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Conquering Fear

...and Navigating Business Challenges with Confidence

3/29/2024 | Steve Woodburn, The Hustle

Fear: An unpleasant emotion or thought you have when you’re frightened or worried by something bad that is happening or might happen. 

I sat there, staring at the phone, palms were sweating and heart beating so fast I thought it might jump out of my chest. My mind was obsessing on why I shouldn’t pick up the phone and make the call, instead of all the good  that might come of it, I was overcome with the irrational fear of rejection by the person on the other end of the line. 

Some are born fearless, but the majority of us carry our fears into the work we do, especially those of us in positions where we must sell. Do you recognize any of these fears in your professional life? 

• Fear of cold-calling. 

• Fear of success 

• Fear of failure 

• Fear of financial insecurity 

• Fear of making decisions 

• Fear of embarrassment 

• Imposter Syndrome (Fear of not being enough) 

• Fear of the unknown 

• Fear of risk-taking 

Let’s be honest, we all have fears. But when those fears become crippling, paralyzing us from being effective in our jobs, it’s time to make changes. For some, that might mean work that’s less stressful, while others understand mitigating their fears is the key to success.  

Author and motivational speaker Jack Canfield says, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear”. There are many ways to reduce your business fears, but overcoming these requires patience and perseverance; it’s a  journey.  

Let’s look at a few of the most pervasive fears in business and ways we might be able to tame them.

Imposter Syndrome:

How many times have you walked into a room full of successful people, thinking, “What am I doing here? I’m not smart  enough or talented enough to be included in this group.” We’ve all faced  this frustrating phenomenon that can hold us back from achieving our dreams. A Harvard Business Review study found nearly 70% of  entrepreneurs have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in their  careers. There are many reasons we might feel like an imposter, and overcoming this negative thinking means challenging your doubts and inner critic. Make a list of all your achievements; note those times your peers told you what a great job you did and detail the goals you’ve met and surpassed. Focus on your strengths and abilities and don’t compare yourself with others. You are unique and marvelous, and you deserve to stand tall and exude success.  

Fear of Cold Calling:

True story: I used to work with a guy who would sit  in his cubicle and talk to his phone. Over and over, he repeated, “Ring  phone, ring.” I thought this was really weird until I learned he had an extreme fear of cold-calling. Research by ValueSelling Associates shows 1 out of 2 salespeople feel this fear, a fear of being rejected by the person on  the other end of the line. While there is no magical formula to overcome this fear, you might try these ideas. Use LinkedIn and websites to learn as  much as possible about the person and company you’re calling beforehand. Understand you’re going to get more no’s than yes’s, so gird yourself and use each call to get better at asking questions and answering objections. It’s  not personal. Someone saying “no” isn’t telling you you’re a horrible person, they are simply saying they haven’t heard something that will help their business. The key is to keep at it, read articles on how to overcome this fear, and take to heart Napoleon Hill’s comment, “Fear is nothing more than a state of mind.” 

Fear of Risk-Taking:

Have you ever stood looking over the edge of a high-dive thinking, “What the heck am I doing?” Jumping off a high-dive is risky, as are many of the choices we make every day in business. Taking risks is never easy, but by planning ahead and understanding the best and  worst case scenarios, you can mitigate the risks you take. Learning to take risks is crucial if you are to succeed as an entrepreneur or in any business endeavor. Risks sometimes end in failure, but failure is a learning opportunity, a time to understand what went wrong and ensure next time you take have a better chance of success. Risks aren’t always the result of your choices, but external forces you can’t control. Consumer preferences change, extreme weather can impact your business (hurricanes for instance) and business climates morph in an instant as with Covid and the resulting shutdowns. For risks you can control, it’s important to plan ahead, understand all the potential outcomes, be ready to pivot should things change mid-stream, and create back-up plans. Risk taking is essential for driving innovation and growth. So embrace uncertainty, rely on your intuition, and seize the day.  

Fear of Success:

As odd as it seems, many business people are scared to death of being successful. This fear is usually centered around the changes we’ll face if we create a successful business and how it will affect our lives. Will friends and family abandon us, will we be able to maintain the growth we’ve achieved, will we have to work 80 hours a week, will people expect more of us, and can we maintain our integrity? While these may all seem like valid fears, the reality is success can make our lives better and give us those things we might never have had otherwise. To move beyond these fears, visualize your success. Imagine the positive outcomes and benefits that come with achieving success. Embrace the unknown and view it as an opportunity for growth. Surround yourself with other successful people who offer encouragement and guidance.  

So, let me ask: what could you accomplish if you weren’t afraid? One simple trick that may help you overcome fear is to turn your fear into excitement. Excitement to see the possibilities when you make sales calls, learn new product lines, ask for referrals, meet new people, and face unique challenges. 

Yes, fear can hold us back, but conquering fear can make us stronger and  more resilient. Robert Schuller, the American pastor, motivational speaker, and author once said, "What would you attempt to do if you knew you would not fail?” Adopt an attitude of fearlessness and use it to become the best person you can be, and you’ll truly be amazed at what you can achieve. 

Steve Woodburn started hustling early in life, landing his first on-air radio gig when he was just 20 and spending the next 20 years as a DJ, news anchor, talk show host and traffic reporter. He found the promotional products business totally by accident (as do most) working 29 years on the distributor side and five as a supplier. Steve won multiple sales awards along the way and volunteered his time with his local association, the Regional Association Council (RAC) and served on the PPAI Board of Directors. He's currently the Chief Adventurer of Marvelous Moosey Adventures, a company he and his wife created, and pursues acting, writing and voice-over work. Connect with Steve on Linkedin or via email at successnow09@gmail.com
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