Toddlers are fearless creatures when trying new things.
My 2-year-old daughter has recently been teaching herself how to somersault. She sets herself up in the backyard — crouched down, her head planted in the soft grass. Slowly she walks forward, up towards her own head—and then executes a superb fall onto her side. Sometimes, if she’s lucky, she’ll end up on her back, wearing a massive grin and marveling at her own accomplishment.
It doesn’t matter that she doesn’t get it right every time. She’s not thinking about how she could hurt herself, or whether she’ll look like a fool, or what other people will think of her. Her goal is simple: Do a somersault because somersaulting is awesome.
And then there’s me. I’m the kind of person that feels the need to do the world’s greatest somersault every time. That I should be able to do a perfect somersault without constant practice. (and failure) That if I try and do a somersault, and it doesn’t work, somehow that means I’ll never be able to somersault again.
New Things Are Scary
I’m terrified of trying new things, in case they don’t work out exactly as intended. The trouble is, everything is new when you’re trying to start a new baby business like I am. And every part of the process is scary, especially for me—hell, it kept me from even considering leaving the comfort of employment and getting started for 10 years.
I’m afraid I won’t be able to create something people find valuable. I’m scared that even if I do create something, no one would want to buy it. I’m worried that sharing my thoughts in public might lead to people judging me. I panic about burning through all of our savings before finding a profitable product. And if there’s anything else that could go wrong that I haven’t thought of yet, it’s a safe bet I’m afraid of that too.
We tend to believe that our fear and self-doubt is telling us something valuable. The reality, though, is that how you feel internally has nothing to do with the real-world facts of the situation. There’s no web of spiders hiding behind that Publish button. One slow launch doesn’t mean your product is an epic failure. As long as you’ve done everything you can to make sure your book, podcast, blog, or project solves a true pain, chances are it’s fine to acknowledge your fear. Just understand it’s not telling you anything useful, and move forward anyway.
As designer Paul Jarvis writes: “Fear only has the power you give it. It’s power is making you get too afraid to try something. So if you’re afraid but try something any way, it doesn’t have any power.”
That Big Thing Holding You Back? It Only Exists In Your Head
f you’re feeling like you’re the only one going through this, here’s another useful tidbit to remember: Everyone struggles with fear, even if they tell you they don’t.
The fear of launching, of putting yourself out there, never goes away entirely.
The reason people are able to deal with their self-doubt and still achieve success is that they experience it, they acknowledge it, and they keep moving.
So start getting used to it.
Fear Is a Sign You’re On the Right Track
Believe it or not, doubting yourself, your abilities, and your work is actually a sign you’re doing the right thing—that you’re working on something important. The reason you’re doubting yourself is probably because you feel that the work you’re doing is so important, it should be done by a perfect human being. But no one is perfect, and no one else is going to do the thing you’re doing. There’s just you.
Most of the time, the best thing you can do in this situation is to steer into the skid. Take this advice from entreprenuer Seth Godin: “If you’re afraid of something, of putting yourself out there, of creating a kind of connection or a promise, that’s a clue that you’re on the right track. Go, do that.”
A Little Fear Is Good For You
Self-doubt keeps us doing our best work. It’s what pushes us to do more, to reach higher. It keeps us from putting something out into the world that’s sub-par.
The risk, though, is that too much fear and self-doubt can be crippling—I know from experience.
There’s no secret trick to conquer self-doubt and fear of failure. There’s no seven-step process, or checklist, that I can give you. Self-doubt is very real—I struggle with it every day—and it’s something you absolutely need to learn how to manage as an entrepreneur and growing person.
Action Is Where the Magic Happens
The big lession I’m learning from my daughter: Learn to love the action over the result.
Start small, and keep moving. One Twitter post. One email to a potential customer. One blog post. Then another, and another. They won’t be perfect—but that doesn’t matter. Just keep going. Celebrate your progress, and learn from your mistakes. Make a habit of action.
It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than to think your way into acting.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to try some somersaults.
Culled from Advice.shinetext.