“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” -- Henry David Thoreau.
Some of my friends love telling me how great their jobs are. They brag about everything they do. Then, in the same week, they complain about everything they have to deal with.
This isn’t surprising. Most people are dissatisfied with their jobs. In fact, 70 percent of Americans aren’t engaged by what they do for a living. Let’s put that into perspective. There are around 120 million full-time workers in the U.S. right now and 84 million of them don’t really like their jobs.
Are you one of them?
Starting my own business was the last thing on my mind when I graduated from college. I just wanted a stable job and a dependable income. I wanted benefits and vacation time. Free coffee and a food bar would have been nice, too.
But as the years went on, I realized the nine-to-five life just wasn’t for me. I began entertaining the idea of starting my own business but kept coming up with excuses not to. Eventually, I realized I needed to face my fears head-on.
Here are the six biggest fears I had to overcome.
Imagine putting everything you have -- your hopes, dreams and finances -- into starting your own business, only to watch it crash and burn. According to psychologists, the fear of failure is at the very top of the totem pole above the fear of separation and loss of autonomy.
How I overcame this fear: I had to redefine success. I realized it wasn’t enough for me to be at a decent job with decent pay -- security wasn’t my definition of success. For me, success meant chasing my dreams and achieving my goals. That’s when I realized I’d be failing by staying at my current job.
Before I started my own business, there was a voice in my head telling me no one would take me seriously if they knew what I was really like. That they’d see me for what I was -- an impostor. The voice reassured me that I was okay where I was, even if I couldn’t stand my job.
How I triumphed over this fear: I used to think some of my colleagues were just naturally confident. That they were born for success. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone feels inadequate, insecure and unworthy. It’s how we deal with these feelings that determines how far we can go professionally. As soon as I came to the revelation this was everyone’s problem, the fear diminished.
Sometimes, the fear of rejection or ridicule can be even more pronounced than the fear of failure. There are 102 things we worry people will laugh at us for. We’re so anxious about what others think, that we let dreamed-up embarrassments limit us.
How I rose above this fear: Starting my own business was almost embarrassing. I didn’t know what my friends or family -- who’ve known me since I was a dorky kid -- would think. I was worried they wouldn’t take me seriously. I was worried they’d laugh. But they didn’t. In fact, they’ve been nothing but incredibly encouraging and supportive. You’d be surprised at how many people want to root for you.
This was a big fear of mine. I grew up in a poor family and was worried I’d stay poor if I couldn’t secure a decent job. Since it’s so hard finding a job in the first place, why would I voluntarily let a good thing go?
How I let go of this fear: I recognized that I had a scarcity mindset. I believed that I had to hold onto the few “wins” in my life, or I would lose everything. Ultimately, this way of thinking prevented me from being as successful as I could be. So I let it go and opened myself up for success.
Worrying I’d be poor was just one manifestation of a much bigger fear -- the fear that I’d lose everything I had, even my close relationships. Without a stable career and a decent paycheck, I was worried I’d be a total loser, that I would have nothing to offer at all.
How I separated myself from this fear: This is classic separation anxiety. It’s also a very cynical way to be. I realized the people in my life wouldn’t vanish if I wasn’t successful. And if they did, they weren’t really my friends anyway.
If you can believe it, the fear of success is very real. It plagues many people on the cusp of self-actualization and true independence. It’s ultimately a fear of standing out, and stems from feelings of inadequacy.
How I stopped being scared: Most people are afraid of change. I certainly was. But life and business are all about embracing change. If you’re afraid of failing -- or succeeding -- at your own business, just think about how you’ll feel if you didn’t try.
I decided to try, because I knew I desired success.
Don’t lead a life of quiet desperation.
“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” -- Michael Jordan
Make no mistake -- your life will change when you start your own business. But how it changes is up to you. If you think you have what it takes, you owe it to yourself to try. At the end of the day, no one is stopping you but you.
Related: Meet Fear's Antidote: Hope