From time to time I comment on various small business Internet forums. A few days ago someone asked the question, “What do you fear most about being an entrepreneur?” The first word that popped into my head was “Success.”

I know that probably sounds like a strange answer, but after reading some of the other responses I immediately saw I was not alone in my reasoning.

What Is Fear?

Someone once told me that the letters in the word fear stood for, “False Evidence Appearing Real.” In other words, many of the things we fear are not reality. They are our own imaginings. We create mental barriers to our success that don’t exist other than in our own minds.

Failure is no big deal. Everyone at one time or another has failed at something. Unfortunately for many people failure is the norm. It’s often expected. Most people reach a level of success and camp out there. Never considering that there might be more over the next rise.

But what if you are successful? Then what? What if you make decorative pillows and suddenly Walmart comes calling? They only want a small order of 100,000. Looks like you’ll be working nights and weekends for the next several years.

Success that comes too easy is rarely a good thing. The history books are filled with entrepreneurs that rose meteorically, only to crash and burn a few short months or years later. To many people fear of success can be a very scary thing.

Is Courage The Absence of Fear?

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all. From now on you'll be traveling the road between who you think you are and who you can be. The key is to allow yourself to make the journey.”Meg Cabot

As you’re reading this, imagine that I take away everything you have in your life and drop you in the middle of nowhere with nothing. In a few years you would attain the position you are in now or something similar. Why? Because you did it once and you know how to do it again. You have the knowledge and expertise to return to your previous level.

But, how did you get to your present level to begin with? You went to school, learned skills and worked your way up the economic ladder. The confusing question then becomes why did you stop at the rung you now occupy? It might be age, comfort in your position, adequate pay scale, or fear that you would fail by going any higher without additional knowledge or skills. We seem to buy into this concept with no credible evidence of its validity.

Some Final Thoughts

In my youth I overcame a fear of water by learning to swim. We all have fears, some real, some imagined. The key to success is recognizing the differences and attacking the legitimate fears head on.

Fear is most commonly a lack of information. You find yourself at a party with strangers you look for a familiar face rather than make new friends. Fear they might not like you. Fear of asking for a raise, because in your own mind you really don’t deserve it — even if you do. President Franklin Roosevelt  (the guy in the picture) had no idea what he was starting when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is — Fear itself.”

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