Day 4: Put a leash on fear and ride it to success
Photo Credit: Hani Amir via Compfight
In this 30-days to Mastering Your Fears Series, The Skool of Life and The Fear Project are collaborating to blow the doors off our most primal emotion. Today’s substitute teacher is Shelly Cone
Success isn’t about being fearless, it’s about appearing fearless. It’s about ravaging fear like a wild lover, courting it like sweet love, abiding by its cautionary warnings and accepting it as a constant companion. Because it will be.
I’ve always had a very Roosevelt perspective on fear. I fear fear itself. That gnawing in your stomach, the dread of what’s about to happen, and the way we tend to escalate the potential negative of the outcome, are all feelings I would rather not experience. So even before I became an entrepreneur I learned to handle fear. It’s much more uncomfortable to feel fear in my belly than it is to let out a Viking yell and charge forward.
The thing is you can’t just overcome fear you have to co-exist with it, you have to understand it. It will be your friend, confidant and enemy all rolled into one. It lets you know when you are experiencing life, when you are pushing past your limits and when you are in danger.
Two of the biggest lessons I learned about fear and how it applies to business incidentally came from a surfing session gone wrong. As the sea forced buckets of water down my throat I thought I was about to die, but that wasn’t my real fear.
Identify your real fear then take control
It was only my second time surfing with my boyfriend. We were at Jalama Beach, an advanced surf break and I was struggling to paddle out.
I got stuck in the impact zone, the area where the crest of the waves impacts the water. I felt my arms get heavy, I was winded and tired and I considered letting myself go. I was sure the waves would wash my limp body onto the shore and I’d probably survive. I was also sure that if I kept struggling where I was at I was going to die. Although dying and drowning are indeed scary concepts to me that was not what I was afraid of as I struggled under the repeated impact of the waves.
What I was afraid of was this: If I washed up on shore what would everyone think? How embarrassing would that be? And what would my new boyfriend—the very guy who put me in this spot—think if I gave up? The even bigger fear I had, and I can still remember saying this in my head was, “My mom is going to kill me if I die out here.” Yeah, I’m not even logical when I think I’m in the face of death.
What’s worse however is that there are a lot of people who aren’t logical in the face of life. In my situation you’d think I’d be afraid of dying or getting hurt but what I was really afraid of was failure, embarrassment and what others would think of me.
In business it’s much the same. Are you afraid you’ll lose money on your business or are you afraid of what your friends and family will say if you don’t succeed? Are you afraid your product won’t sell or embarrassed that people won’t think your product or service offering is good enough? Are you really afraid of failing or are you afraid of success and subsequently having to take on bigger challenges?
Your fears are probably unfounded
The biggest lesson that came out of my “near-drowning” is that fears are usually unfounded. I wasn’t in peril. I was just a few feet from the lineup and not far from shore. Sure I was getting pounded over the head by the waves, I was tired and gasping for air. The point is, I gave into my fear that day and it kept me from succeeding. Had I not held on to those fears about what I looked like or what everyone was going to think as I floundered I probably could have got my wits about me, kept calm until the wave set passed, broke through and made it to the lineup.
Fear can be a wonderful thing. It can alert you to danger but it doesn’t always equal danger. Sometimes it’s just a sign that change is about to happen, that you will experience something new, that you will learn and grow. Identify it for what it is then if you can’t embrace it, at least take control. Ultimately you will break through
Shelly Cone is an award-winning journalist, author and humor columnist. She blogs at Beach Betty Creative, helping creative companies grow and imaginative entrepreneurs design a positive, live-out-loud lifestyle through copywriting and marketing design. Visit her website at http://www.beachbettypr.com/.