The following is excerpted from “The Entrepreneur’s Paradox“ by Curtis Morley (Mango Publishing, March 16, 2021).
Language is one of the most powerful tools in our personal arsenal to change our future. A single letter S can help you transform fear into power.
Evaluate these two phrases:
“What If” fuels fear, creates stories and distortions, and can start a downward spiral.
“What Is” leads to being present in the moment, creates ownership of the problem, lives in truth, dispels distortion, and creates ownership and responsibility.
There is only a one-letter difference, and yet the diverging roads from each are polar opposites of each other. By evaluating “What Is” in the current moment versus “What If” bad things happen in the future, the holder of these thoughts changes fear, uncertainty, and doubt into power.
As Shakespeare penned in Julius Caesar, “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once.”
Evaluate how you feel when you read the following “What If” statements:
- “What if…I mess up this presentation?”
- “What if…I launch this product and nobody buys it?”
- “What if…I go bankrupt?”
- “What if…I train my employees and they leave or try to compete?”
- “What if…my team doesn’t like me?”
- “What if…people find out I really don’t know how to start a business?”
- “What if…I spend $30,000 on a website redesign and I don’t see any ROI?”
- “What if…someone thinks I’m incompetent?”
- “What if…I’m not good enough, fast enough, smart enough, strong enough, or even just enough?”
Did you experience tension in your chest? Did you feel nervous or anxious? I’ve had all of these thoughts and worries as an entrepreneur, and nearly all entrepreneurs feel the same way. Whenever you hear yourself saying these sentences in your mind or whenever you feel this type of anxiety, swap the letter “f” for an “s” and see what happens.
Here are some of the power statements within “What is…”
- “What is…my goal?”
- “What is…my responsibility in the situation?”
- “What is…the one thing (the first thing) I can do today to progress toward my goal?”
- “What is…in my power to change?”
- “What is…the truth?”
- “What is…important right now?”
- “What is…the opportunity cost if I don’t take action?”
- “What is…the path I choose to take?”
- “What is…my opportunity in this trial?”
- “What is…a third alternative I haven’t thought of yet?”
- “What is…the next step?”
Notice the difference in how you felt? My guess is you felt empowered, ready to face the challenge, excited, and maybe even exhilarated.
Fear is a liar because it tries to get us to believe we aren’t capable and that life is outside of our control. Fear puts us in a fixed mindset that paralyzes us along our journey to the top of the mountain.
How often do we delve into those fears and let them control our thinking, or worse, debilitate our actions?
Seneca may have put it best:
There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.
I was lucky enough to coach Scott Severe, who was worried his company’s software and accompanying app were not able to keep up with a competitor. The competitor was the largest in the industry and Scott was trying to compete by adding developers, money, and resources to build the most feature-rich app possible.
He feared that his offering was not as good and his company would lose clients and market share if they didn’t keep adding tools and features like their competitor. The trouble was, ninety percent of all expenses were being spent on the development team salaries and technology.
They kept asking, “What if we don’t keep up? What if we don’t have the best technology? What if we don’t have the latest and greatest features?”
I challenged their fears by asking them “What Is” questions.
Q: “What is the offering in its current iteration?”
A: “A pretty good product.”
Q: “What is the minimum viable product?”
A: “We’ve already achieved it.”
Q: “What is the worst that would happen to sales if you stopped developing today?”
A: “Probably nothing.”
Q: “What is the longest you could go without adding another feature and still get clients?”
A: “Probably a year, maybe a year and a half.”
Q: “What is the best use of your money/revenue right now?”
A: “Using our money to make more money.”
Q: “What is the shortest route to more revenue?”
A: “Adding salespeople.”
After several “What Is” questions, it was decided Scott would take the money he was going to spend on future development and hire salespeople instead. The decision was clear. The software is good enough in its current version. New clients wouldn’t even notice if new features weren’t rolled out for a year or more, and current clients weren’t complaining about missing features. Scott’s company focused their efforts on ways to make more money instead of developing an endless array of “What If” questions and ended up doubling revenue in one year!
The competitor he was worried about keeping up with was so impressed by the sudden jump in revenue they decided to buy Scott’s company.
Changing the letter f to the letter s transforms your entire perspective on the reality of life in the present moment. It brings focus to the now and replaces all of those stomach-churning moments with a sense of determination and safety because you choose to take control. The truth that annihilates fear is that you have control of your choices in every situation.
The next time you are feeling worried or anxious, I invite you to take a good hard look at the “What Ifs” you are telling stories about and change them into “What Is” truths about the present moment, the choices you have, and your responsibility in it. This simple technique has saved me and many budding entrepreneurs from the paralyzing nature of fear and allowed us to get back to work.
“The Entrepreneur’s Paradox” is available for purchase on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, and can be pre-ordered via StartupNation.com.