Everyone experiences fear. What defines you is how you face it. We asked these successful entrepreneurs and advisors in The Oracles to tell us how they manage their biggest fears.
1. Don’t avoid your fear — leverage it
Fear is a great thing. It’s nature’s way of awakening us to danger, like when a lion is about to chase us. It puts you in a heightened state of awareness and performance and can bring out the best in you. My greatest fear is not fulfilling my potential. I’m terrified of missing out on the life I was supposed to have. I imagine two scenarios when I die and meet the person I could have been: In heaven, we’re identical twins. In hell, we’re strangers.
I created that fear on purpose because I believe in leveraging fear, not avoiding it. When I make a decision, I ask myself whether it puts me closer to becoming that man or further away. Every action I take stems from that fear, including whether to make a phone call or go to the gym. I don’t even want to overcome my fears because when I do, I lose that leverage.
2. Ask yourself what you would do if you weren’t afraid
Early in my career, I decided to leave a secure job at General Electric for a job at a startup. Others thought I was crazy for risking everything, and I began to doubt myself. But I made the leap and joined the company that would become AOL. We helped usher in the internet revolution and changed countless lives, an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world.
I’m inspired by those who challenge themselves and others by asking, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” My new book, “Be Fearless,” tells the stories of individuals who answered that question with action. It provides a road map to anyone seeking a transformational breakthrough. This doesn’t mean I’ve overcome all my fears — far from it. Fearlessness isn’t the lack of fear, but the ability to overcome it.
3. Hack your fear
Law No. 10 in my new book, “Game Changers,” says that “fear is the mind killer.” This primal emotion serves as a survival mechanism and is triggered by failure. To our ancestors, failure meant being eaten by a tiger or starving to death. While humans have evolved, the biological fear of failure remains. But fear of failure causes failure, creating a cycle.
Don’t give in to fear — hack it instead. Fear is the root of all negative emotions, from anger to jealousy and guilt. Positive emotions like confidence, courage and gratitude are rooted in trust. When you realize that, you can transform fear-based emotions into trust-based emotions. Learning how to make your body less afraid of failure liberates enormous energy that you can use how you choose. In the height of an anxious moment, ask yourself whether you trust that you will come out on the other side. I believe you will.
4. Choose to live deliberately
My biggest fear is looking back in 10 years and realizing that nothing has changed in my life except my age. I leverage this fear daily to drive myself and my family toward the greatness we all possess, but it takes discipline. Whenever anyone wants to quit, including me, I remind us that we’re enduring this to become our best selves. I give my husband and children the good pieces of me, even if it’s a struggle. I keep myself accountable by honoring my commitments — for example, homeschooling our children.
I encourage my family to find their potential by setting an example. I challenge my biases and seek fresh perspectives by listening with an open mind and heart. I compartmentalize and muster through the worst days but celebrate the best ones. I allow myself just to be me. We can all make this choice, but it takes courage. Choose to live deliberately, with purpose and intention.
5. Remember: the tightrope is only inches off the ground
I started my first business when I was 14 years old. At 18, the business was in trouble and I was in way over my head. I was overwhelmed, losing sleep and making bad decisions. My biggest fear was failure. When I finally closed the business, that fear came true — but it didn’t kill me. In fact, I got the best night’s sleep I’d ever had.
My worst fear wasn’t so bad after all. The tightrope I’d been walking was only inches off the ground. When you realize that, you can walk much faster the next time you’re on a tightrope. That experience taught me to cover my downside, reduce my risks to just my time, and go flat out. By structuring deals so I couldn’t lose, I could seize opportunities that scared others. This has shaped everything I do and is the essence of my business today.
—Jeremy Harbour, investor and mergers and acquisitions expert; founder and CEO of Unity Group and Harbour Club; author of “Go Do!” and “Agglomerate: From Idea to IPO in 12 Months”; follow Jeremy on Twitter and LinkedIn
6. Don’t go it alone
Fifteen years ago, my 3-year-old son was diagnosed with a large brain tumor. Without a doubt, that was the scariest situation I’ve ever had to face. When I heard the diagnosis, I shut everyone out, including my family. I felt like secluding myself would save me. Only after I let my guard down did I find the tools to take control of my fear. Two emergency surgeries saved my son’s life. Now he’s 18 years old.
Sometimes our defense mechanisms make us do exactly what we shouldn’t. When we face a fear that seems too big to handle, we become overwhelmed. We try to avoid all stimuli and distractions to save our energy and search for a solution inside ourselves. But in most situations, the answers won’t come from within. Step outside of yourself and accept that facing fear is not something we can do alone. We need others who have our backs.
7. Look for the possibility behind the fear
My biological father left my mom before I was born. As a result, I’ve had a burning desire to choose my destiny for as long as I can remember — along with a crippling fear of living without freedom. This has been a challenge personally and professionally. It has driven and stopped me time and again, keeping me from long-term relationships and even preventing me from hiring my first assistant.
I’ve learned to understand that my fear prevents me from making decisions that fulfill my dreams. Now when that fear appears, I ask myself, “What would be possible if I faced this fear?” The most important thing has been taking time to quiet my inner voice and listen to the possibility that hides behind the fear. Nothing in my life would be possible without this skill. What is stopping you?
—Keri Shull, founder of the Keri Shull Team, which has sold over $2 billion in properties; co-founder of real estate coaching business HyperFast Agent; named one of America’s Best Real Estate Agents by REAL Trends; connect with Keri on Facebook
8. Face your fear and rebuild
As a young entrepreneur, my greatest fear was not succeeding in business. After I tasted success, it evolved into a fear of losing what I’d worked so hard to accomplish. So, when I lost millions from a fraudulent business partner, my greatest fear came true. I was devastated by despair, doubt and depression. Over time, a beautiful lesson emerged from the pain: When you face your greatest fear, you realize it’s not as bad as you imagined.
Even on the verge of financial ruin, my situation couldn’t kill me. I learned that I never have to fear financial scarcity because I’m not afraid to work hard. We have unlimited options if we remain resourceful. With a positive mindset, we can always rebuild. We grow even faster because we’re more experienced, wiser and stronger. New passion, purpose and confidence reverberate from those who rise up from the ashes of their fear.
9. Charge forward with a plan
Fear was always something that could stop me dead in my tracks until I tried a more logical approach to facing it. I learned that I should not only lean in but write down a plan to address it head-on by asking “why” or “so what” at least five levels deep.
What is the fear that is holding me back? Why is it there? What happens if it comes true? How would I address it? What good could come from it? How could I avoid it? What is the consequence if I don’t go for it? Why is this fear nonexistent moving forward? Once I address the deepest part of my fear, it’s often much smaller than my imagination lets me believe.
Originally published on Entrepreneur.com © 2019 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.