Are you scared? Don’t fight that feeling—embrace it. As an entrepreneur, you can use it to great effect.
Very few people can say they’ve never experienced at least a twinge of fear—especially entrepreneurs. There are a number of perceived fears associated with entrepreneurship: A damaged reputation, failed business venture leading to bankruptcy, or even a successful venture that brings more attention and responsibility than you can handle.
These are all things we tend to be afraid of as business owners. You might be tempted to say this is a bad thing or that this kind of fear is distracting and disabling. However, you’d be wrong.
If you learn to harness it, fear can be one of the most powerful emotions you’ve got.
“Fear can be healthy and highly motivating,” according to Node Founder and CEO Falom Fatemi. “It makes us cautious about risky decisions. It fills us with energy and adrenaline, propels us forward, and breeds innovation. In the intensely competitive startup environment, fear can be a great ally.”
So how can you harness fear?
Accept that you’re afraid, and use that
Don’t let your fear paralyze you. Whenever you feel afraid, analyze it. Ask yourself, “What exactly am I afraid of?” and pick apart your reasoning. Solve the puzzle of your fear one piece at a time.
And when you do, accept that you’re scared. Let your fear drive you to a newfound awareness of your situation. This acceptance and awareness can prevent you from making rash, and potentially self-destructive decisions.
Master your fear
At a 2012 University of California at Santa Barbara keynote address, serial entrepreneur Seth Epstein laid out a few words of advice when it comes to tackling your fear:
Ask someone on a date who you think might be out of your “league.”
Engage in a physical activity that intimidates you like skydiving or whitewater rafting.
Reach out and contact someone you admire – the more high-profile, the better.
Plan a trip to somewhere that will force you to be resourceful.
For one week, resolve to say “yes” to every opportunity you come across – so long as you’re reasonably certain you can do so safely.
Speak to at least three strangers a week, identifying at least three things you have in common with each one.
Reach out for support
You have friends, colleagues, and staff who have dealt with a lot of the same stuff you’re dealing with in business. If you’re afraid and doubt your capacity to handle certain fears on your own, don’t be afraid to lean on your support network.
The knowledge that you’re not alone and have people who have your back is both comforting and empowering.
Handle things your own way
Everyone has their own methods for dealing with stress. The first step in managing your own entrepreneurial fear is understanding your methods. For example, some people prefer to sit back and think, while others prefer distractions like exercise. Whatever you choose, ensure it’s a tactic that best suits you and produces desirable results.
So, the next time you’re afraid, don’t let it disable you. Don’t try to push your fear aside or deny that it exists. Instead, think about how you might understand, embrace, and harness it to put both yourself and your business in a better position.
This article has been edited.
Matt Knee is Founder and President of MyNewCompany.com. MyNewCompany.com, started in 2001, makes starting and running a business simple, fast, and inexpensive for entrepreneurs and their advisors. They offer complete incorporation and LLC formation packages. To date, they have started over 50,000 companies in all 50 states. Connect with @MyNewCompany on Twitter.