Sunday, March 20, 2011

To Fear or Not to Fear

Fear is both good and bad for us.   Without fear we’d all be dead!   Fear helps keep us and those we love safe from harm.  It keeps us from taking stupid risks.  But fear can prevent us taking risks that can be good for us.  Too often we get in our own way of accomplishing great things because we fear the worst.  We don’t start that business because we fear failure.  We don’t ask the girl or guy out because we fear rejection.  We don’t take that trip of a lifetime because we fear being in a strange place.  The best question you can ask yourself when taking a risk is “What’s the worst thing that can happen?”   If the answer won’t kill you, put you in the hospital, bankrupt you or hurt someone else – then the risk may very well be worth taking. 

The best piece of advice my mom gave me growing up was “Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want – the worst thing that can happen is that someone will say “no” – the best thing is that will say is “yes”.  But, if you don’t ask – you will never hear “yes”.  I tested this theory time and time again with my parents –and more often than not - I heard “no”.   But there was a “yes” or two along the way and since leaving the nest this advice has opened doors for me simply because I was not afraid to “ask”.   In fact, I would not be writing this column had I not “asked”.

Think of how many inventions and successful businesses would not exist had the person who initiated it been afraid to try.  Take Michele Gilfoil who was a successful banker and took a trip to Africa.   There she met women making shea butter and had an “aha” moment to produce body care products using shea and other ingredients unique to Africa.  Michele had no experience in this type of business but she did not let fear stand in her way.  She took it one step at a time and figured it out by talking to people and not being afraid to ask for help. 

She named her business Planet Botanicals and found manufacturing space in Maine to begin to formulate her products.   She admitted many failures and mistakes along the way.   She had no experience in formulating  - but her passion and commitment to making this company succeed kept her going even when she had to throw out yet another batch!   She never gave up.  Today her product line is growing and her products have received glowing reviews in major media outlets. 

Michele is just one example of successful Maine entrepreneurs who did not let fear get in their way of fulfilling their dreams and passions.   She recognized what she didn’t know and asked for help.   Too often we are afraid to venture beyond our comfort zones because we fear we don’t know enough.   When all we have to do is “ask” others and take it one step at a time. Being fearful can work to our advantage as it forces us to think things through before we take the leap but we shouldn’t let it keep us from taking risks that can change our lives for the better.    

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