By Luisa Zhou
When I first started my business, I thought I was doing something brave in pursuing my dreams. What I didn’t realize though, was that I was actually scared out of my mind.
I was scared of disappointing my parents who didn’t understand why their up-until-now perfect daughter would want to “throw away” everything she’d achieved for what they viewed as a fantasy. I was scared of the unknownness of a path that was not predefined and didn’t have set benchmarks for “success.”
And more than anything, I was scared of being seen by everyone (even strangers) as less than perfect, of being judged as “not good enough,” and of being mocked as the once-envied success who threw everything away for a pipe dream.
Because of those fears, my business floundered. I sat back and convinced myself that I was being a courageous entrepreneur when in fact, I hid. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing, I didn’t try to make sales or find clients and the only marketing I did was through impersonal social media ads. I was up to my eyeballs in debt, I wasn’t making enough to sustain my business and my life was crashing down around me.
Then, in literally the blink of an eye, it all changed.
Attending a conference with some of the most successful, high-profile women in the online business world, I was stoked by all of the strategic takeaways I was sure to get from their talks.
However, my biggest takeaway was far less tangible and far more valuable. Watching the successful women giving advice from the podium to those who waited in long lines to ask for it, I realized that only one thing separated those on stage from those off stage.
It wasn’t knowledge or time or talent or luck.
It was fear. Or rather, the ability and willingness to act despite it.
In that moment, I was struck by a fear greater than any I’d ever known—the fear of failing. Because I knew I wasn’t acting like those women who put themselves out there no matter what without even pretending at perfection.
Fast forward to today, and not only is my business more successful than ever, but I’m also finally at peace with myself. I feel fulfilled, happy and possibly even more importantly, unafraid.
In the hope that my experiences will be useful to you, I want to share with you 3 tips that helped me use my fear to skyrocket my business instead of letting it hold me back:
1. Use your fear of NOT succeeding to help you move past your fears around putting yourself out there.
I never want to be that struggling businesswoman whose business appears glamorous and seductive on the outside but who is in truth barely breaking even. Who can’t afford to take care of her family or live the life she created her business in the first place to be able to live.
And that fear of not having my dream business and life, of not being able to provide the life I’d envisioned for my loved ones—that was far more powerful to me than the fear of stepping out of my comfort zone and the fear of being judged as not good enough.
2. List out your fears and excuses and the worst case scenarios - you'll realize they aren't as bad as you think.
This exercise is both deceptively simple and incredibly powerful. Listing out our fears forces us to confront them instead of letting them grow in power in our imagination.
And oftentimes, the worst case scenario, when we’re forced to confront it, means simply returning to a job for the short-term or a slight bruising of our ego.
3. Fall in love with your fear.
Spanx founder Sara Blakely often credits her upbringing for her success. In particular, her father used to ask her everyday at the dinner table to share one thing she’d failed at that day, which helped her develop the attitude that failure is only a stepping stone on the way to success.
Learning to embrace fear instead of dreading it will make the entrepreneurial journey so much more enjoyable. And to put our fears in perspective, remember Steve Jobs’s powerful words: "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important."
Luisa Zhou is a Business Architect for women ready to build profitable online businesses. She’s also a former International Space Station engineer, an educational entrepreneur, a mobile payments start-up co-founder and a digital advertising manager overseeing millions in ad revenue.
For her stories, tips and inspiration on building your dream business and life, visit luisazhou.com, and get her free training series on jumpstarting your business and getting your first paying coaching clients here.
Photo Credit: Top: Picjumbo