You’ve heard this before. You know what’s coming. You know I’m going to talk to you about that special, secluded area of your life that you spend so much time in. That area of your life you understand, that you know so well. An area that you’re loathe to leave.
I’m talking of course, about your comfort zone.
Your comfort zone is perhaps the biggest reason you will struggle to have an outstanding career. By remaining within it, you limit your potential and dramatically slow your ascent to greatness. And I know this first hand.
Starting out in the business world, I found myself at a serious disadvantage. An introvert in a world of extroverts, it wasn’t easy to put aside my fears and jump into all that scary extrovert stuff: public speaking, networking, even conference calls were a challenge! But after working through my fears (Toastmasters was a huge help) and challenging myself to overcome them, I can now cash in on all the benefits of extroversion— despite still being a “recovering introvert”.
So today, let’s talk a little about the fears that might be holding you back. Here are four of the most detrimental fears you might be harboring. By shaking these fears and refusing to let them control your behavior, you’ll be able to push yourself to try new things, become a more charismatic leader, and take more risks. All of which are essential to being a powerful force in business.
Business Fear #1: Public Speaking
Eventually, as a leader, you will be required to take part in some form of public speaking. And it’s natural to feel more than a little nervous about it. Public speaking is the top 13th fear held by the average person. It’s right up there with the fear of failure and the fear of dying. Serious stuff.
But in business, no matter how paralyzing the fear, you can’t afford to shy away from public speaking. After all, this skill spills over into the digital world where you’ll find that blogging into the blogosphere or tweeting publicly can be just as scary. By overcoming this fear you can motivate, inspire, advise, and just share your story in general.
Personally I’ve had to deal with my own public speaking demons over the years. Even writing online like this (where anyone could see it!) was a challenge. Only by consciously pushing myself out of my comfort zone, was I able to overcome my phobias and reach out to audiences. To this day, I still consider it one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.
Business Fear #2: Rejection
This is another massively limiting fear. If you fear rejection, you’ll find yourself struggling when it comes to cold calling, networking, or asking for just about anything. Sitting across from a client and trying to negotiate a deal is that much harder if you’re constantly worried about being rejected.
Take action now. If you fear rejection (and have the self-awareness to recognize this) you owe it to yourself to tackle this fear head on. Remind yourself of all the times you were in a similar situation and everything worked out. And even if, by some fluke, you do come to face-to-face with rejection, the world is likely not going to end. You’ll get the next one.
Remember too that overcoming your fears is similar to training a muscle. Start with small challenges that scare you just a little, then snowball them into larger ones. You might start by pushing yourself to meet more people, have a weekly goal for new LinkedIn connections, or otherwise motivate yourself to network more actively. It’s only by putting yourself out there that you’ll be able to train this muscle and overcome your fears.
Business Fear #3: Trusting Others
Moving up through the ranks, we’ve all had (or heard cringe-worthy stories of) that boss. The supervisor who refused to let us make our own decisions. The department head who needed to green light every new idea and oversee every employee. It’s suffocating.
A leader with trust issues is a leader in name only. Give your employees the benefit of the doubt as much as possible. By allowing near-total autonomy, you let your team members know their opinions are valuable. You see them as the experienced, talented human beings they are.
At MaxCDN, I always tell our team to push the boundaries and go a little crazy when they tackle problems. Like Schwarzenegger would say, “break the rules. Not the law, but break the rules.” This is the quickest way to empower team members and encourage them to discover creative solutions.
Of course, if ever an employee goes a little too far I’m comfortable having a word and reining them in. But in all the time I’ve spent in the business world, I’ve never once had to tell someone they went too far.
Business Fear #4: Failure
Fear of failure, is quite easily the greatest detriment to out-of-the-box thinking. Being afraid to fail is what stops us short when we need to take a leap of faith. It’s what tells us we can’t, when all the data says we can. Ironically, it’s the fear of failure that most often causes us to fail.
If you’re going to make your mark in business, it’s important that you come to terms with an important fact— eventually, you will fail. It’s all in the game. You may need to try ten, a hundred, even a thousand options before you find something that works. This is the reality of business. Thomas Edison summed it up famously by claiming, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work.”
This is the attitude you need adopt. Failure is not the end of your career, it’s simply another step in your overall journey.
Understand, Then Eliminate
With these ideas in mind, take a hard look at yourself. Which fears are you guilty of harboring? Remember, these aren’t necessarily negative emotions. They’re felt by millions, possibly billions of other human beings all over the world on a regular basis. There’s nothing unnatural about feeling fear in any of the above circumstances.
However, to be an effective leader it’s essential that you push through these fears and refuse to let them control your actions. To escape your comfort zone, leave these emotions behind. You’ll find that without their burden, success is much easier to grasp.
p.s. I recently wrote a blog post about love vs fear that might help you to overcome some of these fears.