Fear is a crippling thing, but as much as we try to avoid it, it has a natural place in our emotional life. It has a habit of manifesting itself daily in all kinds of ways, whether you're thinking about a new job, a new business venture, financial uncertainty, taking care of employees, or even vehicle repairs.
Fear is actually a necessary human emotion: that's how we were designed. Without fear, we would never survive--mankind would have been destroyed ages ago by Mother Nature.
So instead of trying to avoid fear, it's important to understand how to keep it from stopping you from realizing your full potential. You need to know how to become more courageous, ferocious, and relentless in achieving your goals. And you must learn to do it in the face of adversity.
Here are three guaranteed ways to build more entrepreneurial courage.
1. Build courage by creating a path
The most fearless people aren't fearless because they hide from the future: they're too busy creating it. They visualize what they want, and invent their way into it. Nobel Laureate Dennis Gabor in his book, Inventing the Future, wrote:
"The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented. It was man's ability to invent which has made human society what it is. The mental processes of inventions are still mysterious. They are rational but not logical, that is to say, not deductive."
When you don't focus on creating that path, you undermine your own courage. You start to dwell on every little thing you want to achieve as an end-game, and you're so overcome with fear that you can't focus on the small and achievable milestones to get to a goal.
It might be hard to believe that one of the most recognizable names in online publishing was rejected by 36 major publishers, but that's exactly what happened when Arianna Huffington tried to publish her second book. She didn't let that failure stop her. She treated that failure like a stepping stone to success and went on to not only publish that book, but also launch Huffington Post. There's a lot to be learned from failure.
You can have anything you want in life; you just can't have it all at once. As you focus your attention on a single goal and begin setting milestones, each achievement along that path becomes an exercise in building courage.
2. Go where others will not
If you really want to challenge yourself, then do things that others don't or won't do. Take unconventional paths that require much greater risks but also provide much greater rewards.
It takes a great deal of courage to cut yourself from the pack and act differently. But the only way you're going to build courage is to stop letting the unknown paralyze you. Fearless people don't dwell on the unknown: they use the unknown as a reason to take action.
In his book On the Pursuit of Excellence, Michael Jordan writes, "I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I cannot accept not trying."
Before George Steinbrenner made a name for himself as the owner of the New York Yankees, he owned a small basketball team called the Cleveland Pipers in 1960. By 1962, as a result of his direction, the entire franchise went bankrupt.
Despite public fear and criticism over his controversial decisions, he led the Yankees to an amazing comeback, with six World Series entries between 1996 and 2003--and a record as one of the most profitable teams in Major League Baseball.
Past failure doesn't have to dictate future failure, unless you let fear stop you.
Personally, skydiving is my drug of choice for building courage. Few things can knock down those fear barriers like jumping out of a plane--and I do it every weekend. That ability to let go and jump when everyone is clinging to the doorframe is what makes the more courageous entrepreneurs flexible, adaptable, and terrifyingly awesome.
If that's a bit too extreme for you, there's always public speaking. The more you put yourself in front of people, opening yourself up to vulnerability, the more courageous you'll become in the face of adversity. You'll also gain the benefit of improving communication skills, which will make you a better leader.
"Desire is the key to motivation, but it's determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal--a commitment to excellence--that will enable you to attain the success you seek," saysMario Andretti, retired Formula 1 Driver.
3. Say no like it's going out of style
It takes a remarkable amount of courage to stand strong and say no rather than to nod and be a yes man. When you finally begin to do it, you're not just empowering yourself to stand strong and be resilient, you're also protecting yourself from making poor decisions.
"But Sujan, you said take risks to build courage..."
I did. Smart, calculated risks. If you can learn when to say no, and be courageous enough to stand by it, you stay focused and prevent unnecessary complexity and wrong turns. It also helps to keep you from getting involved with the wrong types of people.
"There's a lot of talk, and a lot to be said, for the power of Yes," writes Dr. Judith Sills of Psychology Today. "Yes supports risk-taking, courage and an open-hearted approach to life whose grace cannot be minimized. But No--a metal grate that slams shut the window between one's self and the influence of others--is rarely celebrated. It's a hidden power because it is both easily misunderstood and difficult to engage."
Remember, just because you embrace saying no doesn't mean you should be too quick to accept it for an answer when it's used on you. Imagine what kind of a world we would live in if Walt Disney gave up the first time he was told no, and had believed that he wasn't creative enough.
How do you stay focused in the face of adversity? Share your tips in the comments below: