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Am I failing as an entrepreneur?

Here is a confession : I am scared.

It is a stormy day. As I look out my balcony window I see the sky filled with angry clouds . That is exactly how I feel as I write this, a feeling of fear and uncertainty filling me up like those angry clouds.

Do entrepreneurs have fear?

When you read about Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, there is enormous praise about how they did what no one else had the guts to do and followed their passion. It makes me wonder. How did they feel when they initially took the plunge? How did Steve Jobs feel on the day he decided to quit school and start working on giving shape to his ideas? Was he scared? Did he feel uncertain about his ideas? Did he ever think that his idea would fail him and he will be forced to work flipping burgers?

I didn’t grow up in an entrepreneurial environment. I come from a family of scientists. I know I am a good scientist, I am sure I am not a good entrepreneur. I fear failure. I fear the unknown. I have so many what-ifs running in my head.

Blogging has opened up a new world of entrepreneurship to me but there is something that is stopping me going from all out and making the big leap. I keep thinking about parachutes, the ground rushing up to slam into me, how I’m not a natural risk taker and how comfortable I am right now.

Conventional wisdom tells me I should be feeling liberated, not uncertain.

Fear of financial insecurity

This is my main fear. As my husband puts it, I want success without losing any of the comforts I already have, which might or might not happen. Right now, I have a job that I like (except for the office politics) and if I have to quit that directly affects the lifestyle we have. Will I be able to buy my own home? Will we have enough to fund our kids education? What happens if my husband loses his job?

Fear of failure

I don’t like to fail. I mean who does. But I have trouble taking ownership of my mistakes without drowning myself in shame and self pity. Without my family I would have quit a long time ago. They constantly make an effort to put me together again, every time I shatter. I should learn to recognize the valuable lessons from each of my experiences whether successful or not.

Fear of risk

So far, I’ve managed to plan my life and it has gone close-to-planned. That doesn’t mean I haven’t had to expend considerable effort, so I am not deluding myself that this is going to be easy. But I am venturing into hitherto unknown territory without a map. What-if no one reads my blog? What if Google stops sending me any traffic at all? What if I don’t get any clients for my other ventures? What if I my growth plateaus?

Fear of society

May be this is because I grew up in a very tight knit community where we give importance to the opinions of the extended family, but I feel scared about what others will think of my failure. It won’t affect me as much as it affects my parents. My parents will feel bad if someone comes and comments about my failure.

 

Entrepreneurship Fear

 

To sum it up – Am I good enough for this? Do my many fears imply I failing as an entrepreneur?

The long, winding road.

So far I have not let my fear dominate me which admittedly has taken tremendous encouragement and help from family. I know if I give in and start panicking I will go into decision paralysis. I am not about to ignore my fears. I am learning to listen to and adapt to my fears. That has led me to always have a plan B.

Fear has led me into establishing some milestones to evaluate my growth so that I can get out and pursue other directions instead of hanging on past the point of sanity.

Finally I should learn to better embrace my failures and analyze them without beating myself up too much.

I don’t know if those brilliant entrepreneurs felt fear and uncertainty. I most certainly feel them.

I don’t know entrepreneurship but I know science. A lot of brilliant products and theories have come from failure. The only way forward is to acknowledge my fears and work with them to succeed.

As dramatic as it might sound, there are two beautiful rainbows in the sky now. I guess I should hold on to my hope and work on what I can do to make my dreams come true. I won’t quit because I am scared.

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Petra

I think you are very smart for being scared. People who are never scared take a lot of dumb decisions :-) . I cannot tell how the big successfull people in this world have felt at the times when they needed to make scary decisions. But you should consider the fact that other people in this world have made similar decisions… and have failed indeed. So the decisions the big succesfull people have made may not turn out to be the best predictor of the decisions you should make. (As a scientist you may know this: don’t look at 80-year olds and ask them how many smoked, and then say that because some of them have smoked, smoking apparently helps you to become 80 year old… Look at 20 year olds and follow them over time… That will really tell you which people will most likely make it to 80… ).

I think being a little bit scared is healthy. And as they say: courage is not never being afraid, courage is being afraid, and doing it after all…
Have that plan B. Have a plan C and D if that makes you feel better. Work out some scenarios; and try to make your plan A failproof. Also know when to take your losses (on plan A) and turn to plan B or plan zero instead…

Finally: good luck. Every endeavour needs some good luck…

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Suba

I am trying to plan for every possible situation, but I know there will be a lot that I am not thinking about. I guess it comes down to figuring out what the worst case will be.

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cashflowmantra

These sentiments that you share sound very familiar. I think I would go for it if it were just me, but I am the main bread winner so it is not right to make my family starve to follow my dreams which may or may not work. So, I grow things slowly in my spare time.

I wish you luck on the decisions that you make.

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Jon - Free Money Wisdom

I think fear is natural, however, when it disables you it becomes a problem. Winston Churchill said that the “only thing to fear is fear itself.” Conquering those fears are essential and I think the only way to do that is to take a leap of faith.

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Jeff @mymultiplestreams

I have those fears everyday, sometimes more than others. When I look at the calendar at the beginning of the month and dont see a lot of session booked I always wonder if I will even break even that month (ok every month). I always tell myself that it will always work out in the end, keeping a positive mind set helps, and it tends to do that.

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Ryan

You need to put the fear behind you. Forget about it, come on… What is the worst that could happen? You’re not going to die from it.

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Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter

I haven’t started a business on my own yet but this is one of my fears. Stable income is really important and the unknown can be really scary. However I have been told that somehow things can work out and you shouldn’t not pursue your dream because of these fears.

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Marie at FamilyMoneyValues

“I didn’t fail, I discovered 10,000 ways not to make a lightbulb” – Thomas Edison.
You are the only person in the world that knows the amount of risk you can take.
I think you are doing great!

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Ronda Swaney

I quit a good job in April 2010 to start full-time freelance writing. I stayed terrified for about 1 year. The fear is mostly gone now but occasionally pops up here and there. And that’s okay. Use your fear to your advantage. Imagine what is the absolute worst that can happen and then ask if you can live with that. Then ask how you can prevent the worst from happening. I socked away 1 year’s of living expenses before I quit. That helped alleviate my fear a little, but also helped me not feel desperate to the point that I had to take any stupid project that came along. Also, fear is a HUGE motivator. It can propel you forward. When you know that a paycheck won’t come if you don’t put in the effort, you’ll make the effort. Your fear is real and logical and will probably take a long time to go away. But all I can say is that this trip has totally been worth it and I will never go back to an office again if I can prevent it. Leap and the net will appear.

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Matt Bell

Thanks for a great, honest post. I think it would be a bad sign if you didn’t feel fearful. It’s been six years since I left the seeming security of a corporate job. Since I left, several of my colleagues have been laid off; several have even died. Part of what motivated me to make the leap was not wanting to live with the regret of playing it too safe. It also helped a lot to have a very supportive spouse. I still feel fearful, and yet I have never felt more strongly that I am doing what I was designed to do. Keep being honest and keep moving forward. You’re doing a great job!

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Mike - Saving Money Today

We all go through periods of fear and insecurity Suba. There’s no shame in admitting you’re a little scared. But I hope you choose to hang in there. I think you’re doing a great job and you’d be missed.

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Hunter - Financially Consumed

It takes a special type of person to make their own living by creating an operating a business. I think you’re approach is destined for success. You are goal oriented, dedicated to those goals, work hard, periodically take stock and re-evaluate your direction by measuring your success. Business owners are the adaptive force behind the ecomomy and employees do what they are told. There is risk no matter which side of the fence you are on, but more reward for the owner.

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Eric J. Nisall

Everyone has fears, especially entrepreneurs. If anyone says otherwise they are lying. You know what makes a person courageous? It’s not doing something stupid like jumping out of a plane or wrestling a bear. True courage is admitting to having fear and then proceeding to not only face them but conquer them as well. We all go through rough patches, but the key is to keep pushing forward. And if it helps, I can guarantee that EVERY person who put their entire lives into a business felt scared at one point or another.

