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how to ensure your greatest fears come true

How To Ensure Your Greatest Fears Come True

by | Apr 14, 2014 | By Karin Hurt, Career & Learning, Results & Execution |

When you think about what it would take to do that extraordinary leap you are contemplating, what’s really stopping you? What t are your greatest fears?

When Your Greatest Fears Make 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 popped into the newish Ethiopian restaurant for lunch.

The place wasn’t crowded and the engaging owner cooked, waited tables and bussed the place 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 can ask you some great questions to get you started…”

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 anyone this was a great place for atmospheric 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:

Do you hear this kind of thinking where you work?

  • “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.


If you’ve stumbled upon this article, you’ve found some of my very earliest writing. I’d love for you to check out some of our newer resources, including our Whitepaper based on our research on courage and innovation.

Inspiring Innovation: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers and Customer Advocates.

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Steve Borek

    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.”

    • letsgrowleaders

      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. Ali Anani (@alianani15)

    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.

    • letsgrowleaders

      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. bill holston

    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.

    • Ali Anani (@alianani15)

      Bill- I tried to remember this word, but couldn’t. Thanks for saving me. Sobriety is the word. Yes, we dance on the edge of differences. Beautifully said

    • letsgrowleaders

      Bill, Such a great way to think about it…”a healthy degree of sobriety.” Sometimes it’s hard to see from the inside.

  4. Matt McWilliams

    I love that your 8-year old is your CMO 🙂 We are starting a business with our 3-year old. So cool.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Matt, Sebastian is so excited about my new adventure. He’s so sweet. He was giving my credentials with full on confidence…

  5. LaRae Quy

    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!

    • letsgrowleaders

      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.

  6. Sridhar Laxman


    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’

    • letsgrowleaders

      Sridhar, Thanks so much for sharing your journey with such transparency. I’m so glad you are living your dream.

  7. Eric Dingler

    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.

  8. letsgrowleaders

    I love your new motto. I’m going to try that 5 values as decision making parameters thing for my new company. Excelllent.

  9. Faisal

    Great Post!

  10. Terri Klass

    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!


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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