Facing Your Fears

“But what if it hurts?”, he asked. The tribe elder nodded wisely, “By the time you reach my age, any pain will be but a distant memory. But everyone will know that you are brave, because you faced the ceremony without fear”

Tribes around the world had, and still have, initiation ceremonies for their young people. The ceremonies are recognized as a step into adulthood, and often involve developing skills to pass a test, and a certain degree of fear and pain.

If you develop the skills, and can cope with the pain, you are considered mature enough to be an adult member of the tribe. You still see this today even in places where tribes are few and far between. For example, bar mitzvahs and 21st birthday parties are considered steps into adulthood and maturity.

In most cases, the fear felt before a 21st birthday party is minimal, unless your friends are particularly crazy.

Fear brings promises

What drives the tribe member to face a real initiation ceremony is the promise of what is to come after – respect, a higher position in the tribe, and so on. If there was to be no benefit, the ceremony would be pointless.

It is the same way when you are starting a business. You may previously have had (or still have) a job with a company. The work you have been doing is not necessarily easy, but you know what to expect, and it doesn’t hold too many surprises or opportunities for fear.

Now imagine waking up and not having to go to work. But also imagine there is no work to do, and no-one calling you on the phone to ask for something…and therefore no money coming in. Are you feeling the fear yet?

Maybe not. But if by the end of the second week the situation remains the same, you’ve got a big problem.

If your business is a success, and the clients arrive and the money comes in, you’ll achieve greater things in your tribe. You’ll be a business owner, you’ll be considered a personal success, and you may well earn more than if you’d stayed in your regular job.

This means it IS all a risk, a gamble you must take. Failure is not an option, as you will go back to the tribe in disgrace. And because failure is not an option, the level of fear increases accordingly.

It is safe to say that if you start a business and feel no fear, you either have nothing to lose or have no passion for the business. If you have nothing to lose, you won’t be 100% dedicated to making the business a success – you have no need to. Some of the greatest businesses are built from the direst of times, with the smallest amount of money.

Take the “computing revolution”

Minimal money: Two kids working from a garage, playing with circuit boards and TVs. Computers belong in offices, often in their own rooms. There was no guarantee that anything they did would sell, let alone make it into homes around the world. Another kid writes a version of BASIC for hobbyists. Within 30 years, these three kids have not only put a computer in virtually every home on the planet…they’ve also managed to get one in your pocket too. Each step they took was an excursion into the unknown, and they could have failed at any time. But with their perseverance…they didn’t.

“The Facebook”

Minimal money: Want to check in with your friends on campus? Write a program to do it. Friends of friends want in on it. And then their friends too. Add in some extra features and a few adverts, and your worth a large amount of money in a very short amount of time. Where was the fear? Do you really think Mark Zuckerberg wanted a REAL job?

“Ice cream for sale!”

Minimal money, direst of times: When Duncan Bannatyne was virtually broke, he invested in an ice cream truck. While most people would not do this, Bannatyne took the fear he had of failing, and turned it into a successful business. Long story short, he bought more trucks and employed people with the profits he made, and now runs a chain of health spas across the UK – all from the initial profit he made selling ice cream.What’s holding you back?

Most business advisers will tell you that in order to succeed, you need a properly drawn up business plan with financial projections for the next five to fifty years. Bill Gates didn’t start like that. Neither did Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Mark Zuckerberg or Duncan Bannatyne. They knew what they wanted to do, and just got on with it. Fear was pushed to the side, and the work was started.

However painful it seems, however difficult, the rewards are there to be taken.

Sure, if it’s going to cost something to get started, do a few projections. Work out the numbers. But don’t let the numbers be the only thing – if any of the people mentioned above had calculated everything before they started, the chances are that they wouldn’t have started at all. They would have either believed that they would have made nothing at all, or just spent too much time with a calculator in their hand and not got on with doing anything.

Fear of starting the new project, starting the work, is one thing. Fear of numbers can be worse – paralyzing in fact. When Mark Zuckerberg started writing the code for Facebook, do you think his primary concern was how much he might make? Today it is a different story – Facebook is a publicly traded company, and the profit it makes is for shareholders, so profit IS the bottom line. Back then, Facebook was built to fill a gap and serve a purpose.

Was Duncan Bannatyne’s plan to turn his ice cream truck in to a network of health spas? No, his plan was to make enough money to feed his family. Did he project the cost of massage oils and advertising? No, he just parked up somewhere and sold ice cream. Planning is great, but fear is a greater motivator than even the best plan.

The doctor said, “If you eat 1500 calories a day you’ll live to be 100” – and I didn’t really care. I was only 22. Then he said, “But if you carry on as you are, you’ll be dead in a week” – and I’ve not looked back since.

While the prizes associated with success are great, fear is an even better motivator.

So what are your greatest fears? Are you willing to risk the fear you are feeling for the success you know you want and can achieve?

The tribe elder smiled. The young man had passed the test. Yes, it had hurt, for a short while. But now he was a respected member of the tribe. There was no looking back. The things of the past are done with; now on to the successes of the future.