Astrology has a lot to answer for – and I say that because I’m a Pisces. If you are believer in the stars then you will know that I am emotional, sensitive and tentative. The way that plays out in real life? I feel frightened a lot of the time.. None of which are traits you’d associate with any successful business person and entrepreneur but I am confident that they have been a key influence in my journey. People say I’m direct, occasionally brutal, but that only endorses the passion that has been my drive. However, 30 years of building my own business hasn’t made me any less scared. I am never complacent.
We are all currently facing the most challenging of times and fear surfaces in many ways. I believe at present it engulfs us all. But rest assured, from a business owner who has weathered two recessions; fear – if you harness it correctly – can be your secret weapon. Not just what you need to survive the harder times but what will help you thrive when the world gets going again.
It was fear that drove me to start my events business in the first place. I had £200 in my bank account and I’d just left my marriage with two very small daughters in tow. We’d found a small house in an affluent area (location, location, location) to start again, but I wasn’t entirely sure how I’d clothe and educate my children. Yet the feelings of responsibility overcame the feelings of fear and gave me the courage to take the risk. In other words the fear of NOT doing something – in this case setting up a new company is an industry that barely existed – outweighed the fear of doing it. It was one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned and has shaped me ever since. So let’s call it…
Lesson 1: Never let fear paralyse you.
You can only let fear push you forward, not hold you back. I’m not suggesting all business decisions should be a knee jerk reaction; if you’re at a crossroads then sure, take moment to reflect on the best way forward. But….. make the move. I apply this constantly to my business strategy – and never more than now. Covid-19 has temporarily massacred the events industry and I could easily just sit here, doing nothing, worrying about when it will all turn around. I haven’t. Instead I’ve actively invested in other areas of my business. I’m doing things I’ve never done before, not least launching a new podcast soon. I could be too scared to invest the resources but my gut tells me otherwise. I’ve taken the fear of what our industry will look like once we’re through this and used it to keep on moving.
Lesson 2: Balance book your fears
When you’re frightened of something, take the time to ask yourself what’s REALLY scaring you. And then balance that against how you’d feel about NOT doing it. It’s a really detached way to look at the outcome. I have an imaginary scenario I always come back to. I imagine my daughters as little girls stranded on the opposite side of a river bank. I have to jump across the river to save them. My fear about jumping is that I might not make it, that I’ll fall in. But if I don’t jump then I’ll have to live the rest of my life knowing I didn’t try to save my girls. So no contest really. Often when we actually write down our fears about real life situations they’re about what other people will think of us, how we’ll be perceived or just a lot of imaginary worst-case scenarios. When you balance them against the feeling of not doing it – even if that’s just ‘I’ll always wonder if I could’ve made it work’ – they can start to seem really quite irrelevant or irrational. Never ever wonder!
Lesson 3: Learn to like discomfort
Clearly, living in a constantly anxious state 24/7 is going to be seriously bad for your health. But there’s a difference between proper, debilitating anxiety and just worrying. And the former can actually be good for you – worrying is proven to not only make you healthier but a better planner too; a trait every good business owner needs. So, here’s where I get a little brutal – suck it up. Life isn’t a bed of roses and you’re not entitled to feel good all of the time. If you want to snuggle down in your comfort zone where everything is safe and nice and easy, that’s fine. But that’s where you’ll be forever. So don’t complain when you’re bored or feel unfulfilled or watch other people achieve the things you’ve been sitting there day dreaming about. It’s only when we step outside the comfort zone, when – as the saying goes- we feel the fear and do it any way, that we start to achieve our goals and dreams. Learn to live with a little discomfort, discover your ways of dealing with it (mine is to run it out on a treadmill every morning) and don’t let it stop you moving forward.
If you want hear me talk in person about how I’ve used my fear to find business success then listen to me chat to fellow Mancunian business woman Lisa Morton on her We Built This City Podcast HERE
FEEL THE FEAR: A LITTLE MORE INSPIRATION
Here a few other places to get a little inspiration on using your fear as fuel:
Maria Forleo is an international business coach and entrepreneur with millions of followers across the globe. Her mantra is ’Everything is Figureoutable’, which I love. In this video THE POWER OF FOLLOWING YOUR FEAR she talks about not just avoiding your fears but actually following them. Usually if we have an idea that scares us, it’s because it means so much to us that the notion of it going wrong in some way terrifies us. But, she argues, if something means that much to us then we MUST explore it.
In her book The Discomfort Zone, ELLE UK Editor-in-Chief, Farrah Storr, is totally on my wavelength, arguing that we all need to experience a little discomfort if we’re going to succeed in life. She shares stories from her own life and offers practical advice on how to make your fear manageable.
Elizabeth Day’s podcast How to Fail is a favourite of mine as it reframes what it is to fail and frequently shows us that failure is often a way to learn and grow. So much of our fear is based around the fear of failure. By taking the terror out of that prospect it’s a really empowering listen.