Fear – It’s Just Part Of The Process

If you are a founder – or thinking about starting your own company – a really important lesson is to realize fear will always be present with you.  There’s no way around it.

You will question your ability.

You will wonder what is going to happen to your company tomorrow.

You will be scared to talk to investors, customers and potential new hires.

You will be worried as to what the media will write about you and your idea.

All this will be there, don’t fool yourself otherwise.  The best thing for an entrepreneur to do is come to grips with the fact that your fears will persist.  The next best thing to do is to find ways to deal with those fears, and to grow through them.  Finding advisors, talk with other CEO’s or founders, reading others thoughts about starting companies.  All these things help us get through the challenging times of starting our companies.

Or go to Founders RAW and watch what others are saying!

Going Deep Inside The Mind Of An Entrepreneur Can Be Scary

The more I live this entrepreneurial life the more I realize how much of a psychological game it is.

I was reminded of it the other day as I watched this interview between Jason Calacanis and Jerry Colonna, a very well known CEO coach in the technology industry.  The 90 minute interview is incredible, they  cover many aspects of how he works with CEO’s and the issues they (we) deal with during the entrepreneurial journey.

There are so many things in this interview I want write about but one of the biggest things that stuck out to me was the idea of “chasing demons” with entrepreneurship.  Jerry and Jason both reveal how their Dad’s lost their jobs when they were young, and how greatly it impacted them, and still does to this day.   For both of them, they committed to never be dependent on a large company, since it could all be gone one day if you are fired.  Deeper, it was the feelings of inadequacy (or the fear of) which drove both to become successful in their pursuits.  It’s amazing and touching to hear them talk about their fears and doubts, and how they are rooted simply from watching their father’s struggles as they were young men.

I think this is something very important to understand.

Why are you so driven?

What demons are you chasing?

Jerry bravely mentions chasing demons is not necessarily bad – not knowing you are chasing demons is.  Not fully understanding who you are and why you are doing things is a scary place to be.

Another thing he points to is how ALL of us feel inadequate, regardless of financial stature and prominence.  He works with over 60 clients (many billionaires) and without fail he see’s highly successful individuals tearing themselves apart, comparing themselves to other founders who – quite frankly – got incredibly lucky with their outcomes.

He emphasizes how much random luck has to do with success in business.

His point: figure yourself out.  Determine who you are outside of your company, your family, and your city.  Once you get to the core of who you are you can fully embrace the life of entrepreneurship without the feeling of insecurity and doubt.

The lesson to take here is although it might be scary to face these demons, once you do you will open yourself up to a much happier entrepreneurial journey.

5 Crazy But Life Changing Reflections

Life moves pretty fast….. sometimes it’s best to sit back and reflect on your priorities.

The unintended consequence of a startup can be acceleration of everything around you.  It happens so fast, in fact, you end up losing perspective on more important aspects of life.  It’s easy to get out of bed each day, focus on what’s in front of you, go to bed only to get back up the next day to do it all again.  If you are not careful you will find yourself sprinting and spinning in place, making no forward progress at all.

Problems arise when you lose perspective, focusing only on what’s in front of you, becoming all too consumed on accomplishing your immediate goals and not what lies on your life’s horizon.  Soon enough you will reach your “destination” without taking certain aspects of life into consideration – like family, health and the afterlife – leaving you empty and unfulfilled at the end of your journey.

Here are 5 areas I am currently reflecting on to help gain a perspective on life with hopes to figure out a way to better align with what I am doing right now.  (Pardon the existential tone, just one of those days I guess…)


Do I actually enjoy how I spend my days?

Though it’s quite elementary it might help to evaluate if you are actually enjoying where you go and how you spend each day once you get out of bed and leave your house.  Honestly take into account the fun factor, or lack thereof.  Do you feel like a kid?  Or a boring adult?  Do the hours pass with ease and are you fulfilled once the day is over?  Yes, we have to make a wage, earn a paycheck and support our family but we don’t have to dislike it.  We should be enjoying each passing day and the process within.

I quit my full time job a while ago because I didn’t enjoy working for someone else and simply earning dollars for the hours I worked.  I decided to start a company – knowing it was going to be tough – because I value exploration and journey more than maintaining a status quo.  I more value creation than maintenance.

