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How to banish all your fears about the future 

This isn’t an article about hitting rock bottom. It’s worse.

The most horrifying place to be isn’t the gutter. It’s the moment when you start to feel the fall.

As always, it’s just in your head. That’s why it’s so bad: Hitting rock bottom is merely an exercise in dealing with concrete reality. But imagining it’s close to coming? That’s when the fear demons run wild.

As I said, the what-to-do-about-rock-bottom discussion will have to wait. This article isn’t about that. Besides, if you’re reading this, you’re not there.

Today we’re going to banish all speculative, hypothetical failures. Uncertainty and the fear of a horrifying future that may come to be… ends here. 

I get letters from people gazing into the abyss

Actually they’re emails, but that word doesn’t adequately convey the severity of these missives.

From time to time people write to me. I receive digital postcards from the motel situated at the brink of business ruin and financial wreck. These people have put themselves out there, believed in themselves and are about to fail anyway.

Every request for guidance I receive boils down to a single statement and a single question.

I’m running out of time. What do I do? 

This question is the reason I had to write this post.

When a disastrous future appears on your mental horizon, the first thing your entrepreneur mind does is ask what can be done. It’s less a request for therapy than it is for strategy . What you’re really looking for, when you ask that question, is the missing piece of the puzzle. That thing you haven’t yet *got* that’ll make everything… just work.

It doesn’t exist.

What you’re looking for is a total unicorn. A mythological beast full of bright shiny promise and zero substance.

You don’t need a new strategy. You don’t need to figure out some essential epiphany. You only need to do one thing:

Focus on activity

Just yesterday, I got a note from someone who has a three month window to succeed on a project. Thirty days in and they’re not getting the sales they need. With sixty days on the calendar, they are far from rock bottom but the terrifying process of imagination is beginning.

The imp of future-fear is dancing a terror tango on the brain.

Their email was full of anticipations of the impending failure. They were already saying “If this doesn’t work out, it’ll be fine – sometimes a big failure happens before a big success”. It’s always darkest before the dawn etc etc.

These statements are all attempts to grasp for that epiphany that changes things – to grab the unicorn by the tail. And it’s bullshit.

These are not things you should say or think when you’re just imagining failure. These are things people say when they’re actually at rock bottom. They’re what you tell yourself when you’re picking yourself up out of the gutter.

And you – just like the guy writing the email – are not there yet.

Instead of looking for an epiphany or re-framing the failure that is yet to be… focus on activity. 

Here is, verbatim, the email I wrote in reply to the guy last night:

Thirty days in you don’t need to be worrying at all. Keep crushing and just remember it’s a numbers game. Don’t stress (or focus) on closing, stress and focus on VOLUME. When the volume of your sales activity goes up, eventually you will get sales – it’s that simple. 

Right now, there is a whole universe of things outside of your control. You can spend a lot of time and energy beating yourself up and stressing about that. Or, you can focus on the number of things you CAN control. Which is your numbers. Pick up the phone. Make calls. Don’t worry about closing. Worry about dialing. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re not suck with sales. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. If you’re facing down impending failure – which, as we’ve established, is a COMPLETELY different beast than actual failure – then you need to worry about dialing. Not closing. That’s a metaphor.

At the end of the day, your business comes down to some form of numbers game. Increasing your activity – the sheer voltage of energy you funnel into the front of your business machine –will be the only real thing that’ll effect the end result your business ultimately produces.

And, by the way, if it isn’t clear HOW your business is a numbers game or where exactly you should apply that activity… you don’t have a business. Stop whatever it was you were doing and go find a real one.

When the fear of failure lures you to chase the epiphany unicorn, you should not take the bait.

You’ll end up finding all kinds of existential meaning miles outside of your control or even influence. These points of interest will rapidly morph into reasonsreasons why you couldn’t succeed – instead of results.

Success and power – your personal power – is built by taking charge of the things in your control and putting them to work for you. If you want to banish your fears about the future, increase your activity on the one thing that matters and watch the fear melt away.

Now, this may sound like it’s directly contradictory to my views on woo-woo manifestation that I discussed with Andy the other day but it isn’t…

No one was ever hit on the head with a bag of money while meditating… but the universe can’t resist a moving target. 

Start moving and you’ll get yours. Your activity, hour by hour, is in your control and no matter how close you get to failing, that will never ever change.

Only doing more stuff will silence the fear demons and tilt your destiny away from disaster.

23 Comments

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  1. This was the PERFECT message for me this morning! 🙂 I have been an entrepreneur for the last 22 years (4 different businesses) and I STILL forget this. Thanks for the refresher. Love your blog.

  2. Another great post, Peter! It’s so funny how wrapped up we get in trying to figure out how it’s all going to work out that we forget to just keep moving.

    Taped to my MacBook’s keyboard I have something you said when I interviewed you for my podcast last year, and which has become my mantra when I’m staring into the abyss: “What can I move forward, entirely on my own, in this day and this day alone?” It’s some of the best business advice I’ve ever gotten, so thanks for that.

  3. Peter, just finished a second listen of your podcast with Andy – awesome gems in there that I am actually editing into a shorter version that I can listen to again and again.

    ‘Don’t worry about closing, worry about dialling’ – gold.

    Cheers

  4. “If you want to banish your fears about the future, increase your activity on the one thing that matters and watch the fear melt away.”

    This is so true. It’s easy to get caught up in a “what matters most” argument in your head. But I’ve found that by limiting how many things I make a priority, I limit how many excuses I give myself.

    As an aside, Nick Reese just published a weekly planner that helps you identify important vs urgent and make sure the important is done first. http://www.nicholasreese.com/stop-feeling-overwhelmed/

  5. Peter,

    These words are gold:
    “Your activity, hour by hour, is in your control and no matter how close you get to failing, that will never ever change. Only doing more stuff will silence the fear demons and tilt your destiny away from disaster.”

    I also liked how you highlighted the difference between actually hitting rock-bottom (rare) and imagining failure (frequent).

    Touchdown!

  6. Ha Peter,

    This reminds me of the perspective I got from a male colleague of mine years ago about how to both vaccinate yourself against failure and get lucky at the same time.
    He made a regular practice of going into social situations and hitting on every woman in the room until someone said “yes”. He said that he learned to hear “no” a lot and became unphased by it. As time went on, his line got better and he left with a “sale” earlier in the evening. He gained greater confidence which made him more appealing, until he got to the place where he could often walk into a room, spot the “sale” he really wanted to make, and soon be leaving with the most appealing woman in the room. He said all he had to do was cure his allergy to the word “no.” He stopped imagining how awful he would feel if he asked a woman out and she said “no” and focused instead on continuing to move. “Eventually someone says “yes” and then everything I did before “yes” was just reconnaissance.”

    As a feminist I was horrified. As a future entrepreneur, I never forgot the story. It boiled down to “keep moving and you will get there.”

    Thanks for the great reminder!

  7. Any body see William Smith’s movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” he found that by hitting the receiver vs hanging up the phone saved him like 3 seconds, big deal? it is if you’re making 1 call a minute in an 8 hour day; that’s 505 calls vs 480, its a volume game right Peter? Exactly. Use the extra time for happy time!

    Feed yourself some regular happy time to keep Mr. Subconsciousness from getting you down.

    All work and no play makes an entrepreneur a bore. LOL true too!

    Not to mention depressed and burnt out.

    Thanks Peter, glad I found your site incredibly helpful. Not so stuck or down any more 🙂

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