“The pathway to your greatest potential is through your greatest fear.” -Craig Groeschel
This is where it gets real. The blog posts are one thing. The conferences. An inspiring TED talk or coffee exchange with a peer. But eventually it all comes down to you, and the action. And the fear that’s present in that moment.
I’m convinced that facing fear is perhaps the biggest skill we can develop as business owners. Heck, as human persons. To me, here’s an example of human business, and how developing this skill in business, can actually feed back into our life outside of business. And vice versa. I know it has for me.
Herewith, five steps for facing fear, from facing my own fears:
1. Acknowledge fear. Sometimes the feeling that we should already know the answer causes us to bury feelings of fear when they surface. Or sometimes it’s the desire not to have a problem in this area, so we just don’t acknowledge it exists. Or maybe we have such a habit of suppression, we’ve become out of tune with what’s going on inside. We feel an angst, but it’s coming from unknown quadrants, and sometimes we’re not even aware it has a source. Our blindness leaves us to fight a shadow enemy, and unidentified and unaddressed fears can lead to all types of dysfunction. Coming to terms with ourselves, and admitting we’re afraid, is the first step.
2. Recognize fear as part of the process. Because we see fear as weakness, we ignore it or don’t face it. But in reality, fear is the doorway to growth, both in business and in life. In his TEDx talk, Dave Allen talks about how fear of a storm while aboard a small boat at sea caused his brain to achieve zen-like clarity on what was important – and to take swift survival actions. All the non-essentials fell away. In his book, The 4 C’s Formula, Dan Sullivan describes how fear causes the brain to start grasping for straws, creating new pathways, and finding new solutions to fulfill the commitment we’ve made. By actually putting ourselves in the middle of fear, we are entering the context where change can happen. By keeping ourselves away from fear, we’re stunting our own growth. Fear, as unnatural as it feels, is a natural part of the process. It’s okay to be afraid.
3. Deconstruct fear. Begin to take apart and examine the fear you’ve acknowledged. Is it fear of lost revenue? Fear of looking bad in front of your team or peers? Fear of not being able to feed your family? Fear of not enough revenue to hire that new team member? Fear of not having what it takes to see it through? Fear of rejection by your customer? Fear that this idea won’t work out? Once you’ve identified it, ask yourself, “where does that fear come from?” What is it rooted in? Sometimes it has nothing to do with present situation. Sometimes it has to do with our sense of identity. Deconstructing the fear into pieces helps remove some of its mystery, and therefore part of its power.
4. Challenge fear. Now actively re-wire the mental map that feeds the fear: if you’re fearing not having enough revenue to hire that new team member, calculate out how many new customers you would need, and then consider where they would come from. If you’re fearing rejection from your customer, consider the worse-case scenario if they leave/don’t sign, and how you would weather that. Is the fear rooted in something from your past and perhaps no longer applies? Is the fear irrational and you’re ready to unravel it? Re-work the fear emotion to direct it to a new destination. Jason’s talk from Xerocon about “blowing stuff up” and “making stuff up” is about releasing yourself from the fear of the leaving the past behind. Talk back to your fears, don’t just listen to them.
5. The reward is facing fear. Even if whatever you do doesn’t work out, your reward is having actually faced your fear and not having let it stop you. You are building that skill, like a muscle. Because if you can keep facing your fear, what you do will eventually stick. You will get better at choosing your targets, and you will get better at shooting at the targets. And you will eventually start hitting bullseyes. You will never be able to eliminate all risk from the process, and you will never get to a point where you can avoid fear. But you will eventually become thankful for that, because you realize #2 holds true — that fear is actually a signal that marks opportunity for growth and is no longer a “Do Not Enter” sign that hems in the freedom of your movement.
It’s not about the goal. It’s about growing to become the person that can accomplish that goal. – Tony Robbins
Adrian G. Simmons is a CPA innovating ways to put money in its place. He is Chief Creative Designer of his firm, Elements CPA, LLC where he works with the team to help their customers become financially strong, so they can focus on what truly matters in life. And he’s also a Practicing Fellow with the VeraSage Institute (the revolutionary think tank for professional knowledge firms), and Director of the Thriveal Accounting Laboratory (helping to accelerate the adoption of today’s innovations, and contribute to the imagining of tomorrow’s).