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Don't let fear be a reason for failure (

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According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 50% of small businesses are likely to survive their fifth year.

If you do a search, you'll find many valid reasons as to why companies fail, such as not enough funding, bad timing, bad partners, bad hires, etc. But for the most part, all of these reasons can be mitigated upfront. With so many schools teaching entrepreneurship and MBA programs, and with so many courses all talking about these issues, why are entrepreneurs and companies still failing?

My own experience working with entrepreneurs and company owners has unearthed reasons that are randomly listed, scattered in many articles but rarely listed together.

More importantly, sometimes even after entrepreneurs recognize these caveats, they are still hugely challenged in tackling them. Unless they have someone to coach, prod, guide and keep them focused on implementation, their focus will fall to the more urgent, in-their-face, day-to-day challenges of running an organization.

What I’d like to share with you is one of the critical challenges I see people struggle with.

The Four Fatal Fears

Many of us, if not all of us, have fears. Some are known and some are unknown. Some are from childhood and some from our culture. As coaches, we don't necessarily know where these challenges come from (we leave that to the therapists), we just look for awareness and solutions.

In their book, Play to Win! Choosing Growth Over Fear in Work and Life, Hersch and Larry Wilson outline psychologist Maxie Maultsby’s concept of the Four Fatal Fears.

• The fear of failure

• The fear of being wrong

• The fear of rejection

• The fear of facing uncomfortable emotions

Failure: This is the most common fear. People refer to it as their "inner critic." It's the voice in our head always talking to us. Sometimes it's the right message, but often times, it's just feeding us scary thoughts and paralyzing us from moving ahead.

Being Wrong: Most people hate being wrong. People make emotional decisions then back it up with (wrong) logic. They are not humble enough to accept that they just might be blindsided by either their ego or some flashy salesperson or some well-intended yet clueless family member, friend, religious figure, etc. (Beware of those who profess to be experts yet haven’t ever run their own business.)

Rejection: This fear is especially common in sales and prevalent in many decisions. As someone once jokingly said, the only way to overcome rejection is to get a lot of it! Many business owners will not pursue a client, vendor, bank or potential great hire for fear of being rejected. There are many ways to learn how to overcome rejection, learn as many as you can.

Facing Uncomfortable Emotions: This fear is a silent killer. It will undermine and demotivate you into not doing the heavy lifting you need to do. It can show itself by not confronting a toxic partner, manager, employee, etc., or being a leader who needs to be liked and will do everything to maintain that.

Now that you're aware of the four fatal fears, how do you move to fearless thinking?

1. Think 80 years down the road.

Envision your 80th birthday. What will you have wanted to accomplish by then? What legacy or impact do you want to leave? As Stephen Covey advises, we must live a life by design, not by default. Write down your goals and start implementing them.

Jeff Bezos is a great example of someone who was motivated to take a huge, fearless leap forward by quitting his day job.

"I don't want to be 80 years old and in a quiet moment of reflection, thinking back over my life and cataloging a bunch of major regrets," he saidin an interview last year.

2. Learn techniques to overcome your fears.

Did you know Warren Buffett had a major fear of public speaking? "You can’t believe what I was like if I had to give a talk," Buffett explained in a biography about his life. "I would throw up."

However, all of that changed when he took a course in public speaking. There, he gained the tools to overcome his fear.

If you struggle with a certain fear, learn techniques to overcome it. I myself have struggled with stage fright, so I joined Toastmasters and hired a speech coach. I would record myself on video to see how I could improve. I learned how to be present, how to make the right eye contact with the audience, how to move around and in front of the lectern, etc.

3. Don't panic, and never let your emotions rule your actions.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." In the midst of the Great Depression, he convinced the American people during an inaugural address that fear was driving their behaviors, but if they all stopped panicking, there would be no more reason to fear. According to reports, the very next day, it felt as though panic had subsided.

Remember that most of what you predict will happen doesn't actually. Take it from Michel de Montaigne, who said 500 years ago, "My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened."


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