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Small Business Killers: Fear

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

When I was growing up I had a fear of heights. Getting on a scaffold with my older brother painting our two-story house took care of that. I’m not going to tell you that I didn’t get a little nervous looking down but I learned to respect that fear and live with it.

We all have fears. Some are real; some are imagined. Anyone who’s ever been the target of a job evaluation knows what I’m talking about. The actual evaluation is seldom as bad as you imagined it.

People fear Friday the 13th, walking under ladders, breaking mirrors, spilling salt and black cats. When I was participating in high school and college sports I had pre-game rituals that I thought would bring me luck. It was my way of dealing with fear. Some little something to give me an edge.

Fear of Failure

Many people are more fearful of public speaking than they are of death. In almost all cases it’s a fear of looking bad, or making a fool of ourselves in front of a roomful of people. Most of our fears in starting or expanding a business stem from our own feelings of inadequacies and a lack of self-confidence.  Don’t feel bad; this is a natural reaction. We crawl before we can walk.

Think about where you are in your life at this moment. If I took everything you have and dropped you in the middle of nowhere within five years or so you’d be right back where you are now. How do I know that — Because you know how to repeat that process. You would use all your previous experience, and what you’ve learned in life, to work your way back up to where you were before you lost everything.

Nothing is Permanent

Success is not permanent; failure is not permanent. We try to repeat and improve the things we do well and eliminate and reduce the things we don’t. If you look at the final score of most basketball games the difference between the winning and losing teams could usually be reversed if the losing team had made all their foul shots.

When I played college basketball we had to make ten free throws in a row before we could end practice and hit the showers. Care to guess how many times I hit nine in a row?

The tenth shot instilled the fear of having to start over. Ironically, that tenth shot prepared us for that one shot when the entire game might be on the line. That was the tenth shot, miss it and you lose, miss it and you go back to the beginning.

Making nine in a row was no big deal but making that tenth, more and more often, paid off big time. It put two of the teams I played on in my alma mater’s Hall of Fame.

Some Final Thoughts

Look at where you are right now. Take one step back. How did you get from that one step back to where you are now? What risks did you take? What motivated you? Have you plateaued? Think you’ve gone as far as you can? What do you base that on?

What fear is keeping you from moving on? What skills do you feel you’re lacking? Are the skills you need acquirable? What sacrifices will you have to make to move to the next rung on your success ladder?

Make that tenth shot. When I could make ten in a row consistently — I went for fifteen.

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