Scary Move, Eh?

The risks of starting a business can be a fright. Fortunately, the right attitude can turn your quickened heart rate and night sweats into the kind of excitement that leads to a successful business.
Magazine Contributor
12 min read

This story appears in the August 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When you become an entrepreneur, you create a whole new world for yourself-a world founded on exploring your passion. Opportunity awaits you, but, truth be told, it is a little frightening. Uncertainty takes over as you step into this new life. Your heart and mind seem to be going down separate paths, but you are confident there are untapped possibilities within you. You know you must make your idea a reality.

The feelings you have are familiar. Perhaps you recall the day you left for college or the moment you walked through the door to your first job. From Day One, everyone else seems to know exactly what they are doing. It seems like a road map has been published, and you were left off the distribution list.

"This dream has been bottled up inside you for years-it's your true self, not what others perceive you to be."

They know the "lingo." You try to fit in, but you know that you are not yet part of this new world. You realize you have to carve out your own unique position and that it will take time. You know you will do a great job, if people will just give you a chance.

Welcome to the birth of an entrepreneur! As you develop your own business, you will no doubt experience these feelings all over again.

Adding to the swirl of confusion, your passion begins to push you into a place where you become totally open and vulnerable. Your friends and family may not be supportive, because you may not be able to fully communicate your state of mind and heart. This dream has been bottled up inside you for years-it's your true self, not what others perceive you to be. This is the critical point where you decide to go for it or not.

The Entrepreneurial Zone

Welcome to what I call "The Entrepreneurial Zone." This is the place where it all begins-a world full of exploding energy, fascinating ideas, overwhelming frustration and, of course, the unbelievable excitement of creation! It is a forceful, directed experience that also happens to be quite unsettling and isolating.

The Zone is not a place to fear or flee from. Your feelings are normal. That's right, normal. No need for a therapist to relieve your tension, because everyone pursuing a dream business goes through The Entrepreneurial Zone.

Unfortunately, unlike when you begin school or a new job, there is no structured guidance for you during this time. Our schools, institutions and, in fact, our way of life are set up to support careers in the "real world," not some "dream business." Instead of encouragement, you often hear, "Why not get a job and do what you love on weekends?" "How are you going to make money from that?" or "You're borrowing how much to get that business up and running?"

The Entrepreneurial Zone is the area where so many budding business owners quit. It is the "no one believes in what I'm doing but me" zone. But you do not have to become one of the casualties of this haunted space.

Stand firm, tall and proud, and stay the course. Leave old perceptions behind. Take the next step. Today is the day you identify who you are. The answers to all your questions are in the steps you are taking as you plan a course that will lead you to your new business. You'll find them if you take the time, find the courage and follow the time-tested advice you will gather.

The Feeling's Mutual

As your idea takes shape, ensure that the foundation you're laying is sound. Being an entrepreneur usually means not just having a dream, but also wanting it to happen now. This sort of over-eagerness can lead to the delivery of inferior products.

Don't miss an extraordinary chance to get the best advice you can-from folks who have already established a business in your field. Some people don't want to share their experiences, but there are a few tricks of the trade.

Go to another town and find a business that is similar to yours. If you're not going to be in competition geographically, the owner will have less to lose by sharing. Ask what he or she has learned. Discover ways to shorten your process and avoid costly mistakes.

Also try to find entrepreneurs who did not make it in your line of business. Why were they unsuccessful? Get a reality check by talking to potential customers. What are they expecting? Can you deliver it better than the guy down the street? Redirect your nervous, excited energy so you can concentrate on winning the game.

All Alone?

Have you ever gone to a restaurant in the United Kingdom by yourself? The popular greeting for the single visitor is, "All alone?" You look at the host and sigh, "Yes, I'm all alone." Compare that with the greeting you get at restaurants in the United States: "Party of one?"

To thrive in The Entrepreneurial Zone, you need to enjoy the adventure and keep a positive attitude. You have to become a party of one, independent. Isn't that why you want your own business?

Here's a little trick I use to remind myself I'm always a party of one. In my wallet, I carry a small piece of paper that says: "Dream like a child, decide as an adult."

Think about your business and dream about the possibilities. Visualize them. Like a child, believe in imagination and know that anything is possible. Then, as an adult, consider all the possibilities you've dreamed up and decide on the best course of action to take. What is the first thing you can do today to make your dream business a reality? What is the next step after that?

It is important, especially when the external world isn't wholly supportive, to maintain the balance between your dream and your reality. Never let the dreamer get too quiet, and always remember when to let the adult take over.

The adult seeks advice and wisdom on how to get from here to there. So work to continually expand your knowledge by referring to the resources around you. Discover how other entrepreneurs in your field achieved success. Keep the possibilities alive and your business moving forward.

