Rappelling for VINE

I am not sure when my fear of heights started. I am inclined to think it started the summer between my 7th and 8th grade year of junior high.

That’s when I shot up a couple of inches and became the “big” girl.

Yes, that was my claim to fame in my little Missouri town, population 325. At  5’11” by my freshman year I towered over most people, certainly everyone my age. (Big Bird was my nickname, yes kids were mean even back then.)

But my first recollection of noticing my fear was on the ferris wheel at my little town’s summer fair. There were really only two rides. The ferris wheel was slow and by today’s standards not even very high, but when it stopped me right at the top of the circle to let others out below, I felt fear. Sitting up there, all alone, legs dangling below me while I sat precariously in what seemed to be a very poorly made seat. After several starts and stops, I finally made it safely to the bottom swearing never again to ride a ferris wheel!

Forty years later, all grown up (although somehow, I think, a half an inch shorter), I faced my fear of heights as I repelled over the edge of the VINE Building in Mankato. It wasn’t easy, but my belief in and commitment to that organization inspired me. It is nothing I really want to do again. Ever. But I faced my fear and I feel somehow I’m better for it. I am ready to take on another fear now!

Every day I meet business people and entrepreneurs who seem fearless. But I have learned from speaking with them that, really, entrepreneurship is treacherous ground. While each entrepreneur and each business is unique, they seem to share some common fears. Entrepreneur.com says every entrepreneur should face these fears, and others, before starting a business. They also say to be aware of these going in, so you can face them proactively. Their words of wisdom: be prepared, have the right tools and surround yourself with the right people.

One fear might be running out of money. (Okay, this is a fear whether you are a business owner or not!) Capital is, and definitely should be, one of the biggest concerns most entrepreneurs have. If personal investment loss is what’s keeping you from moving forward, consider other means of funding. Work with investors, or jump on the phenomenon known as crowdfunding where you can collect small amounts of money from thousands of people. It can add up quickly. Or, Google business grants from the government to help get you started. Evaluate this fear closely. If you don’t have faith in your business model, you shouldn’t go into business.

Another fear, of course (one that occurs with most worthwhile endeavors), is the fear of failure. Just flat out failing. This fear gets the better of all of us occasionally. You can’t let fear of failure stop you though. Now, what I’m going to say next isn’t meant to discourage you, but be assured you likely will fail at something, at some point. And it will set you back. But failure only means the end if you let it. Instead view each failure…yes, there may be more than one…as a learning opportunity. Every failure you experience yields a lesson you can incorporate into your business or your life.

Another fear that may not materialize until you are in the throws of your business is fear of getting overwhelmed. Running a business is full of obstacles, stress and most of all hard work. It’s a challenge, but can also be very rewarding if you find balance. You will inevitably feel overwhelmed at times, but it’s all completely within your power to change. Figure out what obstacle, hurdle or problem is causing you the biggest issue and get help. If it’s finances, hire a financial advisor. If it is human resources, find someone to manage that for you. You may have a great workload but remember you are in control of it!

The fear that is actually impossible to prepare for is the fear of the unknown.

Sometimes you just don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. For many, it’s a thrilling thought, but it’s also terrifying. Often entrepreneurs and business leaders are risk takers, hard working and passionate about what they do. Those are qualities that will help you overcome whatever the unknown brings.

So, Entrepreneur.com says most fears can be calmed if you just go in prepared, with the right tools and surrounded by the right people. That’s how I conquered my fear of heights.

The hardest part about repelling for me was just getting to the edge of the building. I must have stayed in one spot back by the wall far away from the edge for a good 20 minutes. Facing out and seeing HOW FAR down the ground was almost paralyzed me. But, I had prepared. I listened intently while they gave us instructions, I made sure I had the proper equipment on, and I had someone by my side (thank you Claire Dau!). So once I made it to the edge, I knew I could do it.

Well, at least I knew I had to try!

Lisa Cownie

Editor of Connect Business Magazine