Fear is not your friend
Fear is a powerful motivator. Entrepreneurs use fear to motivate themselves; CEOs often use fear to motivate themselves and their employees. After a while, it's easy to consider fear as a valuable tool, a friend. Too bad it isn't true.
Fear of missing deadlines, fear of not having enough money, and fear of failure gets people up and keeps them running all day. Fear as a motivator kicks in sometime after a person leaves college, starts to work in a business career, and realizes that, at the rate he's earning, he's going to have to spend the next ten years paying off his college loans and credit card debt.
In addition to using the fears we create to motivate ourselves, there is also the fear we are fed every day. The majority of all "news" is based on fear. We are reminded of the terrible things that can (and do) happen to people. We are warned about the things that are lurking out there, waiting to catch us unawares. We are told about the mindless, idiotic and dangerous things that some people are doing, somewhere in the world. In the age of the Internet, TV, and radio, we are fed these thoughts and images, 24/7, at the office and in every room of our homes.
For example, right now the housing/lending market is suffering from a disaster of their own making. The "news" media is using that fact to pump more fear into our public consciousness. Real estate agents are lamenting a "shark pit" environment, sellers are worried that their houses won't sell, buyers are pushing for the best possible deal, and lenders are being more cautious. This story will have legs; the fear drums will rise to a fever pitch before the situation stabilizes and the "news" media will have to find something else to scare us with. Meanwhile, millions of houses will still be bought and sold.
If you have been using fear as a motivator, it's easy to accept this negative narrative. At the very least, it will change the way you make decisions. You will move more cautiously and agonize over every decision. At the worst, you will become so depressed and so fearful that you will stop being effective. Your ability to generate high-quality output will suffer. Behave this way long enough, and your fears of financial failure will become a reality.
In other words, your fears will alter your behavior, and your behavior will fulfill your fears. How does this happen?
Here's a very common example. Let's say you run a small company. Your sales are not stellar, but you do manage to pay your bills and meet the 3-person payroll. But the economic news is really getting to you, and you're running scared. You decide you must increase your sales now, or your business will fail.
So you start Googling "how to increase your sales." You read articles. You email consultants. You end up deciding that your real problem is you're not doing a good enough job with [fill in the blank - PR, search engine optimization, website content, Google Adwords, etc.]. You either hire someone or you try to do it yourself - writing press releases, working with Google Adwords, or whatever. The point is, you're investing. Another way of saying that is "you're spending."
Yes, that's right - you started out needing more money coming into your business, and you ended up sending more money out of your business. Does the investment pay off? Usually, no.
Why? Because fear made you do something that you wouldn't normally have done, something out of the ordinary, something that probably doesn't "fit" with the other stuff you're doing, and, most importantly, something that has nothing to do with the way customers buy your product.
This is the problem with fear-driven behavior. Fear magnifies particular aspects of your situation, in a way that is out of proportion to reality. Fear is mostly based on anticipated problems, many of which never materialize - especially if you're doing the right thing at any given moment.
No matter what is happening - in your own business and in the world - you have little to fear if you are always alert, thorough, efficient, and industrious. People with the least reason to fear are those who are constantly observing their situation and are not afraid to change what they are doing when the situation warrants it.
When it comes to selling, the most important thing you can observe is your customers. Nothing matters more than that. Nothing. What they believe and what they do is where your money comes from. It doesn't come from the "news" media. It doesn't come from your competitors. It doesn't come from your own efforts, except in the sense that your efforts are meeting customer needs. In other words, it's easy to work hard - and think you should be getting ahead - without meeting customer needs. Money certainly doesn't come from acquiescing to your fears.
We get a return from whatever we put our energy and time into. We only have so much energy and time. If you put your energy into fear, you will realize your fears. If you put your energy into meeting customer needs, you will get more customers - no matter what the economy is doing, no matter what the news media is saying, no matter what is happening all around you.
If you find yourself shifting into a fearful state, and starting to look around for things you can do to increase sales, stop. Take a deep breath. Then start making phone calls - to your own customers. Ask them three questions: Why (and how) did you buy our product? How's it going? What advice do you have for me, as I look for ways to make this product easy to buy and easy to use?
By the fifth phone call, you will realize that you are feeling great. You'll be energized. Sure, there will be things you've learned that were a bit discouraging. Perhaps every single person mentioned that it's too difficult to generate reports with your software program, or that they didn't hear back from your tech support person within 24 hours. But these specific bits of bad news are actually a cause for optimism.
You no longer have to be uncertain about what needs fixing; or be forced to guess. You will also know the best way to promote your product to potential buyers. You will know how they buy and what they need you to tell them about your product. You won't waste your money on efforts that won't pay off. And, your energies will be focused on the real source of income.
Even a little bit of fear is dangerous, if it causes you to ignore the true source of income and financial security. Anything that takes your mind off your customers will be pulling you backwards. Don't let the fear-mongers steal your income from you, and stop using fear to motivate yourself. Seek the truth and use it to guide you.