Successfully facing your fears takes more than the right attitude or sheer will. Fear is your mind’s response to real-world threats. The fear that strikes your gut as you face a challenge is as real as the light waves hitting your corneas and triggering mental images.
Willing yourself out of fear is like willing yourself into blindness. Fighting fear isn’t a matter of telepathy–it’s a matter of weaponry.
Nothing quite demonstrates the reality of unadulterated fear like facing professional annihilation, just as my cofounders and I did early last year. Our burn rate was right on schedule, but our new funding round was taking longer than our most conservative projections.
Much like a body buying itself time while fighting hypothermia, we shut down nonessential functions. We ended many internships early, forwent our own salaries, and retained only core staff and functions. Interestingly, the deprivation in our bank accounts brought our fears to life on a visceral level. We were each wise enough to have built up savings. But cutting back on hobbies, entertainment, and our grocery bills felt at times eerily similar to the physical starvation a malnourished person would experience.
How can you run your business effectively when your survival instincts prompt you to run away from your business? Note three key weapons I used to face my fears for my company’s sake. Here’s my advice if you end up in a similar situation with your business:
How do you decide between a fight-or-flight response? We not only assess the situation at hand, but also evaluate what we’re fighting for. Businesses stand a better chance at survival when its leaders think of the company beyond a limb they could learn to live without.
The first step toward fighting your fear is recognizing your motivation. What’s really at stake? My colleagues and I felt our business is worth fighting for–much like protecting our family in times of crisis. Our idea was worth the anguish because we knew it could change the industry for the better. Thinking of it that way, fleeing for my own perceived protection was counterproductive to what I was really trying to accomplish.
Information puts fear into perspective. Knowing that a snake isn’t poisonous and lightning isn’t the wrath of Zeus can bring us comfort. In my situation, it was good to keep in mind TalkLocal had already begun driving revenue at run-rate a year prior to when funding ran dry. The revenue gives us proof of concept and buys us time, I kept thinking.
In fact, the more I re-evaluated the market, the more our potential seemed to expand. TalkLocal wasn’t just a little brand in a big market. Our business is a technology provider that could transform the market. We then discovered a better pitch and a bigger opportunity for investors.
While the unknown enemy usually seems larger and far more threatening, knowing your strengths and those of your business helps you step up to the plate, stand tall, and face your fears head on.
As many courageous people will tell you, once adrenaline kicks in, fear tends to fall by the wayside. Fear is useful to get you to act, but solving problems involves higher levels of functioning. Therefore, engaging your logic and reasoning centers essentially lets fear pass the baton.
At TalkLocal, we went back to our business plan to root out what was causing our investors to hesitate. We became more convinced after we stopped comparing ourselves to the popular online marketplaces; our real competition was traditional phone calls. Focusing on the solutions signified that fear’s role had played out. We could now step aside.
We closed that round and have raised $4 million to date, yet the fear will always find a way of creeping in at every faltering figure in the metrics–every day, every month, and every quarter. In spite of this, we choose to arm ourselves by remembering to keep what we’re fighting for in the back of our minds, have the facts at our side, and counteract our fears with strategic planning.
Heed my advice, and accept the challenge of looking your fears in the eye for the sake of the company you worked so hard to build. Use that determination to fuel your drive to keep the business afloat, no matter the circumstances. You’ll be surprised by the inner strength that emerges you never knew you had.
Manpreet Singh is founder and president of TalkLocal, a home services marketplace that turns online service requests into a live conversation with the right available business in minutes.
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program.