The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!
For many of us, the thought of being an entrepreneur carries the glamour of being in charge, calling the shots, setting our own hours, more personal freedom, and just possibly the chance of making it really big with that new idea, service or product. On the down side, we’ve heard there are long hours, uncertainty, and of course, risk. Success is not guaranteed, and money may not come with the regularity of a paycheck. It’s this very reward-risk duality that has more people jumping out into entrepreneurial waters with the goal of improving the quality of their lives, while others who have an equal desire to be free, can’t seem to rid themselves of the "employee mentality" that’s weighing them down. The fearless ones go on to fulfill their dreams. The fearful choose to suffer in silent desperation making others into millionaires. We live in the most advanced, richest and most opportunity-filled society in human history. So, what is stopping more of us from taking advantage of these opportunities?
What keeps many of us shackled to the nine-to-five grind is plain, simple FEAR. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of success. But don’t be too alarmed. Even successful entrepreneurs experience fear. It’s part of being human. The trick is not to let it scare you into inactivity. The first step in the task of conquering this fear is naming it. What you are experiencing is a common malady I call Entrepreneurophobia, the fear of being an entrepreneur. And while you won’t find it listed in any of the medical or psychiatric journals, I’ve encountered it often enough in my coaching practice to know it’s real and deserves its own diagnosis and cure.
How to tell if you suffer from Entrepreneurophobia:
Here are a few questions to help you make a quick self-diagnosis. Does the thought of being CEO (chief executive officer) of your own company make you break into a cold sweat? When you think of starting a business, do you become paralyzed with fear? Do you think that being an entrepreneur takes some magical powers, or a level of intelligence that you believe you don’t have? Is the security, and regularity of a constant paycheck more appealing to you than the potential rewards of being on your own? When you hear of others who are jumping out into entrepreneurial waters, do you think deep down that they’re destined for failure? Or, do you think that the constant pressure they must be under would be too much for you? If you answered yes to any of these, you might be a victim of this common malady. Fear not. Many others share your apprehensions. In fact, many successful entrepreneurs experience the same fears each and every day. Is there something about being an entrepreneur that is really so intimidating? Or, is there something else going on?
Fear of failure or fear of success?
Most of us have been programmed all of our lives to believe that the path to "success" requires going to school and getting a good job. While these are admirable goals to pursue, they don’t encompass the entire realm of ways to live our dreams. Unfortunately, the programming is so powerful, that any endeavor which we consider that’s not based on those norms feels threatening to us and to those around us. Starting one’s own business is a bold move which little of our life’s teaching actually prepares us for. It is often seen as an impetuous and difficult undertaking reserved for special people.
As a result, we are likely to suffer discouragement and even ridicule from family and friends who view such plans as silly and destined for failure. In addition, we often have to overcome our own insecurities: What if I can’t sell my product? What if my business fails? What if I get sued, or end up in more debt? How will I pay my rent or mortgage? What will my family and friends think of me if I fail? What will I think of myself? Overcoming these self-doubts and negative influences doesn’t mean you’ll be successful either. In fact, overcoming fear of failure may be just the beginning of your "troubles." Because, while many of us suffer from a fear of failure, an equal number suffer from what we can only call a fear of success!
It’s true. There are many individuals who don’t know how to handle success and, when things are going well, appear to do everything in their power to destroy everything they’ve worked hard to achieve. The story of the superstar who "had it all" and then threw it all away on drugs, sex or gambling is the classic example. The fact is: even after we have achieved success, our own low self esteem may come back to haunt us. What happens is that the public image we’ve created--the one that everyone else sees--doesn’t quite match the one we have of ourselves. Consequently, we subconsciously do what we can to get the two to match. We sabotage our own success in an effort to bring the two images into agreement. Eventually, the facade of wealth, confidence, and success comes tumbling down, replaced with the old self-image of poverty, lack and negativity. At that point, what’s now on the outside matches what we’ve always believed about ourselves on the inside. That’s what fear can do to you. And while the bad news is you may never get rid of your fears completely. The good news is that you can learn how to manage them, and succeed in spite of them.
To help you get a handle on your fears and practice fear management, here are a few basic facts about fear:
1. Fear is at the basis of most of human activity. It’s one of the two reasons why we humans do ANYTHING. (The other reason is love). From working our job, to waging war, practically every aspect of what we call civilization is in response to some fear or another. Fear of starvation leads to the development of agriculture; fear of poverty leads to the pursuit of wealth; fear of the elements leads to construction of shelter; fear of death leads to the development of religion. Fear of losing freedom, independence and territory leads to war.
2. All fears are learned. Behavioral psychologists say the only fears we are born with are the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. All other fears are learned, and like bad habits, can be unlearned. So there’s hope!
3. Fears are not real. Fears are illusions. They are your responses to ideas that you’ve created from unreal beliefs. They have power only because you give it to them. Remember the first time you spoke or performed in front of an audience, or the first time you dove into a pool? The fear at those times was so overwhelming that you thought you wouldn’t survive into the next day. Well, you have survived, hopefully with the knowledge that the fears themselves are usually more powerful than the thing you feared
4. Fears signal opportunities. The only way to grow in life is to take yourself out of your "comfort zone." As long as you keep doing only what you’re comfortable with, you will never grow. If something you’re considering doing causes fear, the fact that you feel the fear is probably an indication that it is something you NEED and MUST do to grow into the next stage of your life. As a child, you couldn’t walk until you conquered your fear of standing. You couldn’t run until you conquered your fear of walking. You can’t ride a bicycle until you conquered your fear of falling. Fears are the body’s and mind’s way of identifying areas in your life that you need to work on. And as you do, you may sometimes stumble, or even fall, but you ALWAYS learn and grow.
Next Wednesday: Conquering Your Fears and Reconstructing Your Reality
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Newsflash: Mark your calendars! Coming June 3, 2006: A Passion Profit workshop on Tinian.
Until next week, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!—Walt