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How to overcome the fear of success

In my final year at varsity, I met a young bright mind whose name was Justin. He is one of the most driven and visionary individuals I have ever met. He would spend hours at the library taking in as much as he could about financial markets, private equity and investing. His ambition was unquestionable and it was clear that only time stood in-between his situation at the time and his dream. Justin was constantly sending emails, business proposals and making pitches to investors. He wanted to build a company and was always knocking on doors and refining his pitch. As time went on, nothing seemed to give and he got used to pushing and pursuing his dream and this became his comfort zone.
Soon however, his efforts began to pay off and he started receiving emails and responses from potential investors and business partners. He would leave school and travel to the capital for these high level talks and I remember him getting overwhelmed at some point.

As we sat and joked in our dorm room, I recall how he said there comes a time when things just start moving too fast, falling into place and everything coming full circle, so much that you start to question your abilities and even doubt if you can handle. We find it too good to be true and succumb to our fear of success. For many of us, this is the point where we stop and subconsciously say to ourselves, “Hey success, wait a minute. I’m not yet prepared for you. I’ll get back to you when I feel I’m ready.” So we then cancel the meeting, shelf the idea, turn down the opportunity and return to our measly comfort zone- the good old endless routine of pushing, constantly knocking on doors and pitching. It’s what we’re used to after all.

I’ve found myself in the same predicament a number of times. A few years ago, I had been building a soft drink brand. I had sold some units and managed to set up a dapper website even though I was still trying to find my feet in that competitive industry. My ultimate goal was to get it into the major retailers and I was already doing well on the informal sector. Eventually, I started receiving emails and meeting requests from potential partners from all over the world. I was getting calls from Dubai, the UK and even locally. I remember on one occasion an executive from a Zambian distribution company requested a meeting and he expressed his interest in getting rights to distribute our products in Zambia. The only problem was, I had been doing it small scale and thus I did not feel I was ready to engage such a high level player. I was used to dealing with the street vendors and small tuckshop owners. To cut a long story short, the meeting never happened and it was purely because I just felt the opportunity was too big. I wasn’t at that level yet. How ridiculous is that??

Stop making excuses

First thing’s first. STOP MAKING EXCUSES. It’s one thing to bite off more than you can chew, but it’s another to turn your back on opportunity. On numerous occasions I’ve found myself thinking:
“People will think I’m showing off”
“It’s too good to be true.”
“Not now. I first need to perfect xyz”
“what’s the catch?”
“Let me give them a break. I’m sure they’re now tired of me”
The list could go on and on. These might seem like logical, reasonable and even wise thoughts depending on the situation at that time. It is only later when we look back and in hindsight, we Find ourselves thinking, “I was really on to something with that app idea”, but by then it will be too late. Someone bold enough will have built ‘your idea’ and taken it a few levels up.

Having gone through that countless times, I’m here to tell you that it can be overcome and with little ease. I hope the following additional ideas will help you build your confidence, take action and build your dream.

Believe in yourself

Are you one of the many people who believe others are more deserving than you are, or that certain things are just not meant for people like you? Well, It might sound cliché but you are smart enough, talented enough and intelligent enough. The fact that you have the interest, desire, the zeal and excitement to allow an idea to even spend time in your thoughts means you have the potential to actually take action and bring it to life. In the words of Jack Canfield, “you will not be given a dream that you do not have the capacity to fulfil.” Build yourself up into a bona-fide business person so that the next time opportunity knocks, you will have the confidence and be able to rise up to the challenge. This also means being bold enough to at least try. What’s the worst that could happen?

Visualize your growth

The other reason why we end up rejecting opportunity is because we fail to anticipate it. Everyone has a vague wish to be successful but very few have actually visualized their growth. Every business goes through 5 stages of growth, regardless of their sector, resources or expertise. These stages are existence, survival, success, take off and maturity. Those that fail to adapt eventually find themselves in the sixth stage of the business lifecycle: Decline. As you start your business journey, it is important to understand your roadmap and these 6 stages are your milestones.

What usually happens is that after putting in the hard work, it becomes inevitable that your efforts will soon get rewarded and you find yourself inadvertently catapulted to the next stage. This change is often unexpected and thus we subconsciously opt to stay in our comfort zone and reject the impending growth. Understanding the growth process will guide you and tell you exactly what you need to do to move on and thrive at the next stage. By anticipating your path, you will be able to make decisions when opportunity presents itself, and it will. Start by studying your predecessors and find out what they went through. Read about successful companies in your field and learn from their history. This will help you to avoid the mistakes that they made and to build on the things that they did right. You can learn more about the stages of business growth here.

Build a support system or network

Begin with an honest assessment of your situation and find out what weaknesses you have. What areas need attention for you to ensure business success. Look at your own motivation, determination and purpose. Assess your support structures, both social and financial, as well as your abilities, skills and talents. This should give a clear indication of what you can and cannot do. This then allows you to identify individuals around you that can assist you to bring your dreams to life. So if, you lack in terms of funding, you can proactively start to seek partnerships with individuals and institutions that can assist you in that regard. Do not wait until the last minute or when the need for external funding becomes imminent to start building relations. What are the chances of someone giving money to a stranger? In a perfect world maybe.

Building relations also goes beyond prospective funders, it includes complimentary businesses as well. These can be marketing firms, suppliers and even competitors. Two event management companies can come together for the purposes of hosting a certain event. Construction companies can pool their resources and bid for certain tenders. Knowing you have the backing and support of these partners will give you the confidence to take on challenging opportunities. That way, you do not have to withdraw into your shell when opportunity appears.

Believing in your abilities, avoiding excuses, understanding your path and building a support network of potential helpers will prepare you to take advantage of any opportunities that arise. Carefully plan for your growth and take the necessary steps to overcome your fear of success and achieve your goals. Let it not come as a surprise when doors open, emails are replied and orders are made. It’s what you have been working to achieve in the first place.

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