Over the years, I’ve met so many people who have great ideas about how they want to benefit others and give back to society through entrepreneurial pursuits.
I’ve listened to several impressive outlines and plans, where someone has spotted a great way to solve a particular problem or provide a unique service that helps people in an inventive way.
For many, although they have excellent ideas in mind, much of their thinking is taken up by a potent fear – the fear of taking steps to bring ideas to life.
It’s an understandable fear, and no doubt one that all of us have experienced.
The endless possibilities and outcomes of ideas can be seductive because when an idea is just an idea, there’s no possibility of failure.
It’s only when the idea in a person’s mind starts to take shape in the real world that setbacks and failures become possible.
Do we think too much?
One of the common doubts I hear from people is, “I don’t know enough about my idea – I need more time to think and to read up on it. Once I have enough knowledge, then I can start working on it.”
Personally, I think this is a sensible approach. To start anything worthwhile, you need to have a sufficient amount of knowledge to begin the process of building on the product or service you have in mind.
Unfortunately, most people stretch out the thinking process for too long, and the longer they spend thinking about their idea, the less likely they are to act on it.
What does it mean to stretch out the thinking process?
It’s the difference between having enough knowledge to begin working on your idea, and waiting for every detail, nuance, possible outcomes, pros and cons, and concrete certainty to form in your mind before starting.
Learning by doing
In business, much of an entrepreneur’s learning takes place while doing.
Think about the time you learnt to ride a bicycle.
Your parents (or whoever taught you) didn’t sit you down for a long chat about the mechanics of bike-riding and all the possible things that might happen when you’re on the saddle.
Instead, they put you on a bike and instructed you while you were practising.
You learnt enough knowledge (the fundamentals) about riding a bike to successfully keep your balance, make turns, break and (eventually) come off the bike safely.
It’s unlikely that you were taught how to navigate steep hills and sharp turns, different terrains, take on your friends in a race, or ride the bike with no hands on the bars.
All of these things and more you’d have picked up along the way – and no doubt with some bumps and scrapes that taught you valuable lessons.
Embrace the ‘child’ in us
When we’re children, we don’t have much fear of trying new experiences and developing new skills.
Even if some fear exists, children are usually brave enough to try and, if they fail once, twice or five times, they are able to keep going until they successfully reach their goal.
As adults, we need to find a way to embrace the fearlessness we enjoyed as kids, and one of the tenets of that fearlessness is not caring about how we look to others when we fail.
Whenever we try something difficult, we’re bound to stumble and fall – but better to stumble and fall 10 times than be the one who’s too afraid to try anything new.
The first person is failing forward, accumulating valuable lessons that will eventually lead to success. The second person is neither learning nor growing.
It’s normal to not know everything in the beginning about what you want to achieve.
The most important thing is to further your learning by doing – to get out there and try a few things to get your idea off the ground.
This kind of development is known as experiential learning and it comes with a number of advantages compared to simply reading books or talking to other people in your field.
Both of these approaches are valuable of course; however, we shouldn’t fall into the trap of relying solely on theories and anecdotes.
Those only get you so far – the real growth is in the work.
While fear can serve as a powerful motivator in healthy doses, when we allow ourselves to become too fearful, it can lead to analysis-paralysis, which means we overthink to the point of being incapable of taking action.
The biggest fear we have in this context is the fear of failure: fears about how we’ll look, about not getting things right the first time or ever, about never being able to realise our dream.
This fear is strengthened by our thoughts, which soon tell us it’s impossible to fail if we never try. And so, we wait for much longer than we should.
We wait for the right moment. We wait until we’re ready. We wait until the doubts subside.
We wait until we have enough money or approval. We wait to see if everyone else is doing what we’re doing.
As we wait, time rolls on regardless. The longer we wait, the less chance of failure… or so we believe.
“Learn by doing” is a great saying because it’s true. We grow, develop, and stumble upon great ideas by “doing”.
The more we do, more of life offers itself to us, whether it be in the form of opportunities, innovations, breakthroughs, or even valuable lessons brought by temporary failure.
How much is lost to us because we wait for the right moment or for the planets to be aligned in our favour?
There is no right moment. We make our own fortune.
If you have something in mind you really want to do or work towards, stop waiting and start doing.
Stop being held captive by fear and take one or two steps now, today, to get the ball rolling.
Don’t be the person who, in five years from now, says: “I should’ve started then.”
There is no deeper regret than not doing something when you had the chance… and that chance is always available, now. Grab it with both hands.
We could choose to hold on to the false belief that if we don’t try, we don’t fail; or we could find the courage to embrace the mindset that we had as children when we learnt to ride our bicycle.
Do you remember the sense of triumph when you completed your first bike run unaided?
That feeling arose because our fears had been found out.
They lost their power in the face of our stubborn persistence and determination, which was driven by a mind that told us: It’s impossible to fail if you never give up.
Imagine what you could achieve if you recaptured that mindset?
Go on, face your fear and Be A Leader!
Article first appeared on LinkedIn.