Fear: A Catalyst for Action
Our Guest blog this week is from an awesome US-based blogger, Danielle Bainsett! Our COO, Xavier was interviewed by Danielle about how fear affects business. This was originally posted on her incredible blog which can be read here.
Forbidden and rarely admitted to publicly, fear still strikes at the naked core of us. Unbidden, merciless and often at the most inappropriate time we find ourselves deep in its primordial clutches. Wait, wait, wait. Hold on a minute. We live in the modern age ruled by reason that elevates beyond these base autonomic functions, right? Well, I’m not one to wait around wondering. I went in search for answers!
I decided to seek out someone who had some expert-level knowledge on the topic. Please allow me to introduce for those of you who may not know him; Tony J. Hughes. Tony is a keynote speaker, sales improvement consultant, bestselling author and award-winning blogger. Tony serendipitously wrote an article recently on this topic I’ve been researching. I’ve linked to the full article and recommend you give it a read. Graciously he is allowing me to share the part I found most impactful. He stated:
“Most humans fear public speaking, probably a bit more than death. Somehow, somewhere along the track, cold calling became high up on the list of loathing. Let’s review general fears in descending order of magnitude:
- Cold Calling
- Public Speaking
- Disappointing The Opposite Sex
- Being fired
I know that falling is #6 because so many skydivers hate cold calling, public speaking and disappointing the opposite sex! The latter may drive trillions of dollars of the global economy!”
This list was very interesting to me. Number one and number two fears on Tony’s list are essentially… talking to other humans. I wondered how that is possible, much less actual. This drove me to break out our modern age’s secret weapon, no not Google analytics! Science!
So, let’s get to know our nemesis. What is fear? I asked Google. Google said…
ˈfir/ noun an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat.
I pressed Google further and discovered…
fight or flight
phrase the instinctive physiological response to a threatening situation, which readies one either to resist forcibly or to run away.
AHA! Fight or flight. Now, I had discovered fear’s method of attack – mind control.
Fight or flight has been long acknowledged by scientists and scholars as a crucial component of how we handle ourselves in daily life. In a different era, it was incredibly helpful in all sorts of ways like keeping us from being disemboweled and served up for a predator’s dinner.
It is quoted as the reason we feel that unrequested torrent of road rage when we get cut off in traffic and why the scene from the Wizard of Oz flashes through our mind when we’re about to go into a big presentation, you know the one I’m talking about where the Cowardly Lion jumps out of the window in the lobby to escape standing in front of fifteen silent executives during an important presentation. Wait, I got mixed up with the way I felt during one of my job interviews in Philadelphia. My mistake, but you’ve seen the movie anyway and get my point.
It’s the thing that stops us from reaching our full potential, from living our dreams and breaking out from the traditional 9-5 employment path.
Fight or flight is embedded in our cores. There is no getting around it. Or is there?
I decided my first step would be to overcome the innate fear of talking to other humans in order to ask others about their experiences.
I spoke with UK based Xavier Parkhouse-Parker, COO of Recommendable, the world’s only local marketing platform that gathers, stores and promotes word-of-mouth recommendations. Xavier has started and sold a number of companies. His career as an entrepreneur began at 16 (buying and selling products from china) and he sold his first company while he was still a second year at his university. He has since taken the plunge into running companies full time by turning down very prestigious and lucrative roles through traditional routes.
“My view fear is to not let it adversely affect you. Don’t let it do that to you. Use it to give yourself poise. Fear only really comes, especially for me, when something goes wrong or when something is about to go wrong and you can feel it. That is the time to look at what’s going right, what’s going wrong and bring it all back to that key priority that you’re doing.
You can always think of reasons why not to do things. Just start. British entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson has a book titled “Screw it, let’s do it” That’s the point that has always been the case with me in every startup I’ve been involved in is just do it. I think that’s the number one thing. If people have already started I think the main thing is to again focus on that priority.
What’s going to get you to that next stage?
What is the next step that gets you to the place you want to be? And then work on achieving that. And to really break things down, maybe it sounds a little simplistic, but if you think like that you can actually start to really achieve things. You can start to accelerate and the time it takes to get between those two levels gets smaller and smaller and you can do really great things.”
I spoke to Andrew Haller, co-founder and co-CEO of AirDev a San Francisco-based startup that designs and develops custom software for websites and mobile apps. By using a new DIY technology called Bubble, AirDev not only builds its software faster and more affordable than its competition but does so by hiring people with no prior coding experience. I had an in-depth discussion with Andrew in which he outlined fears that had arisen during his decision to tackle entrepreneurship with his newly founded company, AirDev. Here is what he had to say when asked about his fears when starting his company and how he manages those feelings of fear.