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Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager

I think this is why I’m not much of an entrepreneur. Those pesky risky feelings would drive me crazy.

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YFS

Fear is good! It let’s you know that you won’t act irrational and stupid. I am fearful everyday that I have miscalculated something or missed something. It makes me extra careful and go the extra mile to ensure a deal is worth pursuing. Use the fear to make you go harder and further in areas you were once weak in.

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krantcents

Everybody have fears and failures. Successful people overcome heir fear and keep working hard o overcome failure. Even Steve Jobs made his mistakes, but he learned from them.

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Malathy

Why fear, I am here- Sai Baba
Successful man will not get frightened. He will always set a goal and achieve the one.
There is nothing equal to hard work.Hardwork will bring sweet fruits to your wealthinformatics tree
Go Go Go till you achieve the goal, never give up

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Financial Samurai

Suba, I share your fear. However, we’re fortunate we have jobs, and your husband is working no? If so, shouldn’t’ we actually be fearless?

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Suba

Yes, my husband is working, but we are not living on one income alone. I am planning out the scenario of how much hit we have to take if we lose my income and how long we can ride if my husband loses his job at the same time. It is just scary.

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Sam

Are things a little shaky in your field? With your technical background, I’d think you’d be in high demand.

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Little House

I completely understand your fear of failure. Who doesn’t think about this when they take a risk? But knowing that it’s OKAY to fail because we learn from those failures is what sets entrepreneurs apart from people who just can’t get it together and get something started. You’re ahead of the game; you’ve started something that you’ve committed to and are plugging ahead even though you have doubts. That’s more than most people can say.

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MoneyCone

If you don’t have fear, you will end up being reckless! Look at the CEOs that ran the economy to the ground! All Wallstreet CEOs had a golden parachute – even if the company goes bankrupt, they’ll get their share.

With nothing to lose, they took on unnecessary risks and ended up bringing a country to its knees.

I know it is a strange analogy, but a little fear is a good thing.

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Christa

If it wasn’t scary or difficult, it wouldn’t be worth doing. I think every entrepreneur is scared at one time or another. There are so many what ifs to launching your own business. But having a plan for your venture and research backing you up can make it all seem less scary. Good luck!

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SB @ One Cent At A Time

Take the step Suba. You won’t do bad and you are on very strong footing already.

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Untemplater

You’re very talented Suba and I have no doubt you can do whatever you set your mind to. I’m not a big risk taker myself and I’m uncomfortable with the thought of quitting my job today to be a full time entrepreneur too. I like the stability of my day job and I love getting a regular paycheck without fearing if I’ll have enough coming in to cover my bills. It’s quite tiring though at times to juggle so many things, but I’m happier to be busier now while I still feel young and don’t have kids yet. (I’m sure I’ll be even busier once I’m a mom!)

There’s no reason for you to quit your day job if you don’t want to and aren’t ready for a lifestyle change. I think you’ll know deep down when the time is right. I’m giving myself somewhere between 2-5 years before I take the plunge and who knows it may be a lot sooner or a lot later than that. I hope you don’t feel discouraged because you’re really doing great and I love reading your articles. You write from the heart and are so creative and thorough. Keep up the awesomeness! -Sydney

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Suba

I am contemplating quitting for health reasons as well, that is why all the calculations and figuring out the time line.

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Beating Broke

As someone who just recently quit their job and is going to try and make a go of the blogging and online business thing, I know that it’s all very scary. And I don’t think that really goes away. I think that it’s merely a matter of making that fear work for you; to drive you towards success.

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Funancials

Remember risk=reward. Anytime there’s fear or doubt, look at Crystal’s recent statistics to see the reward.

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retirebyforty

I’m with Financial Samurai. If your husband have a job and can support the family for a bit, then you shouldn’t be afraid of striking out. You can always go back to work if it doesn’t work out right?
We are working toward living on one paycheck and once that happens, then I’ll probably pull the chord.
I’m afraid of failure too, but I’ve come to view failure as a necessity. I don’t think you can succeed without tasting failure so might as well meet it head on.

