Let’s talk about fear

As you read last week, the year has started off well, and yet, the same old struggle of pipelines, culture, cash flow, and burn rates circle like vultures.

Last week my team and I built MarchFirst. After writing my Hello Tomorrow fortnightly email for my clients for almost five years, we shut it down earlier this year and reimagined it as a weekly leadership briefing for purpose-driven leaders. Completely aimed at our clients and other leaders we work and partner with. M1 will be a paid, weekly leadership briefing delivered by email, which will prepare leaders for the week ahead every Monday. Subscribers of my weekly journal will be able to access it at a ridiculously discounted price — stand by.

Karina from our office has also started planning our 2019 Mental Health Survey which, this year, will see us partnering with teams in New Zealand, Greece and the UK to deliver it to more people. If there is someone you think should contribute to the survey, just forward them this email. More on this in the coming weeks.

Strategy Masterclass enrolments are now closed — I'll be spending the next few months adding a new content strategy module as well as new tools. I expect to have the course open again sometime in June — although I might open it up for a short time at some stage prior.

Running a business is at times exhilarating, and other times filled with fear and anxiety. Dear Entrepreneur seemed to hit a chord with many readers for a reason which leads me to sit down and write about fear.

I remember the first time I felt fear at work. Real fear — the 'cold sweat, I'm going to get hurt' kind of fear.

I was in my early-20s, working in a small design business with a group of friends. We had all left our jobs to try and make something of it together (we didn't), and we thought that doing it with friends was at the very least, going to be fun. It was fun but it didn't last.

We would laugh often, make jokes with one another and the days were filled with joy even though the bank account wasn't filled with dollars.

The owner was a big, overtly-masculine guy — the type that liked to assert his masculinity in a room full of men in a way that seemed to overcompensate for something.

I was laughing at a joke a colleague had made, and we were in a fit of laughter — you know, the kind that has you almost wetting your pants.

He wasn't happy (nor was he in on the joke) and came up to my desk, stood over me, with his face an inch or two away from my own, he stared me down and screamed at me to 'do your fucking job or I'll lose my shit!'

He was loud and he was enormous. I was petrified.  He spent the rest of the afternoon staring at me from his desk. My eyes didn't leave my screen.

I think my hands were shaking.

I walked home that evening knowing that I wasn't going to spend the twilight years of my career working at this place after all. Albeit, the business folded a few months later.

It wasn't the last time I felt fear at work, nor was it the first time in my life I was harassed or bullied — but it was the first time I was actually scared that someone was going to hurt me whilst I was in my workplace.

Many years later, as the owner of my own businesses, as an entrepreneur seeking to create new products, new businesses and scale them — as a father of three children; I feel different kinds of fear altogether.

I don't fear the unknown, but Ido fear an empty pipeline which is just as much the same thing in a strange kind of way.

I don't fear change, but I do fear the inevitable chaos that comes with the scatter of loose, ill-fitting and random ideas.

I sometimes feel fear of not knowing enough, and second-guess myself; yet I trust that if I don't know something, I'll come to know about it in due course because I'm surrounded by mentors and people I trust — and I have a very thirsty appetite for teaching myself new things.

I fear letting people down — it's one of my 'things'.

I really don't like letting people down, especially my children. I realise that this has something to do with me wanting to prove something to someone. But I'm OK with that. I just don't like letting people down.

I fear taking uncalculated and ill-informed risks — if the last three decades of work have taught me anything, it's that the risks I choose to take are the risks that I will choose to take.

I don't fear being ridiculed, making public mistakes or people rolling their eyes when I present — I've come to learn that I will never please everyone and nor should I try. But I do fear to be irrelevant and invisible in the eyes of the people that matter to me most. Being Patrick Swayze in Ghost is a terrifying thought even though he was a damn good looking man.

I don't fear criticism, public speaking or added responsibility — but I do fear unpreparedness — not knowing what to do in the heat of battle scares me so I train for when the time comes that the Zombies will come knocking on my door, when the more challenging client arrives in the office, or when a most difficult problem lands on my desk. I'm in constant training so when these times arrive, and they will, they seem to me like business as usual.

I'm quite confident no one in my workplace is going to bully me ever again, but the fear I feel, also, isn't unique or confined to me. I know I'm not special because I have these fears — they're felt widely by all founders, entrepreneurs and business owners.

And this is comforting because I know I'm in good company.


My StoryJim Antonopoulos