4 Fear Busters To Jumpstart Your Business

By Kevin Kelly

In my latest book, DO! The Pursuit of Xceptional Execution, I interviewed entrepreneurs from around the world. They lead some of the world’s most compelling brands and companies, ranging from one to 3,000 employees, with turnovers from $100,000 to $130 million. I call them the Xceptionalists. They hail from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Bologna, Italy; from Des Moines, Iowa to Galway, Ireland. They run app companies, consultancies, clinics and sprawling technology corporations.

Given that half of all new business fail in the first five years, how did they deal with fear and survive their early failures?

1. Stop fearing feedback

Xceptionalists treat failures as feedback and a prelude to future success. Ben Milne of Dwolla said, “… I have failed in making adaptations to the product… I have failed at selecting business partners. I nearly went out of business three times in my career. When you are failing the key point is to just admit it. … The longer you drag it out the less chance you have.”

According to Peldi from Balsamiq. “Mistakes don’t really matter that much as long as you fix them straight away and put your hand up. … It is very much the lean start-up way: throw it out there and listen.”

Why fear feedback? Why stigmatize failure in the workplace when it’s bringing you closer to achieving your organizational goals. If you want to find the next big success, failure comes with the territory.

2. Face and floor it

In the early 1970’s, during the height of the political turmoil that rocked Northern Ireland, Agnes McCourt, owner of Unislim had a very frightening encounter with an armed and masked gunman, Agnes’s husband wanted to cease all business links in Northern Ireland and relocate to Southern Ireland. Agnes agreed to the house move but continued to develop the her business. Why? “In business, one has to be fearless and do what one’s inner voice tells you is the right thing,” she told me.

Devon Brooks co-founder of the unique women’s personal care business Blo Blow Dry Bars, was sexually assaulted and went through the ensuing harrowing judicial process. She made a personal commitment that she would never let her past get in the way of taking action. Devon told me, “Sometimes you live life, and sometimes life happens to you. But you always get to choose what you do about it.”

3. Find the source of the fear

Like many Xceptionalists, when fear raises its head, Patrick McKeown of Asthmacare had a strategy that works for him. He asks three questions:

  • What is the best possible outcome?
  • What is the worst possible outcome?
  • What outcome falls between the above two?

McKeown says entrepreneurs who survive in the long term take calculated risks, and tend not to take monumental courses of action with their head stuck in the sand. So the fear has no gone away, they just understand it a little better.

4. Flow floors fear

For our Xceptionalists from Brazil, WeDemand.com, fear was never an issue. They have been so immersed in an industry they love, they haven’t had the time or the inclination to be afraid. “I would tell entrepreneurs not to be afraid. If you sit around and just wish about your idea, nothing will happen. All you can lose is money and there is no shame in trying,” said cofounder Bruno Natal.

So in essence, there is nothing to fear. The challenge for you the entrepreneur is to find your passion and make fear history.

See more extracts from Kevin Kelly’s new book “Do! The pursuit of Xceptional Execution”

Author’s Bio: Kevin is an internationally acclaimed leadership and motivational speaker and best selling author. For more information: http://www.kevinkellyunlimited.com.


  1. Chelicia H. says

    I really enjoyed this blog simply because I am conservative in financial decisions, and apprehensive about jumping into investments. The steps that you’ve discussed (viewing failure as feedback, not being afraid of life happening, taking calculated risks, and simply just doing it) is helping me to look at business in an entirely different way. ~Chelicia H

Leave a Reply

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