Fear – the Number One Hurdle

A lot of people have great ideas as well as the desire to follow their dreams and work on their ideas. But there are many hurdles and barriers standing in the way. The number one hurdle, at least in my case, is fear.

But fear could be healthy. Many years ago when I was trying to make a living racing motorcycles, my mentor used to tell me: “fear is good.” That didn’t make much sense at first. After all, this was around the same time everyone was parading around with those “NO FEAR” stickers. How could fear be good? I thought fear made me weak and kept me from reaching my full potential.

In time, however, I came to appreciate fear.

Fear of Failure

I take pride in what I do. I want to be a success. I don’t want to be a failure. The unknown is terrifying. This fear can be the number one reason why otherwise ambitious folks never set out to try anything risky. Especially if one would have to give up a great situation to embrace the unknown.

But this fear can be good. Fear is a powerful motivator (think how fear is stopping most people from doing potentially great things). If you could turn fear into a positive motivator, you will actually benefit from it. Fear of failure can drive you to give all your efforts and then some into whatever pursuits you choose to undertake. It will give you a better chance to succeed by relentlessly driving you away from failure.

Fear of Failing to Try

The fear of failure is not the only fear that I confront. Even after I made all the plans to start my own firm, it was terrifying to actual follow through with the process of quitting my job. A thousand thoughts ran through my mind, and most of them centered on “is this the wrong thing to do” or just simply “are you crazy?”

But I zoned in on another fear, a fear that not doing what I had planned to do would lead to a failure of underachievement. You see, the “what ifs” work the other way too: what if I can actually work hard and achieve my dreams??? Then staying pat may be the ultimate failure. I would not want to look back with a head full of gray hair and regret never having tried.

This fear is worse you see: if I failed, I could try again; but if I never tried, there would be no way to fix it.

With that fear in mind, it was much easier to follow through with the process. I just simply couldn’t bear the thought of dedicate another 10 years of my life then figure out that it was the wrong move to not try. You only live once. And today starts NOW.

Fear is Good

My racing mentor went on to tell me, “it’s foolish to have no fear.” It makes sense. When you are traveling at 200mph towards a concrete wall, it is normal to have fear. It is foolish to not fear death. But the best racers find ways to turn fear into motivators, to increase their focus and improve their decision making so the subject of the fear never occurs. If I let my fear keep me on the sidelines, then I failed anyway — you can’t win a race if you are not in it.

I apply the same principal in everything I do now. No blind ambitions. Rather, I recognize the risks and redirect my fear into careful planning and skillful execution. Fear can be my friend.


Dafan Zhang

Dafan Zhang is the managing principal of Zhang Law PC. Known as the High Tech Counsel, Dafan's practice focuses on technology, intellectual property, startups, and litigation. Please visit www.hightechcounsel.com for details about his practice.