Dealing with fear

Fear paralyses. The solution is certainty. You focus instead on what you know already – and expand your knowledge from there.

We all get nervous sometimes. Life throws big decisions at you, and there’s often no way around them. Just through.

Maybe you’re itching to quit the rat race, and tap into that well of creative energy that’s always been boiling and bubbling in the back of your mind. To make a go of it, and even forge your own creative career. But it’s a hell of a jump, to quit the safety of that day job. How do you even know you’ll succeed?

That’s where you develop your convictions. Yes, it’s a big leap to quit your day job and be a full-time creator. But it doesn’t need to be scary. Not if you’ve done some prior homework, and you’re already certain.

Certainty is worth more than gold. There’s a lot going on in this world, and there’s an awful lot of things we’re unsure of. No one has all the answers. But the ones with an answer, of any kind, are often the ones who get ahead.

Certainty, confidence, experience… it’s all pretty much the same thing. The more you know, the more certain you can be. And for certain people, life has a strange tendency to get out of the way. You just have to know a little more.

It’s like building up a mental toolkit, and keeping those tools clean, sharp and up to date. You develop certain skills and approaches. You keep a close eye on your industry. You have the right information to hand, like a tool, to handle what comes your way. It’s as simple as knowing more.

Take the study of business, for example. Watch enough speakers, gurus, experts and millionaires and you’ll find that the same patterns emerge: that while education punishes us for failing, it can be a badge of honour in the entrepreneurial world. It’s a valuable lesson, priceless experience, and often the springboard to try another venture and get it right. Since no one has a crystal ball, failure is kind of just there anyway.

It’s ok to fail – as long as you learn from it and try another way.

We may delegate our woes to the experts; to the ones who know. Or at least, the ones who appear to know. But qualifications aren’t a guarantee. Experience counts for far more. Are we judging these experts on their results, and the hours they’ve put in to getting them? Or do we believe them because they tell us to?

There are no sacred experts any more. Anyone can be an expert in anything. In our age of information, you could know more about the car you’re buying than the salesman trying to sell it. You could know more about his sales techniques than he does – and watch him using them too. You could know exactly what makes you want that car, and exactly what it’ll take to make you buy it. You could be the most certain person in that dealership… and you could walk away. Maybe you know you could buy it cheaper elsewhere. Maybe you don’t need the car at all. The point is, either way, you’re certain.

It’s the same if you want to make that jump into self-employment. You realise that some people know a lot, and you learn from them. But no one has all the answers, and there’s nothing to stop you knowing as much as anyone else.

There’s a fine line between confidence and ego, but it’s a very solid line too: it’s objective fact. Does your self-employment make enough money for you to live on? Do you sell your works for what they’re worth? Do you have the social proof (reviews, customer feedback) to demonstrate your ability, and point out where you need to improve? Subjective opinion and artistic passions aside, the numbers don’t lie – your work either sells in the marketplace, or it doesn’t.

If you commit to learning everything there is to learn about your art form, and the business, and (crucially) how to make that sale to support yourself, then there’s nothing to stop you from making the leap to self-employment.

To deal with fear, educate yourself. Strive to know more than the average bear. Get certain.

Now buy my books.

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