Get The Last Laugh

Fear Factors

Why being afraid of financial disaster can make it happen

A certain amount of trepidation is healthy and can keep you cautious enough to avoid making serious mistakes. But too much can kill your business before it even gets off the ground, says Azriela Jaffe, author of Starting From No: Ten Strategies to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection and Succeed in Business (Dearborn). "No one wants to buy from someone who communicates an unhealthy urgency," Jaffe says.

Take this quiz from Jaffe's book to see what sort of unconscious messages you're sending. Mark each statement as true or false:

  • My spouse or children depend on me to be successful.
  • I have slim savings and assets to fall back on if I don't pull in the cash I need every month.
  • I have significant household and business overhead expenses to meet every month.
  • If I don't significantly improve my performance or sales, I fear I will go out of business.
  • I think prospects can sometimes tell how desperate I feel when I pitch my product or service.
  • I experience insomnia because I'm worried about finances.
  • My spouse (or in-laws, parents or business partner) is upset about our financial situation and is giving me a hard time.
  • I worry about extremes, like losing the house or my spouse, even though that's highly unlikely.
  • When I lose one sale or a prospect says no, I panic about not being able to earn the money I need.
  • The more desperate my financial situation, the harder it is to prospect, because my self-esteem falls into the gutter.

According to Jaffe, if up to three of these statements are true, your fear of financial disaster is manageable but may be inhibiting your success. If you marked between four and seven of these statements true, you can count on losing sleep over financial worries. And if more than seven are true, you're too desperate to be effective professionally. Jaffe's advice: "Stabilize your finances before trying to depend on a small business for a living."

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This article was originally published in the September 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Get The Last Laugh.

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