Dave Kerpen | Turn Fear into Courage
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Turn Fear into Courage

Turn Fear into Courage

Arnold came to me through a referral, wanting to hire an Apprentice. At 58 years old, he had a printing business, and he realized that times had changed and that he wasn’t going to be successful if he kept his business the same as it had been. He needed to significantly update his website and embrace social media in a meaningful way. It felt like a potentially major business pivot, but he knew it was essential.

Despite realizing what he knew he had to do, he had significant fear issues. He was afraid of his business going under; he was afraid of taking resources and money and wasting them; he was afraid that he was too out of touch with the world to adapt; he was afraid of hiring the wrong person to get the job done. I totally understood these fears, of course—who wouldn’t be afraid of trusting a major business pivot to a part-time college student? I knew that no matter how brilliant an Apprentice I brought him, Arnold would be unsuccessful if he continued to operate out of fear. All the delegation in the world, to the most brilliant person in the world, won’t make a difference if we are operating out of fear.

False Evidence Appearing Real

A good acronym when describing FEAR is “false evidence appearing real.” It’s our mind telling us something that likely doesn’t exist. I was bitten by a dog on my fifth birthday and became deeply afraid of dogs, a fear that lasted forty years. When I finally got the courage to work through my fears, I adopted a dog for our family. Homer is a well-trained cavachon, a small, mild-mannered, loving, and affectionate dog who wouldn’t hurt a fly. And yet, when I (carefully, tentatively) pet him, and he moves his mouth toward me to lick me affectionately, my fearful mind assumes he is going to bite me. It is unequivocally false evidence appearing real!

Even though he said he was ready to hire us, I took a chance and said to Arnold, “It sounds like you have a lot of fear, and I’m not ready to give you an Apprentice until you can come to terms with that and let it go.”

“You mean I can’t hire somebody to work on my website and social media?” Arnold exclaimed.

“You can, but you have to let go of the fear first.”

Arnold and I had a couple of coaching sessions. In those sessions, we got to the root of these fears. He had been in business for more than thirty years and had lived a very high quality of life thanks to that business. He was afraid that if he changed things in his business, he would fail, and that quality of life would suffer. Even though his kids were now grown, he equated business change with business failure and failure as a father . . . and an unhappy life. He was afraid of failure from changing his website and business focus, but he was actually even more afraid of failure by keeping things the same and watching the world pass him by.

As a longtime printing entrepreneur, he had already witnessed the internet revolution and the impact that it had on his business, and he was afraid of missing the boat again during the social media revolution. Arnold was able to accept all these fears and begin to let them go. In ultimately hiring Monica to change his website and work on his social media, Arnold still had a lot of fear, but he was able to recognize those fears throughout and act in the face of them. That’s the definition of courage.

Delegating well requires courage.

It is scary to give somebody an important task; it is very scary to rely on somebody else; it is very scary to give up perceived control over an outcome. What’s the scariest part about delegating for you? Is it knowing that perhaps high-stakes tasks might not go your way? Is it putting the success of your business and your team in somebody else’s hands? Is it something else? No matter what, let’s recognize together that the art of delegation requires real courage. Again, I’m not saying don’t be afraid; this stuff is scary. What I am saying is feel the fear and have courage and do it anyway.

Arnold knew he was afraid, but he acted courageously regardless. He hired Monica, she continued to build his website and a social media marketing plan, and, nine months later, with the help of a college student, Arnold was able to transform his business from a printing business to a progressive online marketing firm.

If you were more courageous, what could you get done with the help of others?


Arnold’s story is from my new book: Get Over Yourself: How to Lead and Delegate Effectively for More Time, More Freedom, and More Success

I hope this story inspires YOU to confront your fears and delegate with confidence.

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