“We are taught to understand, correctly, that courage is not the absence of fear, but the capacity for action despite our fears.” John McCain, Why Courage Matters.

I have a long way to go to feel fearless. But I have made giant leaps in becoming less fearful. The move to consulting requires courage, and it also demands that you fail regularly. In our former careers, the organizational structure protected us from harm. The institution carried the liability. If you failed, there were many around you succeeding, thus balancing the organization’s progress. But now, you fail, and you create your own special circumstances.

I am hearing, as I write this blog, from consultants around the country. All of us know others who want to try to cut the tether of their steady careers, but they just can’t make the move now. They are worried about the state of the economy, or their children’s college tuition debt, or the mortgage, or the uncertainty of a steady income, and as I wrote last time, the cost of benefits. The list goes on….

When I read Why Courage Matters, I matured in my understanding of what it means to be brave. Entrepreneurship takes confidence and stamina and patience. It means sleepless nights, worry over clients’ needs, deadline pressures, uncertain financial futures. Because of all this, it means that it takes courage, as Senator McCain notes – to persevere. There are days you think about returning to a predictable routine. There are nights where you long for a regular paycheck. There are weekends when you wish you hadn’t promised the report on Monday morning – eastern time. But you have hope that this new independence was predestined. You believe that somehow, things will keep getting better. You have the courage to stifle your doubts and block out the negative thinking. You suddenly get better at living mindfully- in the moment – as you conquer your anxieties.

Courage is helping me to change my vocabulary. Change your words, and your situation is repositioned. For example:

  • I don’t fail; I learn and grow.
  • I am not taking a risk; I am curious and exploring every opportunity.
  • I will not be anxious; I am doing well living in the moment.
  • I am not in a business lull; I really needed to catch up on my Christmas shopping and on a Wednesday morning when no one is in the mall, and I can breathe and enjoy the season without the crowds.

Each failure comes with the blessing of new knowlege. For example:

  • My Web site crashed. Twice. And I learned how to fix it. It might have taken hours the first time, but the second time, it took minutes.
  • My first e-blast went awry. Four typos and lots of mistyped addresses resulted in about a third of my list not getting the e-mail. Whew! A third missed my four typos!​
  • I sent an e-mail chiding a client for not responding to me. Turns out my gmail account went bonkers, and none of my sent mail actually was sent. Oh, and neither did that chiding email make it out of my send box. Whew! Saved myself from embarrassment. 

Entrepreneurship does require a kind of courage as well as a suit of Teflon when it comes to failure – which comes regularly. For too many years, I let fear hold me back - from many things. From enjoying the moment I was in – whether work or play. From trusting that I could relax because somehow we would pay the bills. From guilt for working 60-hour weeks and missing my children’s school events. From not calling my mom enough. From turning away and not toward my husband when I was finally home at night. Failure and guilt dominated.

But in starting my own business, failure has new meaning and it is exhilarating. For all those who have thought about consulting, the fear is real. Working through that fear with a support system, a savings account, lots of good friends and contacts, and oh yeah, courage and a healthy attitude toward failure, will help you make the change. Here’s to our shared journey toward fearlessness!

Journey Toward Fearlessness

Life Without Gravity

A blog chronicling the up's and down's, trials and tribulations, fear and happiness of moving your life from the expected 9-to-5 job to a life of consulting. While it is a big and often scary decision, it is a time of discovery, rejuvenation and introspection that will help you remember who you are and who you were supposed to be. It's a wonderful journey.

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