Yesterday Salesforce.com acquired Buddy Media for a reported $698M. While researching the nature of the deal, I came across this inspirational video on which Buddy Media’s cofounder Mike Lazerow reveals how he has faced death multiple times due to a chronic heart condition known as ventricular septal defect. In the video, Lazerow explains how this condition helped to live fearlessly and become an entrepreneur after near dying when he was 19. As the central theme of the video, Lazerow uses his experience to ask a simple question “Is fear holding you back”.
Watching the video, made me think of how many times entrepreneurs make or don’t make decisions based purely out of fear. Being an entrepreneur is not a rational task by any stretch of the imagination. Quite the contrary, in the first years of your company stress, loneliness, pressures will become part of your daily live. Throughout that process, we are constantly battling our fears, venturing into unknown areas and facing risks that will test the strength of our confidence.
There is no silver bullet for battling the fears you experience while building your company and I am certainly not an expert on the matter. However, after taking a few punches myself and learning all I can about cognitive theory I can probably list a couple of useful thoughts.
Knowledge and Calculated Risks vs. Stupid Over Confidence
I find knowledge one of the most powerful weapons to fight fear. When you are knowledgeable about specific subject, you are automatically increasing the chances of making intelligent decisions and implementing the right strategies on that area. As an entrepreneur, you must devote a considerable amount of time to acquire as much knowledge as you can about different areas of your business: technology, market, sales, venture funding, history as well as complementary subjects: history, psychology, economics, etc.
Knowledge give you the ability of taking calculated risks. When facing important decisions, it’s key to consider different fall back strategies that account for secondary scenarios. In his latest book: The start-up of you, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman advocates for always having a Z plan in case A, B…..Y plans don’t play out according to plan 😉
I firmly believe that deep knowledge and the ability of making decisions based on calculated risks are key elements to achieve success as entrepreneurs. Confidence without knowledge is a very fragile ship to stay on when facing a storm.
Over the last two years, I found that fear is one of the most powerful artifacts an entrepreneur can use to drive important decisions. In a previous blog post, I advocated for the need to always doubt and challenge your reasoning when making difficult decisions. In my opinion, embracing fear will keep you aware of the importance of the task at hand and will drive you to take steps you never considered before. As an entrepreneur, there are a lot of fears that will keep you up at night but none of them should be more important than the fear of not building a relevant product or living a relevant life.
The key to deal with fear is not to fight it or ignore it but to embrace it and, more importantly, to never let it paralyze you.