear, and they even acknowledge fear, but they don’t let fear stop them from achieving their goals.
In fact, fear can actually be your ally in achieving your business goals. Acknowledging your fears let’s you acknowledge the risks you are facing. If you don’t know the risks you are facing, you will not be able to take calculated risks, only foolish ones.
Now that you understand the value of fear, how can you get in touch with it? People who become entrepreneurs often say they’re driven by fire in the belly, a passion for charting their own course. But there’s another feeling in your belly that you need to pay attention to: your gut instinct. Listening to your gut can help you succeed.
Sometimes listening to your gut will tell you you’ve got a great idea or that it’s time to go for it. Other times listening to your gut will tell you that you’re rushing into something too fearlessly, that it’s time to slow down and consider your options. In other words, listening to your gut will put you in touch with your fear, and that’s not a bad thing.
Most successful actors, athletes, and business owners will admit that they’re scared during important moments in their careers. Have you ever given a speech in front of a group? You got nervous, right? Even the best and most experienced public speakers will admit they still get nervous before a speaking engagement. The difference is that they harness the fear to give them an edge.
Like these successful people, you can harness your fear and use it to make your business more successful. Properly channeled, fear can help keep you from being complacent about starting a business. Fear can tell you when it’s time to do some more research on the competition, rethink your business plan, or search for a little extra funding.
There are many ways to reduce fear, but (unless it’s paralyzing you), reducing fear is not really the goal. The goal is to control your fear, learn from it, and take action in spite of it. True entrepreneurs are not those without fear but those who press on in spite of fear to achieve their goals.
One thing you should never be afraid of is getting input from others. Don’t be shy about getting opinions on your business idea, asking for advice from people with more experience than you, and listening to criticism. Talk to everyone you can about your business idea. If you’re in tune with your gut, it will tell you whose opinion to listen to and what to do about it.
Karen Axelton is Chief Content Officer at GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.