The Terror of Firsts

The first time you try something it’s scary.

Some “firsts” I’ve experienced in the past 10 years that have put some serious fear in me:

  • my first face to face with a potential client
  • my first published article
  • my first blog post
  • my first product launch
  • my first product acquisition
  • my first time speaking at a user group
  • my first time speaking at a conference

As humans we fear the unknown. We fear failure…rejection…mistakes. These are either feelings that come naturally or have been pressed into us by society.

This fear is what makes starting a company hard. It entails large amounts of risk and there’s so much potential for failure, rejection and mistakes. In fact, most of these are almost inevitable if you choose to start something that makes a difference.

It could be a blog, a consulting firm, a product, a company, or simply an attempt at speaking in front of a group. But it’s all terrifying that first time.

What’s odd is how much easier it is the second time. And the third. And how, by the fourth time you can’t even feel the hair on the back of your neck, or the sweat in your palms. The terror goes away surprisingly quickly. Then you have to find the next experience that creates that fear in you.

That up-front fear is a big indicator that you’re going to grow as a person if you proceed through it.

Five years ago I re-read and re-published my first blog post at least 20 times. No one was reading, but it felt insanely scary. Now it’s akin to brushing my teeth.

The terror wears off pretty quickly

The interesting thing I’ve found is that the more taste of this growth you have, the more you want it. It’s a rush, and it’s addictive.

It’s a huge confidence boost to look back at the things that scared you last month, last year, or even five years ago. And realize you conquered them.

This kind of success leads you to trust your instincts. It builds confidence. It eliminates pointless analysis that used to keep you spinning on decisions for hours, days or weeks.

Overcoming the terror of firsts is hard, but it’s what makes the goal beyond the terror worth achieving. The terror that stands between you and the goal is something 99.9% of people will never overcome.

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#1 Dan on 04.14.10 at 11:17 am

Sometimes the terror returns in short bursts! I like this post because I am always talking myself away from fear. Sometimes its difficult to go to a new restaurant let alone start a company or speak in front of people. I agree its addictive! Looking forward to a lot more podcasts!

#2 Jeff on 04.17.10 at 12:23 pm

For me the biggest terror is the terror of leaving a steady paycheck. 🙂

#3 Rob on 04.17.10 at 6:00 pm

@Jeff – I actually think that’s a good kind of terror. Typically sticking with the paycheck until you have quite a bit of revenue coming in is a good thing (“how much” depends on your personality).

Most terror serves a useful purpose. It’s looking at it objectively and not letting it hold you back from something you should be doing that’s the challenge.

#4 John Gallagher on 04.20.10 at 7:51 am

Great post, Rob.

I think looking back at the last year and asking if you did anything that scared you is a good habit to get into. And as you say, it’s an indicator of growth.

I’ve done a few things over the past year that really scared me and every time when I came out the other side I was glad I’d done it.

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#6 Bruce on 05.19.10 at 11:39 am

For me the biggest terror is the terror of leaving a steady paycheck. 🙂

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