One of the most famous quotes in U.S. history is by Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he said that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” While the words he spoke are nearly 70 years old, the meaning remains the same. For many of us, fear is our greatest enemy. The fear that Roosevelt refers to is the same fear that surrounds us and confronts us everyday.
For one to truly be successful they must learn to handle and ideally, eliminate fear. Failure to do so allows fear to paralyze one from progress. Roosevelt understood this best. With the coming of an economic depression, Roosevelt could sense ‘fear’ overcoming the nation. To this he confronted it head on. He made it clear that we must not allow fear to keep us mired in self-pity and loss but that we must eliminate fear.
How Fear Has Shaped Our Lives
Almost every important choice we have made in our lives has been surrounded by fear. While it varies by degrees, fear to some extent has influenced the choices we have made. From asking the girl who sat across you in art class to what college you decide to go to, how have you dealt with fear?
If you still don’t recognize ‘fear’ you may be familiar with its’ other names: doubt, scared, dread, frightened, and worried. How many times have you been confronted with a decision and decided for one option because you were ‘scared’ of making the wrong choice. While we all wish that every choice we had to make was as simple as “paper or plastic,” life likes throwing us curveballs.
The Fearless Entrepreneur
As an entrepreneur you face challenges and hurdles that would make most want to quit after just a month. You can even make the case that as an entrepreneur, you face the biggest fear which is that you are risking it all for failure. As an entrepreneur, failure can be crippling to ones dreams. Once ‘fear’ sets in, it can overwhelm and consume an entrepreneur and their dreams.
As a result, an entrepreneur must be like the ‘knight in shining armor.” In fairy tales, you hear of the damsel in distress and the fearless knight in shining armor who slays the dragon and rescues her. While dragons may be hard to come by, that doesn’t mean we can’t be like the knight. The knight is a hero because he is fearless. An entrepreneur doesn’t need to wield a sword or fight dragons to be fearless. With every failure, they must become resilient and continue to push forward.
So common is failure associated with fear because both can lead to the other. Bill Gates once said “it’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” One must not let failure lead to fear, but instead let failure lead to becoming fearless. One must learn from the mistakes as to not allow them to happen again.
The Difference Between Fearless and Stupid
Going back to the example of the knight that slays the dragon, we call him fearless because he risks his life to save the damsel in distress. Still, we are assuming that in doing so he is properly equipped and prepared his encounter with the dragon. If he fought the dragon with no shield or sword would we still call him fearless? Of course not. Instead of fearless we would call him stupid.
Being fearless doesn’t mean you should be stupid. Just how you wouldn’t dive into a pool without first knowing its depth, neither should you jump into a situation without first understanding it and being prepared.
Playing It Safe Is Not Playing It Smart
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is playing it safe. While there is nothing wrong with this, the problem with it is that they are not taking any risks. Anything that has risk has two outcomes. Success and failure. While someone who plays it safe is avoiding failure, it also means that they are avoiding success. If you live your life in a bubble are you really living life?
Consider this quote from best-selling author, Denis Waitley: “The only person who never makes mistakes is the person who never does anything.” While you can try and avoid fear and failure, it comes at a price. Don’t let fear hinder you from living life to the fullest.
Fear Is Part Of Being Human
As mentioned earlier, being fearless is ideal, but not realistic. While we wish we could get straight A’s in school, we know that no one is perfect. In the same sense, we are all human and fear is part of being human. The key though is to minimize fear as much as possible so that we can be successful.
Louisa May Alcott once said:
I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.
What will you do when it is time for you to face your fears? Will you let it overcome you and allow it to sink your ship, or will you turn fear into courage and power.
Photo by Cynthia Lou