The Fears That Grip Us: A Series

By Fatmanur Erdogan, Hürriyet Daily News

In corporate life, we know that at the end of the month, we’ll get a paycheck.  Sales might be up, or they might be down, but we know the paycheck is on its way.  Bills will get paid, vacations will get taken.  There’s a nice security and predictability to it.  The corporate life also brings prestige and social recognition.  Our families are proud, and our friends are impressed.

But many of us hear a small voice at the back of our heads, and it never quite leaves us alone.  It beckons us towards another life, one filled with freedom and creativity.  That voice is the call to entrepreneurship, and if you are one of the people who hear it, you know that eventually it grows from a small voice into a loud chorus.

When you look back on your life, you want to say that you turned your dreams into reality.  You want to be able to say that you had the courage to start all over again.

When you sit in your corporate office and sip coffee in the mornings, you think to yourself, “I can do this”.  You’re talented, educated, and experienced.  You’ve been successful in the business world for one, two, maybe even three decades.  You have a business idea, a solid revenue model, and even a bit of capital.  You know you’re ready.  All that’s left to do is quit your job and go for it.

But when the time comes to take that leap, you can’t do it.  You feel paralyzed, and you postpone the big day time and time again.

Know that you are not alone in this.  The fears you feel are real, and you have every right to feel them.  Even the ones who already made the leap remember the fears well, because they felt them too.

For example, you might fear for the future of your identity.  When you work for a big company, some of the company’s reputation rubs off on you.  You tell people, “I am the Operations Manager at Company X”, and it’s like having a respected stamp of approval.  Your title and affiliation give you power and influence.  People listen to you.  They come to you for advice.  You get invited to prestigious functions simply because you come from Company X.

You might be afraid that when you leave your corporate job, you will lose that.  You worry that without that corporate backing, people won’t look at you the same way.  You worry that people won’t come to you for advice, and that you won’t get invited to the same prestigious functions.  You worry that when you answer the question, “What do you do”, the questioner’s eyes will glaze over.  And so you step back from the ledge.

The corporate life also provides a safety net that catches us when we fall.  Even at the most cut-throat companies, you can find others who will support you through risky initiatives.  Sure, at the beginning of a project, maybe everyone thinks you’re crazy.  But eventually, you can win them over and get their buy-in, so if the project goes sour, you’ll have a whole team of people to share responsibility with.

As an entrepreneur, though, when your ideas flop, there’s nowhere to hide.  You are the only one responsible.  You wonder, if you fail, how will you explain yourself to family and friends?  Just the thought of hearing their “I told you so’s” is scary.  So you step back from the ledge.

There’s an endless stream of books and seminars dissecting the entrepreneurial life.  We hear about character traits, and business models, and financing techniques.  We take test after test, to find out if we have what it takes.

All that knowledge is nice, but the thing is, if you’re standing on the ledge, trying to summon the courage to make the leap, you don’t need to know more about entrepreneurial theory.  You need to know how to get over your fears.  And none of those books or seminars address that.

They mention the fears, but they don’t tell you how to get past them.  That’s what this series is all about.  Welcome to “The Neophyte Entrepreneur”.  For the next few weeks, we are going to look at some of the fears that might be holding you back, and talk about how to get around them.  See you next week, when we will discuss overcoming the fear of losing your corporate identity.

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