One of the very bases of our society is the entrepreneurial spirit and individual initiative. Everything we can see around us- enormous skyscrapers, factories, companies- has begun as an idea in a person’s head. And some persons have that zeal and perseverance which are necessary for proper implementation of their business ideas.
We need not mention contemporary personifications of entrepreneurial spirit- practically every big company that you can mention was conceived by an individual who started from scratch.
According to Wakefield Research, more than half of more Americans have an idea about how they could improve a product. Yet most of them don’t dare to do this.
Needless to say, not every entrepreneur can hope to attain the stellar success of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. However, the economy isn’t driven solely by the big players. Quite the contrary, medium and small businesses are important parts of the global market. The global economy develops so rapidly that there is a constant demand for new ideas.
Unfortunately, simply having a business idea is not enough. Far from it. The ability to set a goal, and keep pursuing it no matter the consequences is something not everybody possesses. We can go even further and state that this ability is exactly what sets entrepreneurs apart from the rest.
Naturally, the road from an idea to its materialization is a long, winding road full of obstacles. It would be surprising if problems weren’t a normal part of this journey. One of the obstacles that ruin so many prolific minds is fear. Anxiety, apprehension, and, of course, fear, can cut the very roots of a highly fertile conception.
The truth is, fear of starting a business almost always comes from a highly irrational, almost superstitious place- human fear of the unknown.
Why Many Are Afraid To Start Their Own Business?
Let’s be honest here: starting a business is scary. There’s no running away from it. There are several basic reasons why people are afraid to start a business:
- Fear of failure
- Fear of the unknown
Most people are scared to start a business simply because they think that it will fail. This is a pretty straightforward reason, especially when one’s existence practically relies on the success of the entrepreneurial feat. However, this is not always the case- some people are rather well off, and they are still afraid to start their own business. This means that the first reason is actually two somewhat different reasons: fear for one’s survival and fear of failure per se.
Fear of the unknown is, in our opinion at least, even more detrimental. Irrationality, illogical thinking, and even superstition are quite often its most prominent characteristics. While a person who’s afraid of failure might imagine some horrible scenes of her losing everything (e.g. very concrete content), an individual who’s afraid of the unknown doesn’t really have an object of fear. The very fact that starting a business will bring about many new things is something that might seem so incredibly hard to bear.
In other words, the fear of the unknown, due to being so irrational, is something that needs to be changed, even completely eliminated. While we would want to retain at least a bit of the fear of failure (this makes people prudent), we don’t want any of that fear of the unknown.
Before we go on to enumerate the most efficient strategies for getting rid of entrepreneurial fear, we’d like to lay out our inference about the second type of business anxiety. In our opinion, fear of the unknown is inextricably tied to a personality trait called Openness to Experience. Starting from the latest turn of the centuries, psychologists have reached a relative consensus on the structure of personality- according to them, any personality can be described by a fixed number of broad personality traits (5 or so of them). Openness is one such broad personality trait, possessed by everyone to a certain extent. Now, some people are more open to new experiences, while others aren’t- it’s the way we grew up and the way we were brought up.
Why do we emphasize this connection between certain types of business fears and personality traits? Because, by paying close attention to your level of Openness to Experience, you will be able to make important changes in the way you see the world, and especially change the way you do your business.
What To Do To Reduce a Fear of Starting a Business?
As should be clear by now, you should first assess the type of business anxiety you’re having. If you’re afraid of not being able to fulfill your basic needs (food, clothing, housing), you should do the math carefully, and do the business plan as thoroughly as you can – for example, you can outline a concrete research program. Having a vague business plan that leaves a lot of questions unanswered is a good way to increase your entrepreneurial anxiety.
Here are some more concrete pieces of advice on how to minimize the fear of starting a business:
- Make clear, attainable goals- this aspect is actually inextricably tied to your business plan. Defining all the relevant goals, and especially the primary milestones are essential for starting a business without being hindered by excessive worry and apprehension of bad events.
- Leave perfectionism behind- perfectionism might be a good trait, but quite often it will practically incapacitate you and make you unable to finish any kind of work. Perfectionism can be a major setback, not only in the business context. Extreme perfectionists simply cannot finish any project they start because it’s never good enough.
- Building a strong support system- there are two discrete types of support systems- personal and professional communities. By building a warm, strong social circle around you (friends, family) who support what you’re doing, it will be much easier for you to give some kind of meaning to your work. On the other hand, the professional community (investors, business partners) will give you the necessary financial security and stability. Knowing that you’re not on your own in the harsh and often unfair playground we call “market” is perhaps the most important thing when it comes to eliminating the fear of failure. We’ll talk more about this part in the section How To Ensure Yourself In The Case Of Failure.
- Sorting out the balance between personal life and work- this will be perhaps the trickiest part. Some people are not even afraid of failure- they are simply afraid that starting a business will mean that they will have to spend more time working, which may ruin the relationships with family and friends.
Fear Is A Very Natural Emotion
While being too afraid about the future of your business idea is by no means a good thing, being too cool about it is equally bad. Unfortunately, we cannot always change the way we feel about something- emotions are a pretty tricky thing. Being an entrepreneur means that sometimes you’ll have to venture into the unknown, and it’s natural to sometimes feel scared about this.
However, it is possible to change the way we make sense of the things we feel. Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, emphasized that there are two types of emotions: functional and dysfunctional. Among dysfunctional emotions, he included fear as one of the most incapacitating and debilitating emotions.
Luckily each dysfunctional emotion has its functional counterpart. Instead of being afraid, it’s better to be prudent. By being careful (not, anxious, or afraid), you are rational, and much more able to make good decisions.
In other words, one of the ways you can stop being too scared to start a business is to, first and foremost, accept your fear, and transform it into a more functional emotional state of being prudent.
Prudency can be the accelerator of your success, as it will help you gain insight into the pros and cons of every business endeavor you undertake.
Is There An Insurance In Case Of A Failure?
We like to think that there are two types of insurance: psychological and financial. Financial insurance is pretty straightforward- it simply means that you have at least some money in stash just in case things start to seriously go wrong.
On the other hand, psychological insurance is often much trickier. There are several ways to psychologically inoculate yourself in the case of failure, but it’s important to note that this inoculation has to be done prior to delving into any kind of business activity.
Financial insurance will save your most important possessions, while psychological insurance will make sure that you come out of bad situations with relatively unscathed self-esteem.
Here are just some of the ways you can psychologically ensure yourself from failure:
- Refrain from unjustified generalizations– just because you were wrong about some business decisions doesn’t necessarily mean that all your decisions are bad. Any kind of entrepreneurial activity is a complex phenomenon, and it is sometimes hard to give it a black and white evaluation.
- Regard potential failure as an opportunity for improvement- even some of the biggest corporations had to learn from their mistakes. We may even state that corporations that learn from mistakes are the ones that thrive.
- Stop ruminating- once you’ve made a mistake, it’s completely dwelling, ruminating, and fretting about it is completely pointless.
What to do to stop being scared about quitting your day job?
The very thought of giving up on your career can be scary and unsettling. Most people who have business ideas (and, as we’ve seen, there’s a lot of them) also have a standard 9 to 5 job.
However, just because you make enough money doing your current job doesn’t mean that you have to stay in the same position during your whole career. Some businesses started as a side hassle, some were a thought process of years and years. Whereas there is no fits-all approach, there is always your personal ‘why’. If you know deep in your heart that you need to do it, you will have all the motivation in the world. Fear will retreat.