Fear is one of the emotions all living beings face at different times in their lives. I am sure all of us have and will face ‘fear’ at various points of time in our lives.
It could be the fear of dying, fear of losing, fear of failure, and sometimes fear of the unknown. The condition of mental depression is many times associated with the fear of the unknown. I would put the high anxiety and related disorders, due to the uncertain pandemic, in the basket of the ‘fear of the ‘unknown’ — a fear that comes with uncertainty, apparent vulnerability, mass hysteria, and the real and present danger.
As a professional, as a member of a family, as an entrepreneur, I have experienced fear many times. I believe we all do.
Even in the real world, like in many films, the individuals either overcome fear and succeed, or they succumb to pressure and vanish. I believe it is all about how we are made: genetic predisposition, upbringing, circumstances, and the environment — local and peripheral.
I have seen that of when a talented and aspiring individual is given an opportunity to be a leader, the outcome can go either way:
Fear takes over, and the individual becomes reticent and prefers to remain in the ‘comfort zone’.
‘Fear becomes the key’ that is used to pump adrenaline, become more courageous, face the fears and overcome hurdles, and the individual becomes a true leader.
I personally believe it is the emotional strength of the individual that makes a difference between succumbing to fear, or facing it squarely and conquering it. It is famously said that many talented individuals chose not to become entrepreneurs because of the ‘fear of failure’, and hence they prefer to stay in their comfort zone, and the society is bereft of many potential leaders. This is more true in conservative and traditional societies.
When I was in school in the 1970s in India, a businessman was often scorned, because there was a belief amongst the more traditional and highly conservative sections of the society that business meant profiteering, and profiteering at the cost of the common man. Most families would be happy if they had an individual in their family getting a government job, and later in the 1980s, public sector banks and companies became the ‘top of the heap’ ambition.
Entrepreneurship was still an ‘American Dream’ or a ‘Silicon Valley’ culture in the 1990s. Indian entrepreneurship got inspired by the stories from the Valley, and also by the great Indian business leaders like the Tatas, followed by other leaders like Narayana Murthy, Shiv Nadar, Azim Premji, and many others.
In the Silicon Valley culture, it was okay to fail, and it did not mean the end of life. You could still do another startup, and you would find backers for it. In India failing as an entrepreneur was still taboo, and hence the ‘fear of failure’ mitigated many aspiring and great ideas taking the shape of an enterprise.
In the recent decade, entrepreneurship, startups, venture funding, valuations, exits, and serial entrepreneurships have become fashionable. Entrepreneurs-turned-investors have a ‘risk appetite’! How much can they risk investing in an idea, in a team, without the fear of failure?
With the changed attitude of the society towards entrepreneurs and startups, ‘fear of failure’ seems to be receding. It does not make young entrepreneurs feel weak in their knees or break into a sweat when they start their journeys. They are better prepared, courageous and tenacious to fly through the turbulent journey of being an entrepreneur. Stronger the conviction and passion, the less likely they are to fail. ‘Fear is the key’ to do more!