The Energy Inside & Here and Now

The greatest challenge in The Entrepreneurial Zone is adjusting to the "new you." Once you enter The Zone, you actually stop using energy and begin creating it. Your internal energy (some call it spirit) expands. You realize it's not really about what you can get out of life, but rather how you can benefit other people. You are beginning to live your life from true intent-that burning feeling in your heart. It is hard work, but there is nothing more powerful and nothing more exciting.

Sure, The Zone is strewn with challenges. There will be moments when you will find yourself exhausted-completely overwhelmed with everything that has yet to be achieved. It may be when you apply for a trademark or when you seek financing, when you make your business cards or register your business with the city. Whenever that moment arrives, you'll know, because your stomach does a sideways flip.

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Here and Now
When you are navigating through The Entrepreneurial Zone, there will be moments when you think, "This thing is going nowhere fast." Relax. To become a successful entrepreneur, there is nowhere you must go. That's right. When you split the word "nowhere," you get "now" and "here." Nowhere = Now Here. You have already begun-"now" is the time, and "here" is the place to achieve your dream. Do it NOW; do it HERE.

Becoming an entrepreneur is a journey of a thousand little steps. The key is to stay present and focus on the one step you can take right now, right here.

Just like any new adventure, starting your own business comes in phases. And The Entrepreneurial Zone is a natural phase. If you feel lost, be patient. As your business continues to move forward, you will become more comfortable. You may even forget about that old world of "reality."

Succeeding in The Zone

To succeed in The Zone, there are three rules to live by:

  • Speak from your passion.
  • Write it down.
  • Listen to others.

Speaking from your passion is accomplished by opening up to what is in your heart. It is a cycle of energy that works much like an engine to keep you going. By speaking from your passion, you fuel a reserve of energy deep inside you. This passion also energizes others to help you. From your passion, they begin to understand that this is not just a dream, but your reality.

The best way to communicate your passion is to focus on your intent. What are you truly trying to accomplish? Write down how your business will benefit other people. People can't argue with benefits. Instead, they begin to share your vision and goals and then try to figure out a way to help you.

By listening to others, you make them part of your team. There is no greater feeling in the world than helping people achieve their dreams. The first four letters of listen are "LIST." Whenever anyone gives you an idea, a resource or a suggestion, list it. This list expands your dream and gives you new tactics. Go over the list at the end of the day and get energized by it. "L-I-S-T"en.

People believe what they can see. By simply writing your ideas down and sharing them, you establish a solid foundation for your business. Your friends, family and colleagues will recognize your passion and help it grow into a successful business. This is the help you need to navigate through The Entrepreneurial Zone.

The Inquisition

"Why not just make it a hobby?" "Do you know how many small businesses fail?" "How are you going to earn enough to survive?" Your friends and family will pelt you with these sorts of questions the minute you announce you are starting your own business. What do you say to them?

First, keep your feet planted in your intent and your head up. Be proud you're following your dream. Knowing that already makes you courageous.

Second, be direct. It's OK not to have all the answers right now. Building a successful business takes time. You can answer simply by saying it is not yet time because you are still in the process of discovery: "It is not time yet for me to talk about operations. I'm doing my homework." You don't have to answer to anyone but your own conscience and passion. Be true to them and let them support you when you face questions you're not yet ready to answer.

Begin Your Adventure & The Next Step

Take the time for a short exercise to relieve the stress of venturing into The Entrepreneurial Zone. First take out a piece of paper. Any piece of paper will do, even a napkin.

At the top, write the name of your business. If you have not named your business, make up a name or make up a dozen. Dream a bit.

Then, list all the reasons why you haven't implemented your idea and all the obstacles in your way. The reasons are many-we have all thought them: "I don't have enough time," "I need more money" or "My friends and family will think I'm crazy."

Learn More
It's inevitable: You will hit tough times in your new venture. Turn to It Takes Courage for guidance on surviving them.

Once you have finished writing, fold the piece of paper in half and hold it firmly. You are holding all your worries, fears and frustrations. Now, tear it up. That's right, tear up the piece of paper into the smallest bits and pieces you can. Ceremoniously put them in the trash bin. Let them go.

As you work on developing your idea, you will discover solutions to each of these concerns. You will learn the right questions to ask so you can receive the information you need. You have taken the first step. Now get ready for the ride!

The Next Step
When you speak from your true intent-your heart-you will spark other people's dreams. They, too, may open their hearts and dreams to you. They will look to you for guidance. Do not shut them out; share what you have experienced and learned. There is no better feeling than helping others achieve their dreams.

Don't be afraid to speak from your heart. Show people it is possible. Contribute to creating a world where everyone can experience making dreams a reality. Go for it, and proudly be a "party of one."

Speaker and consultant Romanus Wolter is known as "The Kick Start Guy." His book, Kick Start Your Dream Business, aims to help close the gap between goals and success.


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