As we hurtled towards turn three at over 170 mph I decided there are only two types of people.The type that is driving chatters away about how lunch was awesome but the restaurant was too snooty for his taste, wonders why fancy bread is always hard as a rock, and decides vegetarian always means “tastes like what the farmer couldn’t sell.”
The type that is strapped into a temporary passenger seat has a death grip on the seat belt harnesses and vows to never think badly of anyone who depends on Depend Undergarments. (And he has—OK, I have—kept that vow.)
So that’s why I was surprised when I took my racing driver around a road course on the back of a motorcycle to show him the lines I would use. He squirmed and flinched and gripped my waist so hard he left bruises. (But I didn’t slow down. Payback, baby.) What I considered to be a pedestrian pace left him rattled.
Here’s the thing: The speed didn’t scare him when he was on the back of my motorcycle; he’s gone way faster. The speed didn’t scare me when I was in his race car; I’ve also gone faster. What scared us both wasn’t the speed but the loss of control and fear of the unknown.
The same thing happens when you think about changing careers, or starting a business, or trying anything new. The risk seems too great… so you stay put. That’s certainly the safe approach, but safe usually means sorry: Sorry you never gave yourself the opportunity to achieve something great.
Yet turning risk into reward doesn’t mean closing your eyes and taking a leap. Bravery (or stupidity) isn’t part of the equation. When you take steps to increase your sense of control and reduce the unknowns, risk is no longer involved.
When you’re in control and unafraid you don’t have to take huge risks. You get to make smart decisions.
Here are some simple steps to help you eliminate fear and reduce risk, both perceived real:
1. Deal with the “worst” first. It’s natural to immediately think of worst-case scenarios.
It’s also needlessly defeating. Most of our fears are groundless.
When I was in the car with my friend I could have been badly injured or even killed. Possible… but not likely. I was in a race car with one of the top racing drivers in the world (he says the top, which tells you more about the confidence required to reach the top of any field than it does about his ego.) Die in a horrible crash? Nate Silver would probably say I’m more likely to trip over my dog and flip headfirst into a potted plant and suffocate.
Say you want to quit your job and start a restaurant. What’s the worst that can happen? The restaurant could fail and your family wind up homeless and destitute?
Possible… but not likely. You’ll work hard and adapt and adjust and, if necessary, shut down your restaurant and get another job before you ever let something that awful happen.
Failure is never an ideal outcome but it is almost always a manageable outcome. Decide the most likely “worst” things that can happen and create plans to deal with those outcomes before you start.
That way you gain more control and face fewer unknowns—and you’re mentally prepared to overcome those challenges if something does go wrong.
2. Start really small. The challenge of creating a menu (we’ll stick with the restaurant example), finding a location, hiring and managing staff, and the hundreds of other tasks involved in running a successful restaurant might seem too scary to take on.
So start small. Create a few dishes and try them out on your friends. Get a part-time job as a server, a cook, or a host and learn more about the industry. Shadow a friend who runs her own business so you can learn what business owners do behind the scenes.
Every learning experience eliminates another unknown, builds greater confidence—and helps you make smarter decisions later on.
3. Take a small plunge. Eventually practice is not enough to make perfect. Still, you don’t need to go all in. Take a small chance: Cater a small event. Cater a picnic. Provide food for a fundraiser. Do it at cost if that’s the only way to land the gig.
What’s the absolute worst that can happen? The event could be a disaster but in the long run who cares?
You gained experience, and experience is the root of all confidence.
4. Then get a friend. If you like, take one more step to reduce any lingering fears: Enlist a little backup. Partner with a friend. Reel in a relative. Finding a willing helper is easier than you think since almost everyone wants to try new things.
That way you get a sounding board, an extra pair of hands if a “worst” does pop up, and most importantly the reassurance of knowing you are not alone.
5. Decide. Can you do it? Should you do it? Do you have the skills and willingness and motivation? By this stage you’ll know.
By the way: The final step is not, “Take the plunge.” At this point now you’re no longer jumping into the deep end. You’re no longer staring down a major fear.
You’re no longer taking a huge risk.
You’re just making a decision: An intelligent, rational, clear-eyes, full hearts, can’t lose, no-fear decision.
You’ve turned what was once scary and unknown into business as usual—Depend Undergarments not required.
More from my Inc. articles:
- 8 Promises You Should Make Every Day
- 12 New Ways to Attack Any Challenge
- The Best (and Hardest) Way to Start a Business
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