Are You Afraid of the Dark? How to Start Your Start-Up and Leap Into the Unknown

During this time of year, we partake in the thrills of haunted hayrides and scary movies. But what’s even more chilling? Being on the perilous edge of building a new business.

Maybe you’re standing over that cliff. Maybe you really want to quit your current job and finally take that leap, ready to start that start-up. And maybe you’re hesitating. You think about all the various factors: responsibilities, timing, cash flow.

It all boils down to one simple fact: You’re afraid of the unknown.

What the fear of the unknown is really about is a need for control. We tell ourselves that in order to move forward, we must know what’s waiting on the other side. And it’s perfectly natural to feel this way. Would you eagerly open a door in a haunted house without knowing what was behind it? I’m guessing not.

We like to plan ahead, we like to be the boss of our own lives. But this fear can hold us back and stop us from taking steps forward that could very well pay off down the road. So here are some tips for how to shine a light in the dark, deal with uncertainty, and conquer that fear.

Make “Yes” Mode Your Default

As a leader, you set the tone. Your employees need to believe in your vision and feel assured that you’ll push through any challenges to get there. Your customers and clients need to trust that you’ll deliver on product promises. Your investors need to feel confident that they’ll see a return on their investments. You don’t have to know everything before you get started. And, in fact, you can’t. So you have to stay open to the new territory and whatever it may bring. You have to squash any “no” reflexes.

Be afraid – but still say yes.

Keep a Worry Journal

Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed by uncertainty or a new worry pops into your head, write about it. Jot down your feelings of fear and what’s prompting them. Write down just the facts. List things like: “I’m afraid that after X months, we won’t have made at least X dollars,” and “I’m worried that no one will purchase our app.” Eventually, you’ll notice patterns emerge in your journal, and from there, you’ll be able to understand what specifically you should act upon.

Take Small Steps Forward

Make a list of the small steps you can take immediately to calm your concerns. Break them into the smallest tasks possible – things you can accomplish in the next couple of days. Maybe it’s consulting with industry experts, putting up a website, or initiating conversations with vendors. Venture into the “haunted house” one baby step at a time. With each step, there will be light shed on your questions and doubts – and that light will help guide your way through the dark.

Prepare for Many Different Possibilities

You can also use this writing exercise as a chance to answer all those “what ifs” you have about the future: “What if I go bankrupt?” or “What if my idea just isn’t viable?” Then don’t just let your worries sit there – answer them right now. If you don’t make enough money, what practical course of action would you take? Indulge in you fear and ask straight-out: What’s the worst that can happen? Gain back some sense of control by thinking ahead. Make a list of every potential outcome you can think of and plan for what you will do about each: “If X happens, I will do Y.” Visualize all the various possibilities that may be waiting for you down the road.

Tackling the worst-case scenario can make the unknown a heck of a lot less scary.

Focus on What You Can Control

Instead of waiting for whatever it is behind the scary door to pop out and say, “Boo!” focus on what is within your control. Maybe you’re worried that when things get rough, your employees will bail. So look for people who will stick by you – look for partners in this venture. Start to tell people in your network about your product and identify their passions. Maybe you’re worried about not getting funding. So take the first step and start getting introduced to VCs. Make a list of people you know you can introduce you to the people you want to pitch.

Don’t let the unknown aspects overshadow what’s happening (or what could be happening) right now. The best way to “predict” the future is to create the one that you want.

Above All: Use Your Fear as a Motivating Force

Sure, uncertainty is natural. But here’s what I’m telling you to do: embrace the fear. Use the adrenalin rush to your advantage and realize that most of the monsters are just in your head (or out trick-or-treating, of course).

Don’t let fear get in the way of building your start-up and chasing your dream.

So are you afraid of the dark? How do you handle fear of the unknown?

Image via Shutterstock.

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