Embrace the Fear or How to Succeed at Business When You’re Terrified

Will unexpected problems emerge during a start-up?  Probably!

Will unexpected problems emerge during a start-up? Probably!

I found myself taking cover in a bunker centered on a green pasture, with dense woods at it’s perimeter once while dreaming. It would have been a beautiful landscape if it weren’t for a barrage of bombs raining down all around me, with fierce explosions and rising fountains of soil and rock. Cowering in the concrete pillbox and being tossed around by one ferocious impact after another, I recall keeping watch out of each of the gun ports between salvos. I knew an enemy lurked in the tree line, ready to advance at any time and it was my duty to resist that surge.

Soldiers never did emerge from those woods and honestly I don’t know how it all ended as I awoke shaking with fear and my heart racing like I’d run a 100-meter dash. I’ve never had the nightmare again, nor would I want it to return, but it did grant me some peace of mind. I have a pretty healthy heart and I am capable of summoning up courage under fire.

I’ve been asked, fairly frequently, if I fear being out on my own, without the security of salaried income or sponsored benefits. My brash response up to this point has been that I’ve been sleeping like a baby since quitting my job to focus on PittMoss™. In truth, I did have a moment a few weeks ago when I awoke, panicked about having enough cash on hand to pay the bills. I reassured myself then that I most certainly had saved enough and drifted back to sleep. Seeing my final VisitPittsburgh paycheck hit my bank ledger tally, however, provided sobering evidence to my finite finances that up to that point had only been a theory. The panic returned.

Since only my savings and some seed funding from the Idea Foundry of Pittsburgh are fueling this PittMoss™ venture, at the moment, I worry I haven’t accounted enough for unforeseen contingency. Have I been overly optimistic in my revenue projections? Will I need to sell my house for additional capital before healthy cash flows emerge? As I stoke this feeble, yet promising, ember I’ll continue to agonize over having enough kindling and firewood on hand to feed the flames of this American Dream. I suspect this will always be one of my principal concerns until it is no longer my responsibility to tend the fire of this business or, of course, we accumulate an immense woodpile.

So what? I’m a little terrified about the limits of my resources and I think it is actually a great thing. It motivates me to wake up at 4 AM and work more cleverly and efficiently than I ever have. Perhaps more importantly, this fear will make me choose wisely, which contingencies I decide to pick off as they emerge unexpectedly from the tree line.

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About Mont @PittMoss

Just trying to change the world a little bit before I die & get old. Inventor of PittMoss® & Founder/CEO of PittMoss LLC. Ambridge, PA. www.pittmoss.com
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7 Responses to Embrace the Fear or How to Succeed at Business When You’re Terrified

  1. As an entrepreneur myself, I can relate to this same fear and unknowingly. While there is much risk involved in taking this journey – there is also much reward and many perks that keep me going. Sure I may not have a “stable” income or fluffy benefits, but I love working for myself and setting my own schedule!

    • Yes, I can already sense that working for myself is going to be fulfilling. Anything I’ve given up in regard to salary and bennies can’t compare to making my own decisions and trusting my own instincts. Thanks for joining in and sharing your experience.

  2. Mark H. says:

    My venture was not nearly as significant as yours in 1995, and because I experienced the same fears as you do now I opted to maintain my fulltime law enforcement job. Those county funds and benefits allowed for me to separate personal and business finances which ultimately had a profound effect on my ability to upgrade much needed seasonal equipment. Moreover, it allowed me to offer what some considered to be substantially higher wages, at least more than most of my competitors in the area, and that certainly provided some piece of mind. A few well spent dollars on a dependable work force who produces above average results was a great dividend. Sadly I pushed forward and managed to somehow sustain 70-90 hour weeks for a decade. Dwindling profit margins and my deteriorated body final pushed me to throw in the towel and succumb. Today nearly 8 years later I reflect on my decision and am saddened as I continue to deal with mundane incompetence striving to make a difference within an organization thats been broken for nearly 3 decades. The hour commute affords an opportunity to digest on my bad judgment 8 years ago as I can now say with certainty that if I could do it all over again there is only one thing I would change. And that my good man, would be to quit my fulltime job and force myself to rely on that sole source of self-employment income. You will prosper, have faith that your hard work and perseverance will allow for success, because it will! Drive on!

    • I think anyone who dedicates even a portion of their life to create employment and income for themselves and others is significant Mark. You ran your business for 8 years? Wow that is amazing man. I thought about keeping my feet in both the job or the business but this venture needed more than a part time effort. I left my organization on great terms and have nothing but praise for the place that gave me a world class education in marketing and sales.

      The salary, perks and benefits are really the ties that bound me and so many people to someone else’s desk and enterprise. Honestly this is going to sound crazy but what motivated me to leave was thinking about my ancestors. They took a leaky sailing ship across the open atlantic, worked off their passage as laborers and servants, then crossed the North American continent on foot with a few humble belongings and their own wits. They had no idea what life had in store for them or what lay around the next bend but they pursued a future different than their “yes Me Lord’ pasts. My venture by comparison to theirs is so incredibly less challenging not taking this chance was then unthinkable.

      • Mark H. says:

        My ordeal lasted almost 10 years to the day, when I opted to take a much needed rest. Overall the security my salary and benefits often made me feel as if my business venture was halfhearted and the cognitive decision to retain both did put severe limitations on my ability for any future expansion. I decided that quality was far more important than quantity and once I started to turn modest profit margins I guess I found some comfort in the fact my business was a nice way to subsidize the low wages provided by my law enforcement career. As far as your motivation it is obvious that you have the passion and desire to make it work. My father (who passed in 1984), told me long ago that I should never test the depth of the water with both feet unless I was prepared to swim. Swim, Mont Handley, swim!

  3. Terri Combs says:

    If you didn’t go for it, you would always wonder and maybe regret not making the leap of faith. You are smart and resourceful, so you will make it happen. I have always admired entrepreneurs, because I don’t have the passion, drive, and ambition to make the break. Best wishes for following your dream.

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