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Why Fear Can Be Healthy

Do you ever get scared? Fear is a strange emotion, sometimes rational and healthy; other times, it just seems to strike at the strangest of moments. It is one of the most pre-eminent emotions in my life, and one I battle, especially as an entrepreneur. Do you identify with any of these?

  • The fear of public speaking and receiving blank stares back from your audience as you forget what you were to say
  • The fear of being rejected when you take a risk and step out and ask for help
  • The fear of failure (a common one for entrepreneurs!)
  • The fear of making a mistake when you operate in a technical or high regulatory or medical environment where consequences are serious
  • The fear of physical harm as you walk down a dark street late at night, all alone
  • The fear of being wrong about something you are so certain about

Fear can be healthy. It’s fear of being burned that stops us putting our hands in the fire. But fear can also hold us back, damage our relationships, and stop us from living life to the fullest, as we were made to. It can stop us from setting up new ventures to restore relationships or feed the hungry or visit the prisoner or work to heal the sick. It can stop us from having conversations that can take relationships to a deeper level. It can leave us as prisoners in our own home.

So what to do, if we all get scared sometimes? Here’s how I approach life when I am scared (a common feeling):

  • I pray. As a Christian, this is my first call. Confession of emotion, request for assistance.
  • I identify the cause of the fear. Break it down. I am not scared of the presentation or the crowd, I am scared of failing to deliver my lines. So what can I do about that specific problem?
  • I put it in context. I’m not being crucified, shot at, imprisoned, or dying. Life is much worse for many others.
  • I identify the lies and take them head on. No, not everyone listening to my presentation hates me and wants me to fail; they are for me not against me and want to hear what I have to say. And yes, I do have something interesting to say.
  • I take steps to minimize the fear. Sometimes, that means asking for help or breaking the task into little steps rather than one big one (e.g. do a 3-minute presentation rather than 18 minutes first time at TED!).

If we always run from fear, our lives will be a shadow of what it could have been. We all run at points, and that can be healthy, but our stance in general should be to face into it.

Changing the world isn’t easy. People might doubt you and challenge you, funding might be difficult, your dream might not become a reality. But if we can learn to replace doubt with hope and take on fear with prayerful and thoughtful actions along with encouraging relationships, we’ll be in a much stronger position to sustain our ventures in the long run.

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Duncan wants to use business as a way of enabling change for good. He sees that business can be a way of generating funds that can then be used to catalyze projects that help those who are most in need, to restore and to bring renewal. He has had 12 years experience in finance, 10 of those as an equity analyst in London and 2 working in corporate finance in Edinburgh. In 2008 he launched Seven Men (sevenmen.com ) to be a vehicle that would launch new companies to make profit, and the profit would be deployed to bring change for good. It’s suitably vague enough to allow him to be inspired and entrepreneurial! He has an increasing interest in India and working with the untouchables to assist with empowerment through economic activity.