This article was last updated on March 14, 2022
The only way out is through. You may be dreaming about launching a startup; you’re armed with an innovative idea, passion and drive, but lingering self-doubt keeps you from taking the first step. As humans, we naturally try to avoid our fears and anxieties. But embracing your fears is actually the best way to conquer them.
How? By identifying your fears, and using them to motivate you. Let’s take a look at what entrepreneurs fear most and how to turn each into a motivational mantra.
Use Your Fear To Motivate You To Achieve Greatness
Fear of failure
Motivational mantra: “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” –James Joyce
It’s easy to believe that the entrepreneurs we admire most are somehow immune to the fear of failure. But that’s simply not true. Billionaire Richard Branson and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling credit their failures as key shapers of their success.
By default, smart entrepreneurs accept their losses as part of the game. Identify the areas in which this fear is most prevalent: financial, social, personal or professional. Think about the worst thing that could happen in any of these areas, and how you could remediate it.
The fear of failure can either paralyze you or fuel your motivation and shape your successes. Accept that some failures are inevitable and look at them as learning experiences. Here are some tips for addressing your fears:
- Be humble and set lower expectations. Setting low expectations makes it easier to surpass them and takes the pressure of socially, personally and professionally.
- Expose yourself to failure by learning a new skill (painting or a musical instrument). Each time you fail, you become more comfortable with failure, and more motivated to improve.
- Take action. Taking the first step may be the most difficult, but it is also the most important. Break down your overall goals into smaller, manageable ones that you can accomplish without feeling overwhelmed. Get your business plan out of your head and onto paper.
- Challenge negative self-talk and maintain a positive mindset with some inspirational quotes.
Fear of Money
Motivational mantra: “Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” –Henry David Thoreau
To truly succeed as an entrepreneur, you must believe in your idea and love what you do. Still, you’ve got to make a living, right? The fear of not making a consistent income also has practical implications. And then there’s the anxiety that you won’t be able to pay your employees, or attract potential investors. Tips for dealing with the fear of money:
- Look for ways to build equity and jump-start your business without outside help, at least at first.
- Prepare yourself for struggles with money so when they come, and they will, you’ll be ready. Accept that you may have a limited income for 1-2 years.
- Be more with less. Pay off outstanding debt and embrace a minimalist attitude — downsize your house, sell your comfortable car, pass on the vacation, new clothes etc.
- Plan your financial goals, challenges and approaches to funding.
Fear of quitting your day job
Motivational mantra: “It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.” ― John Green, Paper Towns
Often we find that once we’ve built a career and settled into a comfortable position, we feel stifled, or as if we are in a cage. Even so, most budding entrepreneurs are too afraid to leave a well-paying job to pursue their dreams. Often this fear is replete with excuses: “I can’t afford it”, “I don’t know where to begin,” etc. But if you’re ready – the best time to quit your job is now. Here are a few tips:
- The best way to conquer the fear of leaving your job is to start planning your departure. Tell friends and family when you do for some extrinsic motivation.
- Figure out how much you’re actually spending on necessities only (minus what you put into savings and extras). That’s how much you’ll need to quit.
- Stay at your job just long enough to start shopping around your idea or product on the side. Once you build some momentum, quit.
- Realize that your time is valuable. A full-time job requires a considerable investment of your time, and if you are not receiving significant returns, whether tangible or intangible, it’s time to quit.
Fear of Success
Motivational mantra: “The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.” – Benjamin Disraeli
Sometimes the fear of succeeding can keep you from acting on your dreams as much or more than the fear of failure. People fear that being in the limelight will alienate them from their peers, or that they won’t be able to handle the demands of running a successful business. What if your idea is actually as good as you think it is? What if your customers, investors, and the media line up to meet you? The fear of success often shows up as self-doubt. Here are some tips for dealing with it:
- Practice self-compassion, realize that imperfection is part of being human and trust in your own value system.
- Stop asking for validation. Seeking out feedback and advice is helpful, but only up to a certain point. Trust your own instincts when it’s time to make decisions.
- Keep your goals to yourself. Research show that the more we talk about our goals, the less likely we are to do the work necessary to achieve them.
- “Start shipping!” This is the advice of American entrepreneur and author Seth Godin who advises entrepreneurs to “stop stalling and go make something happen.” Holding back because you are afraid of being vulnerable or believe your work must be perfect is counterproductive. If you’ve created a new product, share it with the world and risk exposing yourself to criticism, or even failure.
Motivational mantra: “You cannot create experience. You must undergo it.” –Albert Camus
Many entrepreneurs fear they lack the experience and education to be taken seriously, or the technical skills to realize their ideas. But you likely know everything about your product or service to answer questions and solve problems. Continuous learning is part of the process, and there’s no shame in seeking help, advice and knowledge.
There are plenty of young, successful entrepreneurs who had little to no experience when they started their businesses, and many more who had no financial backing: Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Russell Simmons, Coco Chanel, Steve Madden and Rachael Ray, to name a few. Tackle your fears about being under qualified by:
- Calling yourself an expert and committing yourself to excellence, regardless of your experience.
- Highlighting your soft skills such as your ability to communicate effectively, work in a team or think critically.
- Focusing on results.
- Dedicating an hour each day to your professional growth.
Remember to ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Once you have that scenario in mind, and you can live with it, your fears no longer have power over you. On a psychological level, confronting your fears, rather than trying to avoid them, will leave you with a sense of accomplishment. Each time you expose yourself to fearful thoughts and situations, you gain power, and your fears lose strength.
The short-term discomfort of identifying and exposing yourself to your biggest fear is a small price to pay for the long-term benefit of freeing yourself from anxiety and acting on your dreams. Turning your fears into motivational mantras will reframe them to your advantage.
“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.” – George Sheehan
What is your biggest startup fear? How can you turn it into a motivator?
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