My Journey to Overcome Fear in My Business
Since graduating from Stanford in 2008, I’ve always had a straight and narrow path working in tech startups. It wasn’t until 2013 that I took my first “creative risk”—starting a granola business out of my home kitchen to sell at the local farmers’ market. Fast forward to today and you can find my granola brand, gr8nola (“great”nola), supplied at some of the biggest bay area tech companies like Google, Twitter, Dropbox, Square, Slack and HoneyBook. Despite working in the volatile start-up world, I had to learn to overcome fear of creative risk.
I’ve been building my granola brand for over 4 years now with a full time job. Today, I’m nearing a critical juncture in my career path and life: sh*t, or get off the pot. There are some people that are high risk taking and jump into entrepreneurship 100% from the start. But me? I struggle with the whole “go for it and be fearless!” attitude. Risk taking is especially difficult for me because I am so logical and pragmatic. But I’m excited to share that I am finally taking the leap to overcome fear and pursue my business full-time.
While everyone’s journey is different, here are four steps I followed to overcome fear of creative risk taking. This process was critical in making me feel comfortable with taking what I would consider to be the ultimate creative risk—leaving a steady career to pursue my passion full-time:
1. Connect with your purpose:
First, identify and fully understand why you want to do “it” (whatever “it” means to you). What I am doing is creating a food brand, but the why is much bigger than that. For me, I want to create flexibility and freedom for myself, especially when I have kids in the future. More importantly, I want to create a product that people love and that promotes the belief that we should be fueling ourselves with foods that are both great tasting and great for you.
2. Find ways to build your confidence:
In face of doubt or fear, there are so many tactics to help stay positive and keep your mind in the game. Create a support network and find other people who are a little further than you or in similar shoes for moral support and encouragement. Reflect and appreciate progress, no matter how incremental it may seem. Celebrate small wins and positive customer feedback. Find data or case studies that prove to you that “it” can be done.
3. Assess the risk/reward:
Here’s where some pragmatism can actually help you move forward with your creative risk taking. The questions below are a way to help assess whether your fear is truly warranted, or simply irrational. Once you do this exercise, you may actually find that the “worst case scenario” isn’t that bad. Often the risk of not doing it is a much worse outcome.
a. What’s the worst that can happen?
b. If the worst happens, what will/can i do?
c. If i don’t do this, what would i potentially be losing?
4. Set a date to pull the trigger:
Finally, I will leave you with a quote Tim Ferris shared in his Ted Talk on defining fears instead of goals (which I highly recommend you listen to) that really resonated with me as a soon-to-be full-time entrepreneur:
“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” – Jerzy Gregorek
Remember that the best, most rewarding paths are never the easiest ones. Where do you want to go in this thing called life, and which path are you willing to take to get there? Wherever you decide to go—good luck!