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What Is There To Be Afraid Of?

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” – Henry Ford

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Rejection and fear are never far apart; in fact, they play off each other. Maybe you are afraid of rejection. Lots of people are. They worry that what they do won’t be accepted, that they won’t live up to an ideal they created for themselves. And so, they don’t try very hard because the fear of failing is stronger than the urge to thrive. They just can’t stand the thought of being rejected. It’s too personal, too harsh, for them.

Here is what I have learned. When you face the things you fear, including rejection, the death of fear is certain, but when you submit to fear you become fearful. How do you apply this to a business setting?

Successful people are interested in pleasing results so they face their fears and act. In contrast, people who are fearful do less than their best because they are comfortable with pleasing methods. Therefore, they do what they think will make them happy, but at some point they come to realize that happiness comes from achievement and not just from involvement. Happiness comes from being able to add value to the lives of other people through an idea, product, or service. So, the person who excels in the world will look at a challenge with a positive attitude. While this person may fear the unknown, he is willing to take on the challenge. Basically, it’s like the phrase “where there is a will, there is a way.” These people know there will be times of rejection; indeed, at times they wish they had never taken on that challenge. But because they possess the discipline to push themselves through their fears, they will see that the results were very rewarding.

Many people starting a business who are willing to put in the time and work required in the initial five years will experience greater success. When I was selling books door to door did I enjoy having doors slammed in my face, working 80 hours a week? No, I did not, but I did enjoy going back to Nashville and receiving my paycheck, which, at the time, was more money than I had ever seen in my life. It was enough money to pay the following year’s tuition at Auburn University with some left over. This motivated me to continue to sell books each summer while in college and graduating from college after four years. At that point (1969), I possessed $25,000 in my savings (equivalent to over $170,000 in 2017) and this accomplishment, in turn, motivated me to pursue other challenges. How could it not? This was a strong financial start and foundation for a college graduate.

There was also the reward of accomplishment and fulfillment from achieving the best. The Southwestern Company, in business since 1868, has never had anyone in the company be both the top salesman and top team leader at the same time, which I achieved not because of talent, but because I was self-disciplined and tenaciously knocked on doors each day. As a result, I was their top salesman two years in a row. Did I not have anything else to do with my time? Of course, I could have found a lot of other things to do, but nothing that could give me the kind of results I wanted and that’s what motivated me. Getting up at 6AM knowing I was going to knock on doors all day did not excite me.

Being inspired by pleasing results and not pleasing methods afforded me freedom that other people did not have when payday arrived.

Anyone who has opened and operated a successful business is familiar with that kind of mental state. It almost has to be pushed to a point of insanity. Other people don’t understand and can’t relate to that because that’s not a part of their life. They want to do what makes them feel good as much as possible. They are not interested in going through the punishment. But that kind of attitude is not what gets results.

Or perhaps they are afraid that they will, occasionally, live up to that ideal and then never be able to do it again. There’s a great story about the late Laurence Olivier, one of the world’s foremost actors. After a Shakespearean stage performance that outdid everything he had done before, a friend who saw the performance went backstage to congratulate him. But instead of seeing Olivier smiling and receiving congratulations, the actor looked miserable. Telling Olivier that his performance was magnificent, the friend wondered what was wrong. Olivier looked at him and said, “I don’t know how I did it.”  Did Olivier stop performing? Of course, he didn’t. He went on to other successes, and failures, but he never stopped doing what he loved. The elusive “perfection” that we seek is just that. We can’t grasp it and hold onto it. But I do believe that when those inspired moments occur, they don’t appear out of the blue. They can only occur when someone has done the necessary work, over and over again. That’s how achievers function.

Fear will hold you back like nothing else. If you fear rejection, you will never achieve your goals or live your dreams. If you try, you might fail more than once. But unless you reject fear of failing, you never will accomplish what you want to do. When you face the things you fear, the death of fear is certain.

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

The preceding is adapted from The Winning Advantage: Tap into Your Richest Resources by Raymond Houser ©2018 Raymond D. Houser and published with permission of the author.

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