Franklin Roosevelt stated something so incredibly important that caught the attention of our nation when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Sometimes we’re paralyzed by our fear. Sometimes we’re paralyzed by a totally unjustified projection of what the future will be, and it stops us cold. Why do we get into those spaces? In what way is that a help to anything that we’re up to when we’re paralyzed by the thought of fear?
Since I took over the running of the presidency of ABEM Digital Creations, I’ve realized that there are a number of lessons that I learned—when I was trying to adjust to life after Angus passed away—that are very applicable to running a business.
The fear of, “What in the world am I going to do?” The fear of, “How do I put one foot in front of the other now as far as my relationships with other people? How do I trust that I’m not going to lose them, too?” The fear that I have every now and again—and I’m honest with this, right?—of, “Am I making the right decisions for running a business? Am I making the right decisions for selecting the team, and making an offer that we’re going to use in a campaign?”
There’s fear at many, many different levels, but I believe that the fear that I have is very frequently tied to some of these lessons learned about life after the death of Angus. One of these is definitely tied to lessons that I’ve learned from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, which I believe are incredibly applicable to running a business.
So as an entrepreneur providing this blog for other entrepreneurs, I’m going to take the time to share with you a little bit from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying because I think it’s so relevant.
In our minds, changes always equal loss and suffering.
I want you, the business owner, I want you, the entrepreneur, to think about this for a moment.
And if they come (they being loss and suffering), these changes and the emotions of loss and suffering, we try to anesthetize ourselves as far as possible. We assume stubbornly and unquestioningly that permanence provides security, and impermanence does not. But in fact, impermanence is like some of the people we meet in life, difficult and disturbing at first, but on deeper acquaintance far friendlier and less unnerving than we could’ve imagined… The realization of impermanence is paradoxically the only thing we can hold onto. Perhaps our only lasting possession. It’s like the sky or the earth. No matter how much everything around us may change or collapse, they endure. Of course, even the earth trembles now and again just to remind us that we cannot take anything for granted.
It’s important to realize our perspective on it all. It’s important to stop to realize that if we fall prey to laziness, if we fail to remember that everything is impermanent, then we’re shaken to the core when something changes. And one of the things that I have learned from running a business is that everything is in flux.
When he was building websites back in 2013 – 2015, one of the most important lessons that Angus was trying to help his customers realize was that a website is never finished. A website is constantly dynamic; it should be changing because that’s where you’re going to get energy, and have growth, connect with people, and to continue to be relevant.
I believe that our future forecasting can be filled with misinformation.
This comes from a wonderful book that I encountered, and that I love and have shared with others, called Stumbling on Happiness. One of the key lessons from this book is that we project into the future based on memories of the past that are only really half-created or half-remembered and filled in with our own visualization of what something ought to be, that very frequently wouldn’t be.
When we feel fear and we’re paralyzed by it, it’s frequently because we’re using faulty memories of past experience to future forecast about what something would be like, or should be like, or ought to be like… and that predicted future may or may not ever come to pass.
I know frequently I fear whether or not someone is going to complete a contract. I want to make sure that I’m getting that client to sign the dotted line. Now, if that person decides they’re not going to sign, if it’s taking forever to close on a deal that we’ve made based on an offer for some work for ABEM, many times, that’s the sign!
And very honestly, this could mean, this could be the feedback we need to see that the person isn’t our ideal client. We don’t need to move forward. We don’t need to be so focused on fear of losing out that we miss the joy of not having to deal with a customer that would not be working out well.
I would bet you’ve had some of those. I bet you’ve had clients that you’ve gotten that you go, “Okay, we need this guy right now,” and we all just suck it up and tolerate it but it’s not the best fit. And oh my God, weeks, weeks after a contract should have been finished and closed out, you’re still trying to finish this work. Oh, what a lesson learned.
So though we can be paralyzed by fear, and it does indeed happen, realizing that we’re setting up this fear, we’re setting up this paralysis very frequently using unjustified future forecasting.
What does this mean? How can you stop, step back, and gain control of this situation, and find the clients that are the perfect clients, launch the offer that will get you the business that you want, feel empowered, and not frozen, not paralyzed?
And it happens. And it’s wonderful to have a team of people working with you so that when one person in the mix is feeling frozen, one person in the mix doesn’t know what to do, the rest of the team is there to help sort it out.
Now, I’ve talked with you before about the importance of having a team that’s equally engaged as opposed to having one-off contractors working with you as an entrepreneur. And I am so blessed that ABEM Digital Creations has a team that work with me to sort out where do we go, what do we need.
We have our conversations, we make our plans, we make adjustments, and we move forward. And sometimes when the whole team is stuck, when we’re not seeing that there’s a solution right now to working with what we’ve got, it’s really important to kind of hold hands, look at one another, and go, “Hmm. You know what? Let’s refund this guy his money because it’s just not working out.”
So you’ve got to be bold sometimes. You’ve got to be able to assess a situation from more of an objective, neutral position instead of one filled with emotion. And you really can learn some lessons from the loss of a friend or family member as to how you respond and relate.
You can put that into the context of your business. It’s not wrong to do that. And in fact, I think it can give you even more power and more perspective on things when you ask, “What’s the worst that could happen here? What’s the worst that has happened here?”
Stop and remember that everything is always changing. The leaves on the trees are changing. The light during the course of the day changes. Remind yourself that “My emotions change. Every cell of my body is changing. My expressions change. My mood changes.”
The unpredictability of thoughts and emotions can blindside you, but fear should not paralyze you.
The only thing that we can really count on is this moment right now. And that doesn’t mean that we stop planning. It just means that we’re aware and that when we’re aware emotions like fear are the only thing that we have to fear, and that we can realize what’s going on.
We can stop, we can catch our breath, we can back up, and reframe. So let it be lessons learned. Let it be that we know that our future forecasting is sometimes not correct and the things that we thought we ought to fear are really just illusions.
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