Leaning into Fear
July 23, 2012
I’ve got to be honest. Fear has been my constant companion over the last couple of years. It’s sitting next to me all the time. It’s been a bit of a pill. If I give it too much credit, it slows me down. It gets in my way. It makes decision making take way longer than it should.
I’ve been at the point of tears so many times over the last couple of months. While in the midst of getting this product ready to go to market, I’ve also been preparing for this summer’s open water race season. Frankly, swimming in the open water scares me, too. The water is deep. It can be choppy. The sea life gives me the willies. Sharks. When I’m a long way from the shore and I’m tired, I feel very alone. I feel vulnerable. The fitness level that I’ve built in the pool over the last year is either there to get me safely to shore or it’s not. Yes, there are people out in their canoes and on their paddle boards. But, really, I don’t want to need the help. I think there’s something for me in the water, though. There’s something for me in swimming a long time in deep water. There’s something there in doing what is hard. In doing what we’re afraid of. Maybe if I can do it in the water, I can also do what I’m afraid of in living a wonderfully adventurous redemptive life. Maybe I can live my life in a way that matters.
So, what am I afraid of with this business? I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid of looking foolish. I’m afraid of hearing well-meaning friends or family members tell me that I might have bitten off more than I could chew. I’m afraid of making mistakes, which leads me to do nothing. I’m afraid of pitching a product that is rejected in the marketplace. I’m afraid that the business model won’t work. I’m afraid of making branding mistakes. I’m anxious about the process of figuring out how to run this business. If I let it, this fear will lead me to do absolutely nothing. To sit still and just let the idea pass me by.
My friend Nancy says that we should lean into our doubts. Lean into conflict. I think that the same is probably true with fear, too. We need to lean in and see what it’s about. Does my fear make sense? Will this fear serve my mission? Is a healthy dose of caution called for, or would a healthy dose of courage serve my mission best? When fear gets the best of me and slows me down or paralyzes me, I’ve been imagining myself answering to the people that we’re seeking to serve. I feel accountable to the poor. There are much easier ways to make a living than to run a Fair Trade business. Poverty alleviation is why we’re doing this. So, I imagine myself sitting before a group of women who are living in poverty and telling them that I didn’t move forward with the business because I was afraid. Because it might be hard. Because I have to figure out a path that I’m unsure of. Because I might fail. When sitting before these women, I just can’t do it. I just can’t let fear lead me to inaction. I truly feel I have no choice but to move forward. The business may not work. God’s plan of redemption is bigger than I can understand. But, I feel compelled to take this trail and see where it leads. We’ve had so many affirmations that we’re supposed to take the next step.
There is so much that I’m excited about in starting this business. While I’m afraid, I’m also excited about learning all that we need to learn to do this well. I’m excited about pitching my soap to the marketplace. But, it feels disingenuous to pitch it without telling you about the fear. It’s the elephant that’s sitting in the middle of my living room right now.