Founders and Fear

— July 27, 2019

Founders and Fear

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“Am I the only one who is terrified, worried that I don’t have what it takes or will make the wrong decision?” “What if we don’t raise the needed funds, how will I find the cash?” I can quote hundreds of more questions just like these, but here is a simple truth; being a founder is scary as hell.

The entrepreneurs that succeed aren’t fearless. Instead, they’ve learned to dance with fear. They accept that it is an ever-present companion, a shadow that follows them step for step. They don’t try to hide from it or push it from their consciousness. They accept it and recognize it is part of the journey.

Fear and its close cousin worry serve a purpose. Understanding that will help lessen the grip they can have on you. They are your protectors, guardians against complacency and stagnation. It might be nice to contemplate a time when you can catch your breath and relax. However, that is a pipe dream as fear and worry won’t allow it.

The unfortunate thing is that we don’t talk about it enough. I feel as if we attach a stigma to fear. We create a false narrative that being scared is equal to being weak. That is bullshit. Being afraid and moving forward despite that is the definition of courage.

What drives me crazy is that almost every week I have at least one conversation with a founder about fear and the isolation that it causes. They feel they are the only ones suffering in its insidious grasp. Each time, I try to reassure them that they have plenty of company. I share that I’ve yet to meet a single entrepreneur who hasn’t dealt with being terrified, and all have some baseline level of terror in their daily lives. Why don’t founders talk to founders about being scared? Why do most feel they need to project absolute confidence when talking to their peers?

We need to support each other as we all attempt to dance with fear. I will broaden this to say that we need to be transparent on the toll entrepreneurship can take on mental health. To avoid having this conversation is a massive disservice to our industry.

I am going to start. I am scared. Somedays it has me fully in its grasp and on others, it sits on my shoulder and pokes me from time to time. I recognize it, accept it and in a warped way thank it for its role as protector. For a long time, I thought I was alone in this dance. I would create an internal dialogue belittling myself for this “weakness.” But now, I see it as a strength. It doesn’t stop me. I am not paralyzed by it. Nope, I move forward every day, and I am proud of myself because I know the courage it takes. Mostly, however, I take comfort that I am not alone. This nightclub has plenty of other founders twirling around the dance floor with fear. Let’s turn the lights up so we can see that the dance floor is packed and let’s start talking about it with one another.

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Author: Elliot Begoun

Elliot Begoun is the Principal of The Intertwine Group, a practice focused on accelerating the growth of emerging food and beverage brands. He helps clients gain distribution and win… View full profile ›

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