This is a scary time in America. Indeed, it seems like the whole planet is frightened. Hundreds of millions of us are confined to our homes. Many of us can’t work; millions have been laid off.
So many small business owners have no cash cushion and are patiently waiting to see if they’re actually going to get a loan from the SBA that will eventually be forgiven.
And, as is often the case in times like these we’re told to hang on (which is good advice) and that we can get through this by being fearless.
That is not going to work!
Actually people advising others in general and entrepreneurs in particular to be fearless is one of my pet peeves. The assumption is that feeling fear is bad and being fearless is good. At first glance, especially for those of us who believe in the power of positive thinking, who like to encourage rather than discourage, who see the glass as half full would wholeheartedly agree with those statements.
Not so fast. Being fearless means different things to different people. Some may interpret the phrase as encouraging them to “be bold” or “have courage.” And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.
But there’s another definition of fearless: “oblivious of dangers or perils.” And that’s the one that concerns me. If you interpret fearlessness to mean, “proceed no matter what” instead of “proceed with caution,” then I’m talking to you.
I am not advocating that you should live in fear. Fear can be paralyzing, preventing us from taking that next step—or taking any steps at all. I agree, in principle, with President Franklin Roosevelt’s famous caution, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
But fear can be useful. I’m a big believer in listening to my gut. But my gut doesn’t only tell me when to “go for it,” it also lets me know when I need to slow down and consider my options. Being frightened makes me think twice, but it doesn’t hold me back.
Fear serves some other purposes. It can keep you grounded. As many times as I’ve appeared on TV or given a speech, I’m still always a little fearful before going on the air or walking up to the podium. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing and I don’t let it stop me. Rather, that twinge of anxiety keeps me from getting complacent and helps me maintain my edge.
Truthfully, as entrepreneurs you’re already familiar with this concept. Starting or growing a business requires you to be brave, bold, and audacious. So, yes, some degree of fearlessness is required. The key is to listen to your fear—what is it telling you?
Today, we have no idea what’s next as we fight this global pandemic. If your business is able to operate virtually, you’re one step ahead of many other business owners. But that doesn’t’ mean you shouldn’t be afraid. Bad things can still happen to your business. Use this time to anticipate them. My compatriot Brian Moran says play the “what if?” game. Preparing now for the next emergency will help keep you one step ahead.
If your business is significantly impacted, use the fear you’re likely feeling to plan how you will emerge from this. What will you do if this, or some other disaster affects your company in the future? Can you cite anything positive that has emerged from this situation? I read about one company that found working remotely went so smoothly, they plan to implement it on a permanent basis and save thousands of dollars in rent and overhead.
I’ll be honest with you. I’m usually an optimist. At the moment, however, my inner Pollyanna is afraid. But being scared has made me more aware and cautious—it hasn’t stopped me from moving ahead.
People cope in different ways. Sales of alcohol and marijuana (in states where it’s legal) are up. But there are many ways to reduce fear, including the usual maxims of “do your homework,” “be prepared” or “take a deep breath.”
Pick your solution of choice. And remember, the point is not to vanquish the fear, but to control it.
Photo courtesy: By Gustavo Frazao from Shutterstock