Categories
Christian Living

The upside of fear

Stupid spreadsheet.

Typically, I’m a pretty positive– upbeat — and self-confident person. I’m told I’m overly optimistic by my friends. But the past few weeks have brought about unfamiliar emotions. Negativity, melancholy, and anxiety. 

And since these are unfamiliar emotions I haven’t quite known how to respond. In situations where I’m typically chipper I’ve been quiet. In moments I typically shrug off bad news and instantly turn it into a positive I’ve been silent. I’ve been asked for ideas on things and just not had solutions where I normally have been so dependable.

It’s not that I don’t have stuff to say its that I think its time to be quiet and listen– I don’t want the wrong words to come out because of my emotional state so I just bit my tongue.

It all goes back to the spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet brought out fear I’d never had before. And, like all fear, it’s illogical and stupid.

The Spreadsheet

As a small business owner my income and expenses are all captured on a master spreadsheet. This gives me a month-by-month look at my business, where my money is coming from and where it is going. (Very similar to a personal budget.) Heading into the summer my balance sheet was very strong for the rest of 2012… this summer we had some record breaking months and some projects coming this fall which could double, even triple what we made in the same months of 2011.

Then over the last few weeks I’ve had to revise some of some numbers down. At the same time I had to make these revisions we ran into a normal business cycle where I pay a lot of money out while I’m waiting for a lot of income to come in. (I call this cash poor, invoice rich.) When larger businesses hit these business cycles they take out short-term loans. But we’re small enough where we just float through these times with our savings.

But it was those normal revisions and that normal business cycle which brought out all of that funky emotional junk.

Factually speaking, the numbers aren’t even that bad. We will still make more than we need. We are totally fine. But the act of making those changes and seeing all that cash go out planted a seed of doubt in me which grew into fear. “What if the cash doesn’t come back?” “What if it gets worse?” “Why don’t I have ____ in savings for when this happens?” “Why don’t I have a line of credit at the bank in case to cover this better?” On and on and on.

This is what I know about fear: Fear will make you dumb. Fear whispers lies in your ears. Fear makes you say no to things you should say yes to and visa versa.

And all of that was true of me in August. Our last camping trip came at a perfect time. Just when I was thinking, “What am I going to do?” We went and looked at the stars and took hikes and laughed and giggled until bed time.

Those 4 days gave me the perspective I so desperately needed: We are totally fine. 

Sitting by the fire helped calm my nerves. It helped lower my anxiety. It reminded me that everything would be OK.

The Upside of Fear

Sitting in church the other day I think it all started to wash over me. Not all fear is bad. I’m afraid of what a spreadsheet says might happen in 3-4 months? Really? How could I be so stupid? Talk about a lack of perspective in light of all that I know about Our God! Talk about allowing emotions to rule over facts! Talk about putting your faith and trust in something really, really small!

Here’s my observation: The only good kind of fear is the kind which leads you to taking positive action. 

Photo credit: James Stark via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Categories
McLane Creative

Start-up Mode, What We’re Learning

“So, how is the start-up stuff going?”

It’s a fair and caring question. I get it all the time.

Several months ago Kristen and I felt God pulling for a big change. Long before we even knew exactly how it would play out… we knew it was time to go for it. You know, a double dip recession and the worst economy in a generation is the perfect time to launch a start-up, right?

Actually, it is.

If you have a good business idea there is no such thing as a bad economy. If you want to think about economics, tomorrows biggest business winners are being determined today because the people who profit while everyone else is floundering will pay bigger dividends than those who either lose ground our don’t do anything now.

“It’s crazy.”

That’s my response when people ask that question because it’s the truth.

It’s crazy fun. It’s crazy the things I’m working on. And it’s crazy to think about all the conversations I’ve had as I’ve considered various opportunities over the past months.

It’s crazy to have to do things like month-to-month forecasts. And it’s crazy to have to rent an office for myself when I’ve had an office of my own provided by an employer since I was about 19 years old.

What I’m Learning

  1. I wish we had done this earlier. It’s not that I regret a moment of my time at YS, but as we ramp things up that I could have done this sooner and we’d be further along in our development.
  2. It’s not scary. Right now, there are millions of people doing jobs they hate because they are too afraid to make a change. I’m more afraid of doing a job that I don’t want to do than I’m afraid of starting my own business.
  3. Mission drives focus. I’ve been asked to consider projects that just weren’t right for what I’m trying to do. And a few times, in my insecurity, I’ve said yes to things that were more a distraction to my mission than they were profitable for our business.
  4. You have to stand up for yourself. In the past I’ve either just dealt with difficulties or had someone to help me with things I couldn’t correct. But now? I’ve got to have difficult conversations with people. I’ve got to be clear about what I am and am not going to do. If I won’t stand up for myself, I’ll get stepped on.
  5. Disappointment is part of the deal. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten amped for a big thing that hasn’t happened. It just goes with the territory. It’s not that I don’t allow myself to be disappointed anymore. But I have learned to deal with it quickly and move on.
  6. Dreamers get paid. Some of the most fun projects I’m working on happened because of saying, “Hey, wouldn’t that be cool if…?” Or it’s cousin, “How can we work together on that?
  7. Helping people is best. I LOVE helping people do stuff they thought wasn’t possible. There’s nothing quite like doing some training and seeing people go, “Oh, I could do ___ with that. Wow!” Believe it or not… that’s not that common. Traditional business wisdom would teach the opposite.
  8. It’s all about value. I have a philosophy that I want to deliver ridiculous value to the people I work with. Why? Delivering value builds loyalty.
  9. Admit when you suck. Just like I’ve had to learn to stand up for myself I’ve had to learn to go over and above when I’ve stunk. It happens. It will happen. Just admit it, pony up, and resolve to do better.
  10. Take advantage of the flexibility. The biggest mistake I’ve made in the past six months is not taking time off. I’ve gotten good about scheduling stuff. But vacation time? I didn’t do it. In 2012, I’ve got 4 weeks of downtime already booked.
Categories
illustrations

Be Intent

The last seven weeks I’ve had laser focus on one thing: Be ready for September 1st. 

Buy office equipment. Set-up a home office. Lease part-time office space. Create financial systems. Set-up a business infrastructure. Write business plans. Write marketing plans. Lay the groundwork to build a customer base. Write proposals. Sign contracts. Get consulting. And a whole lot more stuff like that.

This has been my life. And I’m exhausted. Last night was another day when I started at 7:00 am and went until 1:00 am with only a few breaks in the middle. It will be like this until Labor Day weekend when I finally get to disconnect and reward myself.

Here’s an observation I’ve made during this season: When you’re starting something from scratch you have laser-like focus and unlimited energy because you can grasp the big picture all at once. What’s next is what is right now.

The flipside is: Existing organizations have a unique ability to lose focus at the exact wrong time.

What’s next takes priority over what’s right now and visa versa. A big project is coming up and right before it happens a key decision-maker goes on vacation. Your biggest sales opportunity of the year? You missed it because you scheduled an internal meeting instead. On and on. Mental errors cost you in an existing business because you can’t see the whole organization anymore.

It’s like observing an island from a plane before you land, when you’re at 30,000 feet you can see the whole thing. But when you land you can only see what’s in front of you. 

In life, just like in business, the difference between success and failure in life is razor thin. Watch any sporting championship and you’ll see it. A single mental mistake at the wrong can cost you a championship, or a deal, or whatever your measurable is for success. That same mental mistake a thousand times during the season never hurt you before. But in the wrong moment? You’re dreams are wiped away.

When those moments come. Be intent.