How To Turn Fear Of Failure Into Fuel For Fulfillment
I doubt you have many friends who understand what you're trying to do. They pass your business off as a hobby. It's anything but that to you. It's your ticket to freedom. You've tasted what it feels like to not answer to anyone but yourself. It's having the creative freedom to show up as your unapologetic self. There's something you can't explain to people who've never gone all in. Once you've found something you love doing, the money is secondary. It's like a sweet bonus. But the catch twenty-two is the obvious need to make money. How do you find the drive to keep going when you still don't see the light at the end of the tunnel?
Owner of Home By Nine, Tom Harman, had his first panic attack at 28 years old. Let's be clear on one thing. Anxiety is to a panic attack as a Toyota Prius is to a Tesla in a drag race. I liken my first panic attack to walking out the front door, not realizing I'm actually in a plane and I'm Spartan-kicked into a 10,000-foot free fall. Oh, and you forgot to pack a parachute because YOU HAD NO IDEA YOU WERE GOING SKYDIVING TODAY.
It wasn't until Tom's first panic attack that he found out that his father had taken antidepressants for most of his life. Then in August of 2018 Tom's father passed away at the age of 64. Tom saw that a huge part of the struggle in his own ability to get help was, like most men, he was hesitant to see any kind of doctor.
Tom decided to flip the script and start a t-shirt company. It's a company driven by purpose and like most entrepreneurs, fulfilling a desire to help others. He does it by donating a dollar from every shirt to mental health services. His hope is to make mental health something we can talk about without the bullshit stigma.
Passion and profit can sometimes feel like two ends of a magnet.
Tom came to realize while looking at how to grow his business, "There's lots of decent content out there, but so much of it just bombards you with people who are CRUSHING it and trying to sell you these $1,000 courses. It's not always motivating when you think everyone else is just high-fiving and making it RAIN dolla dolla billz 24/7."
Passion runs deep like the blood through your veins. It makes the idea of making a profit damn right terrifying. It feels like it's a part of you. Your whole sense of worth gets tangled in the web. And holy fuck is it ever scary watching a spider creep in as you lay helpless in its grip.
A lot of us expect far too much from our businesses early in the process. It's like being in first-year university and wondering why you don't understand what your older cousin is learning in his master's program.
My niece Mila is 14 months old. She can pull herself up, but her balance is like watching your Uncle Terry's night unfold at an open-bar wedding. It's hard to believe she'll ever walk. My sister could put her through military-esque bootcamp to get her walking, but we'd look at her like a frigging nutjob. And rightfully so.
And let's be honest, how many of your friends do you push around in a stroller because they said walking was too damn hard?
It's no different for your business or whatever the hell you want to do with your life. I hate when people tell me this, so please don't hate me for saying it, but it takes time. It might take a lot of time. As cliche as it is, there's a reason they say Rome wasn't built in a day.
Business is about baby steps.
It's not to say it will always be slow, but sometimes you need to go slow to go fast. You can learn only by doing. Mila will only learn to walk by putting one foot in front of the other.
In the early stages, this is your chance to work out the kinks and get your processes in order. Could you handle the influx of 100 new customers? Keep a stalker-level curiosity while helping your customers. It'll give you a chance to think about your offering, re-iterate and improve.
This is why so many business plans aren't worth the paper they're written on. Not everything can be planned with pin-point accuracy. Hell, Stephen King doesn't even plot out books. "I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren't compatible."
One of my business mentors, Mark Silver, has been doing this since 2001. He's worked with over 4,000 businesses. He continues to remind me that it can take anywhere from 2-4 years (or even longer) to get all the puzzle pieces in place. A far cry from the bazillion snake oil salesman promising you unclaimed fortunes. I don't want to discourage you, but nine times out of ten it's total bullshit.
That's not to say there aren't stepping stones to follow. But first you need a rough idea of where you want to go. I recommend you start by reading a piece I wrote called Change Or Die. It will help you craft one of these larger-than-life visions that make the process enjoyable, reduce stress and tame that nasty paralyzing fear. Visions cast a picture of what you're working towards. They aid in igniting the motivation needed to keep going and slay procrastination.
King may have been talking about writing when he said this, but it applies to doing anything challenging. "Let your hope of success (and your fear of failure) carry you on, difficult as that can be. There'll be time to show off what you've done when you finish, but even after finishing I think you must be cautious and give yourself a chance to think while the story is still like a field of freshly fallen snow, absent of any tracks save your own."
It's about putting front and centre why you're doing this. That why is the reserve you tap into when you're in the middle of the ocean and no breeze to push you forward. Like Tom, who has a mission-driven by a desire to fund the services and programs he used to take back control of his life. Every shirt he sells is one step closer to making that a reality for others. When our desire is to help others, we often overlook the fact that any contribution is world-changing. Everything has a ripple effect. But our impact can only be realized if we have the energy to keep going.
That's the beautiful part of stepping back and seeing that it's going to take some time. Gone is the dread and constant pressure of feeling like you need to turn every lemon into lemonade. It's like Tom creating a brand with a specific intention. Home By Nine is bigger than Tom. It's for his Dad, and the staggering 50% of the population that by the age of 40 will battle mental health.
We're likely to give up when we're just in it for the dollar. Working on something bigger than yourself is the only reason any of us are here. It's not work, it's purpose. It's a reason to get up and to put your blood, sweat and tears to work.
I talk about the why a lot because of this very reason. The key to your success is to find your rocket fuel. As Tom shared with me in a recent email, "I went through the same thing of being overwhelmed and wanting to quit. I have a few thousand dollars in t-shirts staring at me and haven't sold one in a week, but that's okay."
How to keep going is the hardest part of entrepreneurship.
So much of entrepreneurship is having faith in the process. Showing up on the good days, but especially on the shitty days because those are the days you want to give up. If you don't have a strong enough why to keep going, save yourself the rollercoaster of entrepreneurship and buy yourself a season's pass to Six Flags.
I'm coming up to the second year of my business and I'm still a little wobbly. The ground feels uneven under my feet. I question whether I'll ever work my way up to a leisurely jog without face planting. I'll sit on the curb for a minute or two, pick the gravel out of my wounds, re-group, and start again by putting one foot in front of the other. King said something that we so often forget and keeps you from doing hard things in life, "You will improve with practice, but practice will never make you perfect." Practice is the price you pay today to be better tomorrow.