Conquering Fear and Using It To Succeed

When you play chess, you can’t get stuck playing defense. If you spend every move blocking someone else from attacking you, you can stay on the board for a long time but you’ll never win.

Playing defense in chess is like playing defense in business: you might be able to keep afloat for a year or two, but you’re not going to actually become successful. The people who truly become successful put it all on the line and play a completely different type of game.

“Of course,” you’re going to say, “I’m not a MacArthur Genius. I just want my business to bring in enough money to support me and my family, and I’m afraid that by choosing to start this business, I’m going to send my family towards bankruptcy or something equally awful.”

That’s fine. So let’s look at how to become successful at your small business instead of spending your entire workday playing defense against bankruptcy. It’s about conquering fear.

What would have to actually happen for your worst fear to come true?

Naomi Dunford, the entrepreneur behind IttyBiz, has a great essay about how to handle fear. Her thought exercise is this: what would have to actually happen for your worst fear to come true?

If your worst fear is bankruptcy or losing your house, what exactly would have to happen for that scenario to take place? For every event that would lead you towards your worst fear, come up with an action you can take to prevent that event. Then come up with a few actions you could take if your worst fear did come true.

If you need some research, read the Things Work Out series from The Billfold about people who really did have their worst financial fears take place. Turns out: people survive.

Moving out of fear and towards success

The best way to combat fear is to take action. Not defensive, anxious action–actual action that nullifies the fear and moves your business forward.

The best way to move out of fear and towards success is to reframe your actions so that they benefit your business. For example many people who are worried about their business finances resolve to spend less. That’s a defensive move. Figuring out how to make more sales is my strategy, and this solves the money problem and helps you achieve another measure of success.

Are you afraid that a cranky client isn’t going to pay you? A defensive move is to ingratiate yourself, doing anything you can to please the client. A successful move is to complete the work as specified, send the invoice, and find a new, better client.

Every move you make to combat a fear should simultaneously move your business forward. That’s what the fear is telling you, after all. The fear isn’t really saying “we’re all going to become bankrupt!!!” The fear is saying “something is wrong; this business isn’t as successful as it should be.”

I always tell my coaching clients, “failure is not an option.” That is how I know my businesses will be a success. When you decide it will be, and take failure off the table, you are always looking for solutions when you hit walls, rather than running from them.

So: when you play the game of business, don’t play defense. Face your fears, and move forward towards success. Chances are, your business will move forward as well.