How Do You Deal With Fear & Keep Moving Forward As A Startup CEO?

It’s Tuesday morning at 9:18AM. My heart rate suddenly raced to what felt like 200 beats per minute.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

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We had just agreed to terms with a new lead investor. We were in the process of closing the funding.

And now “Raul”, one of our two existing investors, just said to me, “I think we should sell the company!”

That moment. That Tuesday at 9:18AM was the first time I really felt fear as an entrepreneur.

“What?” I asked. I stood up. I had never lost my cool speaking with Raul before. But now he had pushed the right button.

Raul smiled at me. I still remember that sadistic smile. Raul then repeated himself, “I think we should sell the company.” Raul was calm. I wasn’t.

I could literally feel my heart rate spike. Bang, bang, bang went my heart at 200 beats per minute.

And my heart rate wouldn’t slow down. Could my heart explode out of my chest? I didn’t know, but it sure felt like it could.

It was a different game now. And I was truly scared and afraid.

And my heart rate wouldn’t slow down.

The one thing you can’t do when you’re fearful is panic.

We’ve all been there. You know when you rush to make a decision based on another decision.

And we all know the results are very likely a bad decision. And bad decisions are what happen when you panic.

So the first thing I needed to do was calm down. The fear might not go away, but maybe I could at least calm down, so I could start thinking rationally.

It takes time to recover from a good panic attack.

The rest of the day I spent on the phone talking to various advisors. I had to talk with our other investor, Gill, because this was going to affect him. And I had to let the other board members know what was going on.

But the fear never went away.

I felt like I was carrying a one thousand pound boulder around. I could literally feel the weight of the fear on me.

“Maybe the fear will go away over the weekend?” I thought to myself.

The fear didn’t go away over the weekend.

“Maybe the fear will go away over the next couple weeks?” I thought to myself after the weekend was over.

The fear didn’t go away over the next couple of weeks.

“Maybe the fear will go away over the next month or two?” I thought to myself after a couple of weeks.

The fear didn’t go away after the next couple of months. In fact, the fear never went away.

There I was carrying this one hundred pound boulder around everywhere. So what did I do? The same thing you need to do:

You need to learn to Dance With The Fear.

Seth Godin said you need to ask yourself, “How do I dance with the fear?”

In other words, the fear is there. And you need to accept that the fear isn’t going anywhere.

You just need to keep doing what you’re doing regardless of the fear. That’s the trick:

  • You can’t obsess about the fear, and…

It sound’s easy doesn’t it? Just dance with the fear. The problem is it’s not easy to just dance with the fear.

It’s unbelievably hard to dance with the fear. Here are some tricks I’ve learned that help me dance with the fear:

A. Your mind is going at million miles a second when you are scared.

What’s the antidote? Meditation is a great antidote.

Meditation didn’t initially work for me. In fact, it took me a while before I realized the positive effect meditation was having.

There are some great free resources online. My favorite is Tara Brach’s website. Meditation will not solve all your problems. But meditation will keep you more in the moment. Then…

B. Having a morning routine is a great way to keep you focused.

My morning routine consists of exercising, meditation, journaling, and reading. It takes maybe an hour.

The exercise starts you off on a positive note because there’s nothing like getting the endorphins going first thing in the morning. Meditating helps give me focus.

The journaling (along with visualizing my day) is designed to for me realize the positive things that are happening. Finally, I read an inspirational book or story for about five minutes. Then, since you have a morning routine…

C. You need an evening routine too.

An evening routine primes you for the next day. And when you’re really stressed and fearful, your evening routine can remind you of all the things that went well.

My evening routine includes more positive journaling. I write down three things that went well during the day. Even a really bad day has three things that went well.

I write down three acts of service I did for others. I finish my journaling by asking what did I learn today, what did I do well today, and what am I going to do with what I learned today.

Now, I’m in a good frame of mind and ready for bed. This leads to…

D. Getting your sleep.

Fear is the enemy of sleep, so you want to do anything you can to have a good night’s sleep. During my fight with Raul, I was averaging about 3 hours of sleep a night. Some nights I didn’t sleep at all. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Now I spend about five minutes meditating when I get into bed. Sometimes I fall asleep during the meditation.

Then I visualize the next day going exactly as I planned it. Maybe I’ll visualize a long term goal or the nice vacation I’m going to take. Then I’ll meditate some more until I fall asleep.

The challenge, at least for me, wasn’t falling asleep but getting back to sleep when I wake up in the middle of the night. My trick? You guessed it. Meditation. That’s what works for me.

E. Find someone you can unload on (hint, it’s not your wife or husband).

It’s really hard being the spouse of the CEO, so you can’t come home and just dump on your spouse. But you do need to get your feelings out. It can’t be your board of directors because you will scare them.

Instead, have a trusted advisor, friend, or confidant that you can talk to. The person needs to be someone you know will always act in your best interest. Sometimes…

F. Taking a walk during the day helps too.

You can’t just be in the office all day if you’re feeling the fear.

I used to enjoy going for a walk during lunch with just me and my thoughts. Sometimes I would call my advisor or coach. Now, I saved one of my favorites for last…

G. Just get out and sell.

Do you want to remind yourself of why you’re doing what you’re doing? Visit some customers. Win some business.

Nothing eliminates fear like winning business. Winning business triggers so many positive emotions. Winning business helps you dig in and fight even harder for your company.

And winning business helps you dance with the fear.

You’re going to feel fear as an entrepreneur. You will, and the fear is likely to stay with you through your journey.

You may never get rid of the fear of failure, but you can learn to live with it. So try meditating, having a morning routine, a nighttime routine, getting your sleep, a trusted confidant you can talk to, taking walks, and selling.

Or maybe you have a routine that already helps you dance with the fear. I’d love to hear about it.

For more, read: http://www.brettjfox.com/what-should-your-mindset-be-as-a-startup-ceo/

Written by

I work with startup CEOs to help them grow their businesses . I built several businesses from $0 to >$100M. Learn more at www.brettjfox.com

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