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When Fear Is a Competitive Advantage — 4 Steps to Make It Work for You, by First Round

Stashed in: Decisions, Fear, Awesome, Anxiety, @firstround

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Step 1: Understand Your Relationship to Fear

First things first: to transform your relationship to fear and anxiety, you need to define what you’re dealing with. “Fear is a raw emotion that happens instantly to ensure our survival and safety, like getting out of the way of a moving car,” says Cordaro. “With anxiety, we are anticipating future threats based on our imagination, or trying to avoid painful experiences from the past, again based on mental projections. Fear typically lasts seconds, and anxiety is often chronic and can last for days or even months.”

Milano offered one of his favorite quotes from Mark Twain to demonstrate anxiety in action:

I’m an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.

As entrepreneurs, every day we are faced with uncertainty and risk, and when things are unknown, it’s natural to have anxiety. Some common anxiety thoughts include: “What happens if we run out of money?” “What if this product launch fails, will I get fired by the board?” In Milano’s experience, even his clients that are thriving at the highest level experience chronic anxiety thoughts like “Where is the next big win going to come from,” or “How do I continue justifying this massive valuation?”

The key point is that 99% of the time when people say they are experiencing fear, they are actually experiencing anxiety around events that may never happen. When this anxiety is playing like a broken record in our subconscious mind throughout the day, we are hanging out in our limbic brain, specifically the amygdala, which is responsible for our reactions to threat. When we are seeing the world through the lens of threat, we experience tunnel vision and limited possibilities.

When we only see limited possibilities, “this dramatically impairs our decision-making ability, which as an entrepreneur, is one of our most important leadership assets,” said Cordaro. “Whether we like to admit it or not, every decision we make goes through an emotion filter first, and fear is one of the most powerful emotion filters. Think of it this way: Are your decisions different from a place of joy and happiness versus sadness and despair? Most often yes, so it’s important to recognize that emotional intelligence is an essential skill set for entrepreneurial leaders.”

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