“It might be the emotion that best summarizes the entrepreneurial experience: this battle between excitement and fear. One of the big fears early on was that we were not going to be able to make enough money.
Having a co-founder (is helpful) because both of us go through periods where the fear is stronger than the excitement and periods where the excitement is stronger than the fear. That’s been a big help for me. When I have fears that this is not going to work out well or this particular part is not going to work that something is going to happen I have someone to talk through it with, come up with a game plan and realize the things I wasn’t understanding by letting fear take over. That’s a big one for me.”
Andrew‘s advice for others looking to break into entrepreneurship.
“My perspective is that it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing. I think a lot of people make it out to be a big leap of faith that you have to just decide at some point and change everything. I mean, sure, it’s definitely true that you’re either going to quit your job or not, that is a leap and there are other things that are a leap like spending money to get a website or to incorporate and things like that.
I would say that before any of that stuff happens if you have an idea you want to pursue. You can pursue it as a hobby first. You can pursue it as a part-time freelance thing second. You can do some experiments third. Those are all steps to proving to yourself that this has real merit, that you enjoy it and that people will want to buy what you’re selling or join what you’re starting. That doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing. You can take steps that help you mitigate risk and fear, so by the time you’re quitting your job, incorporating, making a website and business cards you’re already there and you know what you’re doing. I would encourage people to think if they have some idea they want to pursue: How can I do this without leaving right away? What are my fears about? How can I run experiments or take actions or figure out if those fears are merited before doing everything at once.”
I wanted to reach out to someone who was actually practicing what Andrew was talking about. I was fortunate to speak with Shannon Rollins who is in the process of working her day job while building up social media to launch a personal training/life coaching company. Here is what she had to say about building a new business while simultaneously perusing entrepreneurial endeavors.
“I’m still at that limbo moment. I’ve already been thinking about it. When do you jump off and leave?
Definitely, once it gets to that point where I need to make a decision I think it will be pretty easy because what I’m doing now is definitely what I love to be doing. I’m doing it on my own, my own way, changing lives and not having to lead by corporate standards.
Am I going to be good at this? What if people don’t like what I’m doing? What if I don’t get a lot of participation? That was my main fear, but then I kept thinking about it. The fear of me not knowing if down the road if I could have done something greater overcame the fear of those other fears.
Get over yourself. There are always going to be people who don’t like your product. If you ask enough people for advice there is always going to be someone who tells you that it’s not right for you. Those people are not in your shoes, don’t know what you’re capable of and what you’re going through.
Make the decision and actually do it instead of putting it off. Everyone is going to say they’re not ready and if you always say you’re not ready it is never going to happen because you’re always going to be preparing.”
Overcoming my instinctive fear of talking to other humans led to these impactful solutions and surprising statements that you’ve been reading. Distilling down each perspective and matching it up with my own, I’ve come to understand that no matter if Andrew is in sunny, sophisticated California, Xavier is half way around the world in lush, lovely England or if Shannon and I are spending our days in the tropical, vacation destination we call home, the entrepreneurship path brings out that intrinsic fight or flight response in each of us. Yes, diversity, differing experiences and daily life paths create unique perspectives and individual strategies for success, but the underlying feelings are the same. Our humanity imbues us with unbidden paradigms and unrequested emotions. These emotions can be spectacular, like the extraordinary burst of comradery I’ve felt since starting this article or less marvelous, but equally as stunning the sense of anxiety of pushing the ‘Publish’ button now that it is mostly finished.
The good news, we’re in this together. No matter the circumstances or the struggle, we are each frail and fierce. The feeling of greatness and smallness existing simultaneously in every one of us. It is the essence of every explorer, scientist, entrepreneur and… well, human. Each person knows their innate potential to do unprecedented things. We are experts in our experiences, the highest in the food chain and masters of our destinies. Each person also knows their innate fragility. We are blind to the basic understanding of our world’s origin and building blocks, we’re an infinitesimally small part of the vast human race and even that vastness is dwarfed completely in the scope of things beyond our world.
We are fierce and we are frail. Imperfect in our imperfections. Skirting tautologies aside, each of these amazing, creative and inspiring people are right – just do it. Pick up the phone, push the ‘Publish’ button and “Get over yourself.” You do have everything that it takes and you’ve got nothing to lose.
In short, don’t worry, be happy.
I want to say a huge thank you to Danielle, it’s a really great post and it’s a great lesson for entrepreneurs and business people everywhere!