‘Will I ever be paid again?’
‘Will people respect me without business cards with a clear job title?’
‘What will my family and friends say?’
Founding a startup frequently raises more questions than it answers. You’ll probably even find yourself questioning those answers that seemed fundamental to your decision to become an entrepreneur.
‘Why am I doing this?’
‘How will this actually make my life better?’
‘Have I made the worst decision of my life, thinking at the time that it was my best?’
Questions. Questions, questions, questions.
All these questions, and the uncertainty they point to, can be extremely unsettling. They’re also perfectly natural. If you’ve read the books and listened to inspiring startup founders, they’ll all tell you that they experienced exactly the same. Sadly, hearing that it’s normal doesn’t cure the underlying anxiety.
It can be hard to believe. But frequently even if you truly do believe this message, you’ll still experience the emotion of high fear. I believe that a better way through fear and stress is to find clear, practical next steps that you can take. By facing down these questions and the uncertainty that they reveal, you don’t make them disappear, but you could find them more manageable.
A matter of re-framing
Coaches respect people’s emotions. They do not judge them. They’ll encourage you to see feelings as just one input amongst many. Emotions are not you, they’re something you experience. It’s important to listen to them.
And – I believe – sharing them in a safe, supportive environment can be an important way of acknowledging them.
But either way, try to salute your fear, shake its hand as an old friend. Thank it. But don’t let it get too big for its boots.
Why do we experience fear?
We all know that fear has a place, saving us from danger.
If you’re facing down a tiger, it’s probably a good thing that adrenaline flushes through your body. You’re suddenly wide awake and feeling that it’s very important to change everything about your situation. But when’s the last time you faced down a wild animal?
You might want to assume that there are analogies in modern life. That your fight or flight instinct – kicking in when coming up to a tough meeting or big life decision – is the same protection from danger. But the truth is that frequently our evolutionary make-up isn’t helping us to cope with the challenges of modern life.
And remember, as likely as fight or flight is the instinct to freeze – and it’s particularly this, that as startup founders, we want to avoid.
Founding a startup can be scary.
Lean into that fear. Get to the bottom of what you truly want out of founding a startup, and what you really want out of life. It’ll help you to plough on through the fear without allowing it to overwhelm you. But also not to lose sight of the emergency brake in case you need to pull it.
You probably won’t.