But even now as a free entrepreneur I am not exactly living the charmed life and if I am really honest with myself I remain unfulfilled.  The eyes burn and the legs strain as I make the climb.  I am still searching for the right environment, right cause and right team to help me execute on a worthy mission.  Most important to me is reaching a time in my life where I am able to say “if this is the last day of my life I am extremely excited and happy to do exactly what I plan to do today.”

We’ll get there.

What do I want my grandchildren to say about me?

Gazing towards the horizon, I am pondering how my family and friends will think of me when I am gone.   I hope I am following through and planting the right seeds.  How about you?  How will your friends and family describe you to their friends and others?  What will they talk about and what type of person will they describe?  Will they be proud to be your grandchild?  How did you treat them and what types of memories do you want to leave with them?

I am not even married so I am not even sure why I am thinking about my grandchildren.  Maybe it’s better to understand this concept in terms of legacy.  I want to leave a positive legacy for my family to be proud of.  It’s safe to say I haven’t gotten very far on this one but it is never too early to ponder what it should involve.  I want to be known as someone who never gave up, regardless of how difficult things became.  I want to be known as someone who treated everyone fair and well, regardless of who they were or their circumstances.  I also want to influence change in the world and encourage others to do the same.

I want to be proud of the person my grandchildren hopefully talk about.

If I die today, what will I say to my creator about how I lived my life?

Heavy stuff to think about but just imagine this for a minute:  you die, you go onto to the afterlife and you approach someone (something) who is there to take account of your life.

Yep. Each. And. Every. Minute. Of. Your. Life.

They look at you and proceed to ask you questions about it.  Why did you say that word to that person?  Why didn’t you offer a hand to that  helpless woman?  I gave you millions of dollars to help others, why did you spend it all on your self?

Now imagine them showing you how they hoped you had lived your life.  All the possibilities and potentials of your life start flooding right in front of you, but you cannot speak.  Your face goes white with regret as you realize you squandered all your strengths and talents, not using them as they could have been used to help your fellow man.

I know… crazy stuff.

Who, if anyone in my life, can I share my deepest and darkest fears with?

Do you have a confidant?  Is there someone you can talk to who will understand and hold no judgement, no matter what you tell them?  I have noticed thoughts, feelings, and emotions building up within me at the same time I can’t find an outlet in sight.  It can be frustrating and claustrophobic to identify struggles and challenges within us but lack any outlet or confidant.

Our biggest fears are the only thing holding us back from reaching our greatest potential.  What if you were able to talk them out and allow someone to help you work through them sans any judgment or embarrassment?

I know I am starting to look for people and ways to come to grips with the fears I have in my life.  In fact, writing has become one of them.

If Superman were to look at the world today, what wrongs would he want to make right?

There’s way too much uncertainty and unrest in the world today.  I have to assume even Superman would be overwhelmed with all there is to fix in the world.  But it seems to me an interesting exercise to ponder what Superman would want to fix if he/she were actually real.

Billions of people around the world still don’t have clean drinking water and live on $1 a day.  There are millions of people in the U.S. who are searching for employment opportunities, maybe Superman could think of ways to solve both third world and first world employment problems.  In fact, right down the street in Silicon Valley there are people starving and homeless, yet young startup founders are asking investors to give them millions of dollars so they can build yet another way to share photos and send a short message to someone else – all requiring people own the latest expensive smartphones.

How about terrorism?  How could he create something to curb the urge and the need for people to inflict pain and suffering on others?  And what about the financial challenges every country seems to be under now?  Don’t you think he could get creative enough to help out?  I bet there’s a lot more for Superman to fix, right?

Your unique reflections on the above will indeed bring out the entrepreneur in you.  I guarantee it.

Fear – The Reason Why Most Of You Won’t Start A Company

Fear paralyzes most everyone at some point or another in life but it’s most drastic affect can be found when people are faced with doing something new or different.  It’s fascinating a person would choose not to do someone simply because they are scared of what they don’t know.

I often wonder why that is?  As an entrepreneur I am almost addicted to the new, to the rush of achievement and to the embarkment into the unknown.  It perplexes me why most of us don’t think this way and allow fear to paralyze them in making life changing decisions.  Of course, a simple search brings more to light.

From Wikipedia:

Fear is a distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger. In short, fear is the ability to recognize danger leading to an urge to confront it or flee from it (also known as the fight-or-flight response) but in extreme cases of fear (terror) a freeze or paralysis response is possible. 

Additionally, fear is frequently related to the specific behaviors of escape and avoidance, whereas anxiety is the result of threats which are perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable.  It is worth noting that fear almost always relates to future events, such as worsening of a situation, or continuation of a situation that is unacceptable.  Fear can also be an instant reaction to something presently happening.  

Why am I focusing on fear?   Recently I identified fear as the sole deterrent to people taking the leap and starting something new, like a company or new life direction.  I should know, I am currently going through everything a person like this fears and living to tell you about it.

Fear of Failing

Quite possibly the strongest of the fears is the social fear of failing, or the public statement that we are going to do something and then ultimately not succeeding at it.  Humans have a inherent need to be liked, embraced and accepted by the norm of society.  I think this dates back to pre-historic times and the fear of being left out in the cold, alone and vulnerable to prey.  Back then, failing at something meant you would be ostracized from the pack which most likely led to your death.

I can relate to this sort of fear of failing, only to the opposite extreme.  I tend to turn our inherent fear of failing into the fear of failing to meet my potential.  Sometime earlier in my life I heard a statement that struck me so deep I will not ever forget it:

Imagine dying and arriving in the afterlife only to meet your ‘highest potential self’ – the one God intended you to be when he created you – and only then and there you fully realized what you wasted when you were alive.

Whether you believe in a God or not, that statement should send shivers down your spine.  It points to the fact that we all were created with a vast amount of potential, yet it is up to us to choose to pursue it.  My ultimate fear is not failure in one thing or another but  failing to continue to stretch and reach towards my potential.

Fear of success

Interestingly, a lot of people actually fear achievement and success.  Millions of dollars, popularity and attention or the phenomenon of freedom from a job is so foreign to some people they have no idea how to comprehend it in their life.  Imagine waking up early and automatically going to a job each day and then one day waking up with so much money you never have to work again.  This is unfathomable for many people.  So they say things like “oh, I can’t do that?” and  “I am not talented, so how could I achieve that.”  Fear is actually at the root of those statements – they perceive the ability to do such things as something they lack and thus unknown – so one merely passes it off as a fear not be entertained.  That is quite sad.

Fear of hard work

Starting a company is damn hard work.  Most people are lazy and don’t want to work hard; they want to cruise through life along the path of least resistance and have as much handed to them for the least amount of effort.  There, I said it.  And it’s a fact of life.  Humans have been trained to expend the least amount of energy for the most amount of gain and it’s no more prevalent than in the corporate world.  As a culture we have trained ourselves to be lazy and get the most we can for the least amount of effort or investment.

This is why entrepreneurs are so different than the rest of society.  We think opposite.  We understand it demands a hell of a lot from us and WANT to work hard to achieve our goals.  We actually shun the 9-5 “clock in and clock out” life.  This trait can be seen in entrepreneurs, athletes and any person who strikes out on their own to accomplish something extraordinary.  We embrace the 10,000 hours it takes to achieve excellence in anything.

Fear of the unknown

I think all of this comes down to the paralyzing fear of the unknown.  Quite simply, people just want to know everything and hate it when they don’t (obviously the growth of Google has proven that true).  People hate it so much that when they are unsure of something, even when it’s totally normal to not be sure, they just don’t do anything.  They’re frozen.  They stay put.

If there is one point to take away from this is the fact that staying put is they worst thing to do today if you want to move forward in your life.  Doing nothing will only bring more of the same.  This is why most of you will not start a company, because you don’t know what you don’t know and that scares you.  You have no idea how hard it will be.  You don’t know how low the balance in your bank account will go.  You have no idea how hard it will be to recruit people to your vision, compensate them appropriately and treat them right regardless of the circumstances.  You have no clue as to how high the balance in your bank account could go if you happen to succeed.  Lost to you is the incredible opportunities of growth and development that come with placing yourself in a challenging situation.

It’s unfortunate because you have no idea what you are missing.  Although this has been the most challenging thing I have ever done, it is also the most rewarding.  In the depths of the valley I find more about myself than on the tops of the mountains.  The valley’s reveal to us our weaknesses and our strengths; they show us where we need help but they also allow for discovery of the character traits only we posses and how we must use them to get out of the valley and back on the mountain.  For that is what the entrepreneurial journey is all about.