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How I looked straight at my fears (and continued to feel scared)

My business partner and I launched a startup a while ago. Even before she joined in I was scared it wouldn’t work. It, being the startup, the product, the platform, potential users who might never show, my effort that might not suffice. After she joined I was confident enough to voice it out loud.

I mentioned some of my fears and in a way it was comforting since I could hear myself stating my fears. On the other hand it wasn’t comforting at all, since it meant that even though I’m no longer alone I’m still scared.

She had her own fears, similar to mine, and we’re now two-chicken-shit-Co-Founders in one shaky boat.

Two weeks before the launch we just couldn’t deal with the stress. We were going at each others’ throats every time something went less than OK. Things had to be vented out.

Since there’s no available deep dark wood around, we went to our computers and shouted out our fears there.

Each made a list of ALL THE THINGS SHE WAS AFRAID OF.

Here‘s a sneak peek at my list. All in all it is an invitation to my fears to come out of their holes. Now, I can look straight at my fears and invite them to eat dust.

BTW I am still scared (is that natural???)

  • What if no one will enter the site? What if no one will use it?
  • What if no one will hear about it?
  • What if only or mostly hackers will enter and ruin all our work?
  • What if the process will feel too slow? Too long? Too annoying? People will not cut us a slack as all our friends and people who volunteered to take part in our demo did?!
  • What if all the dreams we nourished turned out to be mere dreams?
  • What if it all turns out as a flop?
  • What if this is just a nice project, a cute adventure and nothing more?
  • What if we run out of power or money?
  • What if it’ll take us too long??
  • What if we’ll give up just before it picks up?

Noa’s list turned out to be quite similar, but with a bit more imagination and flare:

  • I’m afraid of a huge fraud
  • I’m afraid of things that are completely out of our control: server collapse, Paypal collapse, a genuine catastrophe that will leave us with nothing to do about it but watch what we have built so far go down the drain.
  • I’m afraid of a huge mistake we’ll make (due to an insensitive response or cultural gap) that will lead to a huge let down
  • I’m afraid of investors from hell that will leave us with nothing, and turn us into their puppets.

We made it through the launch successfully with decent numbers. But I am still afraid.

Afraid it won’t pick up as high or as fast enough as it should. That we’ll run out of faith, energy… you name it.

This list has its advantages and helps me in times of doubt but at times it’s just not enough. For these moments here are two more suggestions:
1. Think of your past achievements. At present, I am doing things that are quite new to me. In terms of startups — its my first.
But prior to that I had some great achievements in my field of practice. As an investigative reporter I published crazy stories that made it national front page and stirred debates. It was terribly difficult and at times I thought there’s no way I’d make it, but I did. How fast we forget our milestones??
I started my own content creation company and sold thousands of copies of a product I am very proud of. I also made enough money so that my spouse left his job and worked on his own startup for two years (no income from that venture but an important lesson). How wonderful is that?
2. Try to listen to the advice you give your children. I tell my four year old girl she only needs to try. That will take her far, even if she fails, because she’ll learn a valuable lesson. I should embrace that whenever I’m afraid things won’t work at all or as good as I hope. Taking these steps will for sure get me somewhere.

All in all, does fear motivate us? I believe it does, to some extent. It can also silence and mute and freeze us, to a bad extent.

How do you deal with your fears? I’ll be happy to hear more ideas to deal with the things that make our stomachs turn upside down.

I promise to test your ideas. I believe I’ll have enough fears to try them with 🙂

I’ll end with this epic speech by Baby in Dirty Dancing admitting that most of all she’s scared of walking out of this room and never feeling again what she did.. Come to think about it, isn’t that the biggest fear? Being in a perfect spot but fearing we will never be there again?

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