How To Ensure Your Greatest Fears Come True

After a hectic but fun Saturday morning of speaking on a Lead Change panel and schlepping my son to baseball practice and art lessons, Sebastian and I decided to try out the newish Ethiopian restaurant for lunch.

“Every man, through fear, mugs his aspiration a dozen times a day.”
~ Brendan Francis

The place wasn’t crowded and the engaging owner did the cooking, waiting, and busing himself. The food was amazing. I asked how long he had been in business (a year), and admitted that I had never realized the place was there. We were politely interrupted by a woman asking to see the dessert menu.

“Oh no, we don’t carry desserts. I fear not enough people will want them. Once we really get things going, I’ll feel confident to expand the menu.”

As he came back to our table,Sebastian 8-years old, apparently now my Chief Marketing Officer, offered:

“You know, I think my mommy might really be able to help you with your business (I’m now searching for a menu to duck behind). She knows a lot about leadership and making money. You see she…”

The fantastic chef shared his story: “I’m a really good cook. My friends all told me I should open a restaurant. I’m taking a cautious approach. I know this location is not ideal (it’s really tucked away), but I didn’t want to invest much in location, until I knew for sure it would be a success. I want to attract a crowd, but it’s hard.”

He must have seen me glance around (I’ve never been accused of having a poker face).

“Yeah, I didn’t want to invest too much in decor to start either. Same philosophy. Better to play it safe, it might not work out. Once I have more customers, I’ll make the place more attractive. I have a vision.”

I had already picked up a take-out menu, because I couldn’t imagine convincing my husband this was a great place for romantic dining so I asked, “have you ever considered letting your customers bring their own wine at dinner?” (several really successful BYOBs are within a 5 mile radius) in similar rustic locations.

“Oh no. The insurance would be too much, you know and there’s the fear that a fight could break out.”

Okay, I don’t know about you, but the last fear on my mind when I plan for an evening of romantic ethnic dining (in a Suburban area) is a brawl. His fears were driving his business plan. A coat of paint, some sorbet in the freezer it wouldn’t take much. What was he really afraid of?

When Fear Takes Control

Fear based thinking happens in big business too:

  • “Let’s be like Zappos and truly empower our customer service reps to do what’s right for the customer. BUT if they need to give a credit over ten bucks they need to bring in a supervisor.”
  • “Forbes and Fast Company have great ideas about leadership. Joe has fantastic business results, and everyone wants to work for him, but, his approach is still unconventional for our culture. Not sure he’ll play that well in the board room, better promote the guy that leads like us.”
  • “Sure access to social media at work would help our employees promote our company, BUT what if they say something stupid?”
  • “I have a great idea, but what if my boss hates it? Better to lay low and do what she thinks is best.”

Don’t let fear stop your greatness. We need your creative cooking in our neck of the woods.

Share this on your favorite network!
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone
Posted in Career & Learning, Results & Execution and tagged , , , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

17 Comments

  1. When I read the title of your post, my first thought was the theme song to Laverne & Shirley “Sclemeel, schlemazel, hasenfeffer incorporated.”

    To overcome fear, take the first step.

    “On your mark, get set, and go now,
    Got a dream and we just know now,
    We’re gonna make our dream come true.
    And we’ll do it our way, yes our way.
    Make all our dreams come true,
    And do it our way, yes our way,
    Make all our dreams come true
    For me and you.”

    • Steve, Oh my, you are energetic this morning 😉 Thanks for the laugh… used to love that show as a kid. We didn’t watch much TV but that night we did it as a family… first Happy Days, then Laverne and Shirley, almost always with a bowl of choc. chip icecream…. ahhh…..

  2. Karin- I fear failure. Failure from contracting success. When I publish a presentation on slideshare I try my best to make it a success. Fear sometimes makes me delay publishing. Quite few times my fears proved false. Life needs brave hearts. Fear is crippling and attitude should change from fear of fear to learning from fear.

    • Ali, Thanks so much for sharing your vulnerability. I think most of us feel that for different reasons about different things. The challegne is that when we let fear hold us back, we are actually limiting our success. I love your work, so glad you share your gifts.

  3. I think about anxiety quite a bit. There’s that subtle dance between a healthy degree of sobriety about risk, and being frozen in inaction with fear. Most of us who lead organizations understand that tension well. Great post.

  4. Great post, Karin.

    I am one of those who fear failure because I’m so fixated on success…and if I’m honest, it’s usually my ego that is the culprit. My ego cannot stand to be wrong.

    At that level, I really need to work on basic self-image issues to understand that failing at a project is not failing as a person.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    • LaRae, I hate to fail too. I think we all do. It’s easier to see it on someone else 😉 I’m not sure i would have noticed the restaurant owners conversation patterns if I hadn’t just become an entrepreneur myself. It’s scary to invest… but without some risk, we lose even more. Thanks as always for your insights.

  5. Karin

    What you have described so well here is true for most people independent of their background, occupation. Too many what ifs, too many buts, too many imagined fears and far too many justifications for those fears.

    I was guilty of this too. My dream to become a coach and start my own practice stayed with me for 8 long years while I slaved away in a corporate job. Gave myself many of these ‘if only I could but…’, ‘What if..’ kind of explanations and the years went by. Thankfully I won over the fears with the support of a coach who got me to increase my self awareness, self belief and self discipline.

    Today I help people discover their true potential and lead happier lives. Its meaningful, aligned to my values and extremely fulfilling. FEAR as they say is indeed ‘false experiences appearing real’

  6. Great post and reminder of the cost of fear. We’ve adopted a new motto for us.

    Go, Set, Ready.

    We have five core values that every “GO” must be within. And as long as a decision meets all five core values, I support it 100%. So far, it’s not failed us.

  7. Fear is so powerful and can topple our best plans and goals. It can also paralyze us to the point of preventing growth and any change. To address fear, I take one step at a time- placing one foot in front of the other.

    Like the old Nike commercial said: Just Do It! And what happens if we fail? SO WHAT!!!

    Loved the post, Karin!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *