Overcoming Fear of Startup
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Think about this famous quote by Franklin Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor: "The
only thing we have to fear is fear itself." I never really understood this quote
until I started working with people who wanted to start their own practices, and
until I started my own businesses. I have thought a lot about fear and the way
it can paralyze us and I have seen this paralysis first-hand.
For example, I spent a lot of time, and many phone calls and emails, helping
a grad with the startup process. He would go only so far, only to stop. He would
find a practice to buy, and then he would back out of the deal because it wasn't
quite right. Or he would find a location, but never actually sign a lease,
convinced that this location wasn't perfect. He couldn't find a loan, but he
only tried a couple of banks then gave up. After months he finally decided to
stay as an associate, where he was unhappy; for all I know, he's still there.
Why does fear paralyze us?
1. Old voices. We all have voices in our heads, from times when
someone (parent, friend, spouse) told us, "You can't do this," or "This is
stupid. You'll fail," or "Don't risk failure." "If you fail, it will be
terrible." As long as we listen to those voices, we don't move ahead.
2. Perfectionism. It's great to want to do things well, but we often
are way too picky about how things must be. For example, the guy who wanted the
perfect location. A friend of mine gave me some advice about writing: "My rotten
published book is better than your perfect unpublished one." So I'm sending it
off to be printed.
3. "Don't just do it." We figure we have to start at the beginning and
work toward the end, in some kind of specific sequence. Then when we get stumped
at a certain point, we figure there's no way around. Not necessarily. Sure you
will have to get a loan before you can start buying equipment, but there are
lots of things you can do to get started with little money, and there are lots
of paths, not just one.
Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek (Crown, 2007), has some
suggestions for overcoming the paralysis of fear:
1. First, define your nightmare. What is the worst thing that could
happen if you fail in your new practice? Spend some time thinking about this.
Create a worst case scenario. Then consider two factors: Probability and
Severity. These are insurance terms, but they apply. First, what's the
probability (on a scale of 0% - never happen, to 100% - guaranteed to happen) of
failure? Then look at the severity – the cost – of failure. While I'm not a fan
of dwelling on the negative, I do believe you need to look under the bed to
convince yourself there really are no monsters under there (like Grover.)
2. Then look at the steps you could take to repair the damage. How
could you get your life back on track if you fail in practice? Spend some time
thinking about alternatives, like starting again elsewhere, or working for
someone else. Think about what's really important, and "don't sweat the small
3. Consider the outcomes and benefits of more probable scenarios.
Think about what your life would look like in a "best case" scenario. Then set
yourself to thinking that this is the more probable outcome of starting your own
4. Prepare to succeed. Start taking baby steps to overcome your fears
by working on the positive steps to success. Resolve to do one thing every day
that you fear. Do one small task every day that will move you toward your start
date. It might be as simple as calling the Yellow Pages and ordering an ad in
the next book. Work on your business plan. Focus your energy on positive action.
By the time you are done writing the business plan, I think you'll find you will
see that startup success is not only possible, but you'll feel more confident
about starting your practice.
Remember, as Henry Ford said, "If you think you can or you think you can't,
About the Author
Copyright 2007-2008 Jean Wilson Murray, MBA, PhD. Dr. Jean Murray has been
advising small business owners since 1974. As the founder of Planning for
Practice Success, she specializes in assisting health care professionals with
business plan construction and startup details. She can help you gain the
knowledge to act and the confidence to begin.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2007-10-15 22:16:46 in Business Articles