Two years ago one of my closest friends saw me purposeless, floundering in the quicksand of comfort, and unable to take a step in any direction. I was crippled by the fear of failure and the unknown. The words that followed flowed naturally--one of those rare moments of inspiration you just can't plan or explain.
He wisely said, "The next thing you do, whatever you choose, make it something that has the ability to break your heart." I had been discovered in my fearful stagnancy, and I knew it.
The truth about humans is that courage is unnatural. Fear drives us at all times and in all decisions, making the path of least resistance look awfully similar to the path we're meant to take. Safety first. Why put our head in the lion's mouth if we don't have to? For many, this sort of ignorance is bliss. What we don't know won't hurt us, right?
But the truth is that our love of safety is a scam on ourselves at the expense of our purpose. It's waiting for a whole, fulfilling life to happen instead of making it happen. We were designed for so much more.
The wrong way to handle fear
Some shoulder their fear proudly as a good enough excuse on its own merit--"I can't take my dream trip to Prague because I'll have to fly; I'm terrified of flying" or "I can't try to restore my relationship with my mother, what if she rejects me?" We've all used fear this way. It's understandable, but it's unacceptable.
Others buckle under their fear more covertly to rationalize some wonderful excuses, scamming themselves out of the lives they dream of--"I don't have the money to try that" [while eating out every night] or "But I have three kids, I'm not ready yet."
It's all B.S., and we know it. We're afraid. Nobody feels ready to take a risk, making excuses justifiable in so many ways.
The right way to handle fear
After hearing those words of truth from my friend, I realized that fear is a wired perception ingrained in all of us--a reflection of what we feel we can't afford to risk. But for entrepreneurs it's an indicator of the direction we were meant to go. Fear is the golden compass of our purpose. It's meant to be embraced, cherished, and followed.
This is the world of the snake charmer, the warrior, the tightrope walker. They've changed their perception of risk, turning fear into a game in which they've learned to be comfortable. They choose to use fear as fuel for their purpose instead of creative inspiration for empty excuses. And strangely, their uncommon familiarity with risk is what drives them from passion into success.
Take a moment and consider every elderly person you know. Their journeys are brimming with riveting stories of wins and losses, but have you ever met one who regretted something they did more than what they didn't do because of their fear? I haven't, either.
What an entrepreneur won't tell you is that they're winging it most of the time and absolutely terrified every day. They make mistakes, but failure isn't nearly as terrifying as not trying.
The greatest excuse we'll ever use is that we don't feel ready. But consider the words of Hugh Laurie: "It's a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you're ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any."
The things that incite us to action--especially fear--are greater than the things that incite us to normalcy and stagnation. Failure and hard lessons learned are just a part of the journey, but you have to perceive them that way. You have to be willing to take a plunge in the direction of what scares you the most and figure out the rest as you go.