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Maria@moneyprinciple

You know what? I know your fear existentially – I feel the same and then some. What I’ve noticed is that that the difference between me and ‘doers’ is not in whether ot not they feel fear – they do as well. But they manage to reach beyond it – they chunk things down and once they have become smaller they fear less. Looking at your blog my guess is that you will be just fine once you get out of the grip of fear.

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Donna Freedman

Myself, I think if entrepreneurs aren’t afraid then they’re not being realistic. Or maybe they are so full of their own splendidness that they don’t see reality. (“I’m TOO BIG to fail!”)
I agree that fear is a great motivator in that it gets you to think about all the possibilities (you can call them “what-ifs”) and figure out how you’d deal with them if they happened. That’s not fear so much as good planning.
You know how our moms used to drive us nuts insisting we take sweaters? When the sky clouded over and we started to shiver, we were glad enough to untie those sweaters from around our waists. Up until then we might have phrased it as, “Mom always thinks the worst.” Now that we’re adults we know that “Mom always thought ahead.”
If my opinion matters a damn to you, I’d say you’re doing things the right way: Moving into entrepreneurship while you’re still employed at the day job, and testing out all the eventualities in your mind before taking additional steps. That’s not cowardly. It’s smart.

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Crystal

You are not failing and fear is natural. I’ve been successful for the last few months yet I still annoy my husband with my worries that it will all end and I never know what’s coming…I think worry is natural. Just don’t let it hold you back!

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Ben Edwards

I think the best way for you to deal with this fear is to get on the phone with entrepreneurs who also struggled w/something similar and overcame it. Ask them what they did to get past the fear and how it turned out for them.

I can think of a few good people for you to talk to, email me if you want their contact info.

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Suba

Thanks a lot for the offer Ben. I would love to talk to them, I will email you.

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101 Centavos

Good thing you’re scared. Fear is a wonderful motivator. It’s what kept the cavemen from walking too slow and becoming sabertooth tiger chow.

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Invest It Wisely

Hi Suba,

I have the same fears and doubts, and I go through the same feelings that you do. It really helps to have a great network of people you can talk to, share your fears, and learn feedback from. I also beat myself up too much on failures, but you know what? Each failure is also an opportunity and a lesson learned.

I am not fearless, but I’ve pot committed myself to going all-in. No regrets!

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Kris @ Everyday Tips

Suba, you are not giving yourself nearly enough credit. Look how far you have come in just one year! You have met a whole new network of people who all respect you, you have helped countless people with your writing, and more.

Fear is a natural part of life, but you have to know when to let it motivate you and when to hold you back. As an outside observer, I see you as a huge success already and I think you should follow your dreams. If I had worried about my husband losing his job, I would have lost years and years with my kids and other things. You can’t guide your life solely on fear. Fear does have its place, but so does risk.

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Shaun @ Money Cactus

Nothing wrong with one step at a time so long as you keep moving forward. Is it possible to reduce your hours or days so you can work your way into your project? At the end of the day there is always some risk, but if you have the right attitude you will succeed.

I’m sure you can do it ;)

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Suba

Thanks for the support, everyone. I really appreciate it.

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Jen @ Master the Art of Saving

Being an entrepreneur can be really scary. I think it’s good to be fearful because it’ll help you keep things in check. :-)

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Paula @ Afford Anything

“I want success without losing any of the comforts I already have, which might or might not happen” — this is normal. I once heard the quote that entrepreneurs spend a few years living in a way that most others won’t tolerate, in order to have the potential payoff of living the rest of their lives in a way most people only dream of.

At the same time, regardless of inspirational platitudes, there’s a very real risk. I like to think of a salary job as “bond investing” or, more aptly, “fixed income investing,” while entrepreneurship is similar to “stock investing” — more potential gain but more risk.

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Bret @ Hope to Prosper

Suba,

I think it’s a lot easier to quit your job later than to quit now and find another job in a financial pinch. I am double-dipping for now, but I would like to go out on my own in the future. My spouse doesn’t work, so I have to be more conservative. Plus, I really like my job and don’t have any burning reason to quit. It’s very nice to have options.

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