Four Ways to Help You Reach Past Your Fears

We have all felt it.  That sudden intake of breath before we write the biggest check of our lives, when we sign a commercial lease for the first time, when we put our inventory and display into a suitcase and watch it head down the conveyor belt on our way to an out-of-town show, when we launch a new design round.  It happens a lot when you own a small business and make all of your own products. Here are a few of my tips for reaching past the fear and acting on your ideas.

 A new bridal collection in development

A new bridal collection in development

1. Write down your fears

A big looming project, or an idea that takes you far outside of your comfort zone can create intense feelings of overwhelm. Oftentimes this happens because the new idea or project can take on monstrous proportions in your head. This trick is designed to take the fear out of your head and put it down on paper. Try this: write down your fear and then write down three reasons why it scares you. You might surprise yourself with the answers that you list.

Alternatively, you can speak your fear out loud to a small group of people you trust. Sometimes the simple act of voicing your fear can give that fear less power over you.

2. Set smaller goals

It sounds counter intuitive, right?  We are told to give “110%” or that all of our goals and desires should be big picture ideas.  But the truth is that all of our larger ideas require a thousand small steps to achieve them. By breaking our large goals into manageable tasks, we can spend a small amount of time each day moving towards the end goal. If you have a large, nebulous goal, ask yourself this - What is one thing that I can accomplish everyday to achieve it?

I’ll give you an example taken from my own business. One of my larger goals is to be able to vend at NY Now (formerly NY Gift) next August. Here is the drill-down of the steps I have to take to achieve this:

Larger Goal - to vend at NY Now in 2015

Objective - To build wholesale customer list and build capital to afford larger show

  • Prep linesheets - July 2014
    • Take better photographs of work in preparation for regional show - May 2014
    • Save images in folder for NY Now - May 2014
  • Develop clear marketing message - July 2014
    • Work with writer and graphic designer on new marketing collateral - April 2014
      • Incorporate into current email blast cycle - ongoing
      • Print postcards and business cards - June 2014
  • Create a more dynamic display - by July 2014
    • Look at Pinterest for inspiration - May 2014
    • Sketch out layout and map out a test-run - June 2014
    • Purchase and build new display items - June 2014
    • Test run of set-up at SF Gift - August 2014
  • Vend at American Made show in DC - January 2015
    • Use layout, linesheets, images prepared from SF Gift
    • Submit high-res images to American Made show for their marketing collateral (Due date unknown - August 2014?)
    • Print sticker with link to BrandBoom linesheets - December 2014    
  • Develop new collection - May 2015
    • Design and create samples March-April 2015
    • Edit new collection - Late April 2015
    • Order castings and recycled diamonds - March 2015
    • Photograph new pieces- May 2015
    • Product copy, dimensions and pricing finalized by end of June 2015

All of the practices and tasks that I've put in place are broken into even smaller chunks than this (i.e. call photographer, find out crating and shipping charges, mail check, find Air BnB in DC, pack for show, etc.), but you get the idea. By making your tasks simple and achievable you can work towards that larger goal much easier.

3. Find something that scares you more

This one is my personal favorite. When faced with a potentially scary business decision, such as, should I contact that store that I feel is way out of my league to carry my products, it is common to feel some hesitation. When I feel that hesitation, I ask myself which option scares me more - doing the scary thing, or not doing the scary thing? Often time the consequences of doing the scary thing (here, getting rejected by the shop) aren't as scary as not doing the scary thing (not contacting the shop might mean losing out on a big sale, and if I lose out on this sale then my business suffers, and then I won’t have a business anymore, and I then I will have to go and get a real job and work in a cubicle).  When I reframe the consequences, the scary decision loses a lot of its power.

 Creative Business League chowing down at our monthly meeting - photo by  Alana Rivera

Creative Business League chowing down at our monthly meeting - photo by Alana Rivera

4. Create community

I can’t say this enough.  Having people around you who are like-minded, understand your business issues, and can treat you with compassion are your best assets for overcoming fear. Your community acts as a sounding board for your business and ideas. They are an ideal group to have around when you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with fear. Finding other entrepreneurs can be as simple as posting to an online forum or striking up friendships while vending at a local craft fair.

Do you have any other techniques for overcoming fear and blocks in your business?