The Million Dollar Tattoo

Learning how to turn ideas into action

The Fear of Success – Knowing when to Fight the Instinct to Quit and Run

I just finished having a discussion with a friend about the fear that I’m feeling at the moment in regards to launching my business. To be perfectly honest I’m having doubts about my concept, the viability of my business and whether anyone will actually use my service.

I’ve experienced this before, and it’s something that everybody feels in one way or another during their life. One of the main reasons for this is what Seth Godin has referred to as ‘the lizard brain’. The fear generally rises the closer towards launch you are, and the logic behind it makes perfect sense. Your primitive brain is trying to protect you from failure. In times long ago this was amazingly useful behaviour, as failure could equate to injury, exile or death. The thing is that these days we don’t have the same consequences to worry about, yet the underlying sensation of fear is just as acute.

As I was saying to my friend, the sensation of fear can also be a fear of success. Success may mean changing your lifestyle, moving in different circles and almost certainly facing many unknown situations on an almost daily basis. As human beings we can crave certainty, so success can pose a similar threat to our primitive side – it is much safer to stick to the path most travelled than risk facing unknown routes through life.

The above is not to say that sometimes these fears aren’t justified. Sometimes the fear is of a concept or idea being torn apart or invalidated. Although in the short-term this may be painful, it can save you from much greater risks in the long-term. Some ways to face this fear and discover warning signs early on is through the process of customer development. As has been well-documented, no business plan survives first contact with the customer. Embracing this fact and acknowledging that a great many of your assumptions will prove to be incorrect is a necessary step towards eventual success.

Remember – failure is feedback and being wrong is a part of life. Entrepreneurship is not about taking risks – it’s about understanding the risks, making every attempt to minimize them and then making a final decision about whether to forge ahead or change paths.

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