Fortune Favors the Brave
Over the weekend, I was invited to speak to group of young entrepreneurs about how to overcome emotions and stay courageous, afraid and tough. And how success comes from striking the right balance in managing all of our waves. And so, as I prepare for my next talk with Kenyan Entrepreneurs at the MEMON Entrepreneurship Summit on 12-13th October 2019 in Nairobi, let me share some of my conversations. What I want to do here is blend my military past and experience with my entrepreneurship.
First and in nearly every situation boldness is a necessary part of courage, but it must be a boldness based on an intelligent assessment of the potential risks and rewards.
The fruitful facet of boldness is that, if its properly implemented, it builds a practice of courage in the person who drives it.
In my experience, whether from my military past or in business ventures, any virtue translated into action leads almost invariably to positive results. This applies to integrity, persistence, courtesy, love and courage. I’ve always liked the advice of an old man to his grandson. “Act boldly and unseen forces will come to your aid.”
Take a Leap of Faith
Perhaps the most obviously important part of courage is the courage to step out in the face of uncertainty. Every great venture in the history of man has begun with faith and a giant leap into the unknown.
This quote from General Douglas MacArthur lies closely with me. It reads: “There is no security in life, only opportunity.” The creed of Frederick The Great, one of history’s most successful leaders was, “Audacity, audacity-always audacity!
Taking a leap of faith, draws me back to also thinking of the worst-case scenario. Whatever you're afraid of – be it zombies, lions, tigers, or staring a business, you could always opt to avoid it for the rest of your life, but I am here to tell you as soldiers we don't have that luxury. We know we’re probably going to face situations that will scare the shit (literally) out of us. To make sure the fear doesn't take over when lives are on the line, we simulate the most stressful scenarios we can, trying as much as possible to experience the emotions in practice so they have less of an effect in reality.
Science backs this up, too. Instead of thinking happy thoughts of starting a business and the supposed riches and success, all the while ignoring your fears, the best way to overcome an anxiety is to spend a lot of time imagining the worst possible outcome. People who are able to picture their worst fear and stay with that emotional experience instead of pushing it out of their minds generally get over that fear much more effectively than those who try to ignore them
Commitment to the path:
Beyond hard work, great ideas, talent and timing, there are certain intangibles that go along with business success. Among the many qualities that are necessary to meet the challenges which come with building a company, there are three which every entrepreneur must possess: fear, courage and endurance. For any concept or path, I want to start, I sit and meditate the fear away, or try to have a vision quest of my correct path. Whatever you imagine, the image of guys sitting in a circle and chanting "Om" probably doesn't come to mind, does it?
But in truth, meditation is another method we us to distress, prep for combat, control fear and help us focus on the path. Programs, which tailors its meditation practice specifically to the needs of the armed forces, offer new recruits and combat veterans alike the opportunity to benefit from a technique that has been proven to provide tremendous mental health benefits. Those who have participated report not only increased skills as a soldier, but an enhanced ability to deal with pressure and adapt to life back home.
People tend to give worry too much power, but it can be debilitating, causing them to freeze in place and play it too safe at the expense of their dreams. In my military past, I was taught that the most effective way to deal with fear was to laugh it off. For me, laughter lets me know that everything is going to be fine and its all going to work. I have seen fear takes many forms, often showing up after rejection or failure, causing people to miss out on experiences that would enrich their lives.
However, as much as its disparaged, fear is an essential part of life, it makes you realize you are alive. Fear can keep people stuck, but it can also keep them safe from making rash decisions they will later regret. Healthy fear helps ensure a careful evaluation of any scenario before proceeding.
Many of the biggest opportunity’s life offers are initially met with gut-wrenching fear, but the dread can provide powerful motivation to prepare. Let me share an example for you and one you would not think would cause me fear. After my military experience, but I was terrified of public speaking but agree to deliver a presentation at a professional group, and as you can image, I was motivated to prepare properly. And so, I regress back to my military past that without fear, you don't get the exhilaration of confronting a frightening situation (Adrenaline rush), or the confidence that results from overcoming it. A little healthy fear is desirable when it's used productively. If fear is not in the driver's seat (and is perhaps just tucked away in the glove box), it can be a valuable part of the journey.
Of course, courage must coexist alongside fear for entrepreneurs to make progress. Courage is the faith in our convictions that there is more out there, that there's a better way and that it is within our power to make it happen. Courage means defying naysayers, abandoning the orthodox way of doing things and leaving the comfort of the known to venture out into new territory.
But let me put this into military terms, I see this as breathe, and breathe and breathe. For me courage is about the ability to define but control things and breathing is the key. Imagine shots ringing out all around you and your heart is beating out of your chest, your knees are Jell-O, and sweat is pouring off your face. Unfortunately, fear does have physical manifestations. But you can actually fight these physical and mental symptoms, physically and mentally just Breathe.
By inhaling for four seconds and exhaling for four seconds, I am able to calm down the nervous system and regain control of their own biological response to fear and this helps me with of course the courage to get up and handle my business.
While courage is something that many people applaud, in some situations, bravery can appear reckless, overly aggressive or downright foolish. So just be careful and mindful of just take a breath before you jump into a situation or a business decision.
Our goal in building a business is endurance. Fortitude is the grit, persistence and resilience entrepreneurs need to remain in pursuit of their vision despite the odds. It's the energizing force that helps you overcome obstacles and drives you to put in long hours of work for days, weeks, months and beyond. Behind most "overnight successes" you will likely find years of hard work, the result of a fierce commitment to a passion.
And so again from my military past, we say keep pushing your comfort zone. When all is said and done, the job of any elite soldier is to willingly put their life at risk again and again and again, just as you would in your business. For me, this is what I always address with my team, this is a great way to overcome fear. By enduring an intense emotional experience enough times, the anxiety diminishes. It's the same principle that makes exposure therapy (less purvey than you think) an effective means of com batting phobias.
If you're in a scary situation often enough, it's not scary. Unless that situation involves spiders, lol and that is another story.
And so, you should steadfastly persevere in pursuit of your objective--that is, with an occasional pause. Although endurance is generally viewed in a positive light, it can also act as a blinder, preventing people from seeing they are going in the wrong direction.
Fortitude is about not giving up easily, but it doesn't mean sticking with what may become an ill-fated plan. Sometimes tenacity prevents people from making necessary changes, such as altering their original business model or abandoning the idea altogether. At some point, you have to decide whether your health, time, finances and relationships are worth the cost of continuing.
Balance your Mind (Kill the man in your head)
But last and not least is something that happens to us all, and that is the talk over the voice in your head! We're all used to that voice that chatters throughout the day in the back of our minds, well at least for me it always does. We're also used to the fact that he's kind of an asshole, that little voice. It'd be sweet to have an inner monologue that reminds us of a motivational speaker, but often, our guy sounds like a drunken father or teacher telling us we're worthless and unwanted.
This is a real thing. In times of stress, our brains generate self-talk that can dramatically increase our feelings of fear. As in my past military life, for me, I focus on the positive part of the experience or my quest, repeating words like "faster, or Hell No, or get the fuck out of my way or, I will not fail " when they need to, well, go faster with your talking. With enough practice, I have learned to ignore and even override the douche bag in my brains. You can do the same in your daily life.
But let me say this just don't actually say the words while at your desk. You don't want your self-talk to scare your coworkers, lol
Whatever you aspire to, the right proportions of fear, courage and endurance will help you reach your goal, so my Entrepreneurs, go, take the leap of faith, act like a warrior and remember you are in control, so first Check yourself and control your vision quest and have fun!