Using Your Startup Fears For Motivation

You may have a great idea for a startup. Your proposition is unique, innovative, it fills a gap in the market, and you’ve received lots of positive feedback. So what’s holding you back? Fear. According to a survey by, two-thirds of American adults have thought about starting their own business, but only a third of them actually do it.

What’s more, the fears that are holding you back may be irrational. All entrepreneurs are fearful. The difference between those that take the plunge and those who don’t, however, is in how they react to their fears. Rather than let it paralyze them, they turn it into an empowering force and commitment to success.

The Only Way Out Is Through

As humans, we naturally try to avoid our fears and anxieties. But in reality, embracing our fears is the best way to conquer them, especially for entrepreneurs. Once you identify your fears, you can use them to motivate you. Once you have your fear clearly in mind, you can begin to see how it’s irrational, and how you can flip it on its head, making it a force for good.

Always ask yourself: “What is the worst thing that can happen?” Then imagine yourself in that very scenario. You will begin to devise a plan for responding to it, and your worst fear loses its power. Acceptance is key.

Here are some of the false assumptions would-be entrepreneurs make based on fear, and how to deal with them.

“I Can’t Give Up My Current Job Because It Provides Me With Security”

One of the most common startup fears is letting go of a comfortable, albeit unsatisfying, career to start a new one. Perhaps you believe the worst thing that can happen is not being able to pay your mortgage for one or more months. Imagine yourself in that very scenario. What can you do to mitigate this risk? Is it possible to find financial security elsewhere?

Do you have the skills and resources necessary to work as a consultant or freelancer? Isn’t working full-time on your startup while moonlighting for extra cash better than being chained to your full-time job while trying to get your business started on the side?

Once you fully accept that the worst could happen and imagine yourself in the very situation you fear most, you’ll look for a way to deal with it, and your worst fear begins to lose its power.

True entrepreneurs embrace the unknown. They’re willing to trade short-term stability and security for the long-term satisfaction of living the life they want in a career they choose. So instead of sitting on the sidelines, jump in the game!

“My Business Plan Must Be Fool Proof”

Don’t assume that your product or service is the only indicator of a winning idea. Your own experience and skill-set will help determine your success. Smart entrepreneurs know that it’s the people behind the products that matter.

Are you a great communicator, leader, and team builder? Are you good at making quick decisions, planning objectives and benchmarks? Can you adapt to a changing environment? Are you enthusiastic, passionate and driven? Are you always willing to learn and grow? These are the skills that will drive your success.

You may lack the technical skills needed to realize your idea, but you likely know everything about your product or service and can answer questions and solve problems.

So what’s the worst thing that can happen? You discover that your new business idea is not as marketable as you thought? People aren’t interested? You’re not making money and will have to abandon it?

Many entrepreneurs build businesses only to sell or abandon them in order to move on to something better. The experience you gain from your first venture will only make you smarter and more ready for the next.

Trying to find a winning formula will keep you mired in the details of every potential idea, and none will be convincing. If you believe in one, go for it!

“It’s Not The Right Time”

You will always find reasons to put off starting your business: a looming recession, you want to close one more deal at your current job, your kids are almost in college, you need to pay off a few debts, the list goes on. But the right time for any new venture is now.

A true entrepreneur finds ways to make things work regardless of the current circumstances. Start taking actionable steps to turn your dream into a reality. Write out a plan that will help to make it the right time. Shop your idea around. Start building a team. Win that first client!

No one likes ambiguity. But ambiguity may be the underlying reason why you always make the excuse: “It’s just not the right time.” Accept ambiguity as a temporary situation that will eventually lead to long-term stability and predictable results for your business.

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” – Alan Lakein

“I Couldn’t Handle A Failure”

Some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs including Thomas Edison and J.K. Rowling credit their failures as true markers of their success. Smart entrepreneurs know that losses are part of the game and that failures provide us with invaluable learning experiences. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

What is at the core of your fear of failure? Are you afraid of being judged professionally and personally? Imagine yourself in this scenario. Would you still be able to hold your head high, knowing that you tried? It’s better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all, right?

Some advice: Set your expectations low. The fear of failure can either paralyze you or shape your success. Accept that failure is inevitable and motivate yourself to elude it.

“I Can’t Handle Success”

The fear of success can be just as, or more prevalent, than the fear of failure. In fact, it may be hiding beneath the surface of a fear of failure, but is simply less available to you on a conscious level. The fear of success often shows up as self-doubt.

The idea of being successful and in the limelight might make you feel uncomfortable. Your worst fear may be that your customers, investors, and even the media start lining up to meet you. You may fear being alienated by your peers or that you may suddenly be incapable of handling the pressure of keeping your business thriving.

Practice self-compassion by trusting your value system and capabilities. Realize that as you grow, you can delegate tasks that make you feel uncomfortable, like speaking to the media.

Try to keep your goals to yourself, rather than putting pressure on yourself publicly. Research shows that the more we talk about our goals, the less likely we are to achieve them. Don’t seek out validation. Rather, trust in your own decision-making process.

And remember the words of Benjamin Disraeli: “The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.”

Once you have your worst fear in mind and are willing to accept it, you begin to find ways to respond to it. Craft a “survival strategy” for each of your worst case scenarios. Every time you expose yourself to fearful thoughts and fully accept the potential situations associated with them, you gain power while your fears lose strength.

The time is now to act on your dreams, so what are you waiting for?

What is your biggest startup fear?