Trick or Treat: Facing the Fear of Growing a Business

face fearsAs you step up to your door, you feel the cold wind blow on your face. We are deep in the fall season, and we know what that means: Halloween. Memories of the creepy, scary monsters take the chill at our backs and send it down the spine. Sure, there is candy to sweeten the deal, but the whole Halloween carnival is about looking fear in the eyes. Are you ready?

Fear is a part of life. It is one of the oldest memories of humanity and it is here to stay. Yet, fear has its purpose. It keeps us alive and safe — when we pay attention properly. My impulse personally is to avoid things that scare me. I don’t like being afraid. What is this fear holiday celebration all about? I’ve learned that anthropologists have a name for it: inversion holiday.

In normal everyday life, things are done in an expected way. A lot of cultures pick a time to have an opposite day, known as the inversion holiday. On these special holidays, we let the wrong things be right. The special madness of the holiday serves a purpose. Making space to practice facing our fears is a successful strategy for any group of humans. Halloween is a safe sandbox to practice being scared and living to tell the tale. It could be seen as a small training ground for bravery.

Fear has its purpose, but overcoming it is valuable. Overcoming it in business is even more useful. I know I’m not the only one who feels a little scared of what is happening in business right now. This is truly an unprecedented set of circumstances. Customers are indecisive about what purchasing decisions to make. Manufacturers are not sure what those same customers are going to want in the next six months. And, everyone is uncertain about when an order can be fulfilled or when it will actually show up. Things we used to rely on — overnight delivery, anyone? — have become far less certain.

Every opportunity involves a risk. If I want to get more than I already have, I must push past what I know. I have to be brave and go into the scary unknown to get the chance to win big. Harvard Business Review has a great article taking a look at fear in business. They give this advice, saying, “For entrepreneurs, courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to persist in spite of it.”

We can do what comes naturally and avoid the scary stuff. However, if we choose to run away in fear, we miss out on many opportunities. The choice to avoid costs us the opportunity we could have had to explore, learn and grow. If we hide forever, we miss out on all the opportunities. Facing our fears and braving the unknown is worth doing. Some scary things are so overwhelming that I avoid them, but then there are fears that motivate me to move. If I believe that action will take me away from that scary thing, then I will perform that action. I chase it with dedication and determination. Fear that doesn’t paralyze can be a good motivator.

My business needs me to get out there and keep going, despite all the reasons I’d like to hide under a rock. In fact, the Halloween season of creepy and scary fits my mood right now. But I know I can’t be a baby and hide.

I want to get the goodies. That’s the lesson of Halloween; if I’m brave enough to walk past all the scary unknowns and ask for what I want, I will be rewarded. I can feel the fear of knowing how uncomfortable it is to talk to my team and my customers about what is going on. It can be scary to talk about what is possible and make plans to do big things. There are a lot of good people out there and a lot of good businesses that are just waiting for me to ask.