Corbett Barr

Lifestyle Business Weekly

Are You Ever Scared as Hell?

Reader Sarah wrote in with this question:

What I would love to hear more about was how you made the leap to self-employment. Beyond what’s written on your “About” page, were you ever scared that you wouldn’t be able to make things work financially as a blogger? Did you ever wish that you’d gone back to either the traditional start up world or a regular day job? –Sarah Russell

Fear is the biggest hurdle any entrepreneur faces. Business strategy, marketing, technology and relationships and all important, but fear is what makes most people quit before they succeed (and keeps far more people from getting started in the first place).

I’ve struggled with fear of failure, fear of what other people will think, fear that I’m not good enough and fear that what I’m trying to do isn’t possible. Sometimes this fear has been crippling.

On plenty of occasions, I thought about quitting. For about the first year of blogging, I had a constant internal dialog running that questioned every move I made and constantly made me wonder if I could make it. It wasn’t until I started earning some significant income that the internal voice turned more positive.

Luckily, I had some good friends like Baker and Karol who were there to talk me off the ledge. I credit our weekly mastermind meetings with keeping me focused long enough to succeed. Without them and that structured interaction, I very likely would be doing something different today.

That’s the thing about trying something as hard as starting a business: most of us will quit long before we give ourselves enough time to succeed.

Fear is usually to blame.

Here are a few tips for dealing with fear as an entrepreneur:

  1. Build a support group.
  2. This made a huge difference for me, as it has for dozens of other successful entrepreneurs I now know.

    You need a support group of other people in similar stages of doing what you’re trying to do. Don’t be shy: reach out to a few people you think would be a good fit and ask them to meet weekly. Create light penalties to not showing up, and kick anyone out who misses two meetings in a row. In each meeting, focus on what you did over the past week, what you need help with and what you plan to do over the next week.

    Also seek mentors (formal or informal) who are farther along than you. A little perspective from someone who has experience can go a long way.

  3. Seek out case studies for inspiration.
  4. I immersed myself in the stories of other people who had already succeeded and created my own story from those patterns. Hearing about other people’s success can show you you’re not crazy.

    When I started blogging, I knew no successful bloggers personally, and had only read about a few success stories. Seeking out other people’s stories was an important step because it helped me see what was possible.

  5. Rationalize.
  6. Think about what you’re trying to do. In the grand scheme of things, how crazy is it, really? You’re not trying to build a rocket to mars here. You’re trying to do something fairly reasonable. Others have succeeded before you. It won’t be easy, but other people are doing more incredible things all the time.

  7. Remove negative influences.
  8. It’s hard not to be scared when people around you are telling you you’re crazy and that you should lower your expectations. Sometimes you need to spend less time with the negative nellies around you until you’re more secure.

Fear is normal. As entrepreneurs, we need to address it head on or it will eventually get to you.

Are you ever scared as hell that you won’t succeed?

How do you handle it?

Corbett Barr

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  1. It is natural for humans to be afraid but only to an extent. Think about kids who know no fear. They don’t know about physical laws such as gravity. The only reason we fear failure is because we know what it feels like which isn’t so good. You have to unlearn those feelings and figure that failure is not the end of the world. Adopt the attitude of a child and say to heck with the world. That is what the success do.

  2. Haha – too funny… I saw the title of this post in my Google reader, thought “Ummm – yes, I’m terrified as hell right now” and then clicked through to see that it’s a response to my last comment :)

    The goofy thing for me is that all the people around me are completely supportive and encouraging when I talk about my goal of becoming self-employed. It’s me that’s the issue.

    I think I’ve been reading too much coverage of the OWS protests – there are so many incredibly sad stories out there about people who have been looking for work for years, that it makes me wonder if I’m not crazy to even think about leaving my stable job.

    I’ll just have to keep reminding myself that if I want this bad enough, I’ll find a way to make it work :)

    • Christina

      Sarah – this was a perfect question: for all of us at any point we feel fear coming on. Thank you! I needed # 3, and it wouldn’t have happened without you.

      Corbett and his web sites show me the way, but the way around fear is so personal. Success is a personal choice, too. The opportunities are endless, the path we take is up to us in a lot of ways.

      I hope you keep going – do it for you. I heard this once, “You can’t ever be poor enough to make a poor person rich, you can’t ever be miserable enough to make someone else happy.” For me it is saying success gives me the ability to give more away, share and employ if I choose to. It also says I can’t make someone happy, but I can show them what it looks it. Go for it – nothing to lose, sister. . .
      The mist of fear often evaporates when we notice we weren’t afraid, we were holding back, to make other people comfortable in many ways.

  3. I’ve got to say Corbett, I read ThinkTraffic fairly regularly, but haven’t spent much time here at your personal site.

    But the series of posts you’re doing here this month has been really fantastic so far, and this one really resonated with me.

    I’m in a huge transitional period in my life right now, so fear (and uncertainty) are a pretty big part of the equation…

    Thanks for addressing those things so clearly and elegantly. It think fear is a root cause of failure for a lot of people, but your four suggestions really cut to the core of the issue.

    This series has proven that a post doesn’t have to be 2000 words long to say something meaningful.

  4. I think it’s natural to be scared in a situation where we are placing our creative ability and product/service/knowledge in a public forum for the world to judge.

