From the February 2002 issue of Startups

When I was in kindergarten, I was deathly afraid of a tall blonde girl named Terrie. She had never done anything to make me fear her, yet I averted my eyes when she walked by, avoided her at playtime and always ensured there were at least five people separating us when we would line up outside the classroom. Then one day, for some reason, I stopped avoiding her. I looked her in the eye, and I don't remember what my 4-year-old mouth said, but I must have decided she wasn't so scary-and soon I was swinging next to her on the playground, playing kickball with her and picking dandelions with her out in the grass. To this day I still have pictures from my birthday parties with her sitting next to me and smiling.

I think about that situation today and can easily relate it to what many entrepreneurs must feel when taking those first few start-up steps. You probably look around and see at least a couple dozen "Terries" following you around all day long, threatening to knock the wind out of your sails. The fact is, some of them are scary-but some of them aren't. Some of them can be mentors, advisors and even friends who can actually help you. Who knows? You might end up building a playground together.

Your job, of course, is becoming self-assured enough to look people in the eye and talk about your business with pure confidence. You have to decide to approach people, regardless of what the outcome will be. This way, no matter who you meet, you'll be prepared for anything.

You'll also be prepared to approach every task with confidence. When it seems like you'll never meet that deadline even though you've been working for 36 hours straight with nothing but caffeine pulsating through your system, you'll decide that you will get that project done, and nothing will stop you. Once you decide to be self-assured, there's really nothing that can stop you-not harsh competition, not dwindling cash flow, not nasty customers. You'll find it in you to get every job done with finesse. Not with ease necessarily, but with finesse.

Eventually, you'll arrive at a point where every meeting, every sales call, every new endeavor seems like merely playtime. And isn't that exactly why you started a business in the first place?