    As entrepreneurs, we work daily without a set schedule, towards a vision of which only we know the full extent, and many times alone for some period of time until we grow large enough to bring on a team.

    I’m one month into my entrepreneurial journey, and I’m scared. Extremely scared, because I shunned the conventional ‘great’ job and I’ve set out to create something that will hopefully change the world in my own small way…. So what if it doesn’t work out?

    I think instead of considering failure as an option I just keep chugging and talking like this venture is going to be successful. Like the vision is bigger than the immediate work, because that means the immediate work is just building towards something greater.

    And I invest in relationships. Because I work alone, and I need the support, advice, and love that comes from genuinely investing in others in a meaningful way.

    I’m loving this 30 day challenge you’ve set out on – keep it up!

  5. Fear prevented me from quitting my job and going it alone for a long while. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of not being able to pay rent. It was only by imagining the best and worst case scenarios that I was able to put things in perspective. Often the worse case is not as bad as we imagine. It is also just a temporary position. The best case on the other hand is huge and it is a ongoing situation. When you think of it in these terms taking ‘scary’ choices seems to become a lot easier.

    I wrote up my process in a post entitled ‘The antidote to fear or: How I learned to stop worrying and start my own company’ –

  6. First of all, as soon as I read Sarah, I knew who it was. She’s EVERYWHERE! Makes sense, too, because her content is bangin’. If you haven’t, yet, clicky that link up there.

    Second, if you only do one of these things, find a Mastermind group (period). Not only do they keep me honest and foraging ahead, but I look forward to our weekly meetings. I get to talk to others trying to do the same thing I am. This is awesome! It’s amazing to be talking options and concepts instead of trying to explain what “Location Independence” is.

    You can do it alone. I have every faith that you can… but company on the path is priceless.

    Thanks Steph, Tim, and Marianne(y)! You guys rock!


    • Awwww, thanks Stu! Much appreciated :)

      Finding a Mastermind group is definitely on my to-do list, but ironically enough, I think it’s going to have to wait until after I go self-employed, because I just can’t commit to a weekly meeting time with my schedule right now. Someday, though!

  7. Hey Corbett,

    From your experience, do online mastermind group meetings, work the same way like face to face meetings? :-/

    I have this idea on my mind from a while now… but I couldn’t find people near me who want to do this. Maybe I haven’t tried hard enough yet.

    Anyways, THANK YOU!

  8. I was very scared of quitting my job and trying to support my family by working online. But I was more scared of becoming suicidal if I kept working at a boring job with a soul-sucking commute.
    So I quit, moved to Thailand and am now trying to work out how to make money. Most people get the money thing sorted first, but I just didn’t have enough free time to do that before I quit.
    I do have a partial safety net — a part time remote editing job, which may or may not pan out. But the aim of this “dropout” is to build a business that will support us anywhere.

  9. Thanks for sharing that Corbett. I definitely feel fear. Like I know what I want to do, have goals and a plan, but I am afraid what if it doesn’t work out like I planned?

    But my other option is to do nothing and that’s not an option.

    I definitely listen to podcasts and read about those who have been there. Those give me inspiration.

  10. I agree wholeheartedly. Fear was and is the biggest challenge I face. Other challenges can be “educated”, but fear resists logic and always appears when you’re the most vulnerable – in the middle of the night or when you discover there’s more month than money.

    I’ve found the following book very helpful, both in its advice and the stories it contains. It was written oh-so-long ago, but only adds to its credibility.

    How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie

    A bank teller said to me recently, “Thank God it’s Friday”. At first I was confused, but then I remembered that’s how people with j-o-b-s think about the week (and life). I struck me just how far I’d come and how, even with all the uncertainty, I’d make the choice to be self employed over and over again because anything I’ve lost (or will lose) is worth nothing compared to what I’ve gained.

    Hope that’s helpful!

  11. Hey Corbett,

    I think I have fear of actually succeeding and not about failing… must be something wired wrong inside my head. LOL

    But honestly I have never used a “Buy” button before.

    The day I posted a review on my blog (already deleted it btw) I made three sales on the same day and I didn’t even had a list at the time not without mentioning my traffic was low as hell too.

    Obviously those results got me excited but also scared at the same time.

    Now these days I want to recover what I once was building but now I feel fear of other aspects like not being accepted, not being able to record good videos, another kind of stuff.

    I hopefully will be able to get past this by actually doing all these tasks until they become natural.

    That worked with driving a car for the first time, so why wouldn’t for this?

    Anyway, have a great weekend, I really enjoyed your article! ;-)


  12. I’ve owned a start up business for 8 years before I sold it and moved to a smaller location. I”m not working as of yet but I know what I want to do although I”m not sure how I’ll make a living at it.

    I was fearfull when I opened my business. It took 12 hr days and 2 years before it really took off. Back then, I did have fear but I went forward anyhow. I had low confidence, self esteem and self worth and I was successful inspite of myself. :)

    Push through the fear and believe and surround yourself with positive like minded people. Find support and believe. Tell the bully in you to bugger off and keep going.

    I;m fearful everytime I post for I am not a trained writer and struggle with punctuation for crying out loud! But I go forth anyhow because in the end its my life, money will come someway and I won’t be out on the street. After 47 yrs. I’m starting to care a lot less what others think.

    Fear keeps you humble but dont’ let it prevent you from going towards your dreams, your passion, your hearts need.

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