On fear vs. freedom

May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. - Nelson Mandela

This is it. This is actually happening. That's the first thing I thought when I hit "save" on a Facebook invite for a happy hour a few weeks back.

The purpose? To gather a group of like-minded women in (or interested in) small business. The fear factor? By inviting a group of friends and former coworkers (and a few strangers) to attend a small business-focused happy hour that hopefully would turn into a small business support group of sorts, I would have to publicly acknowledge my own desire to start a small side business – something I had purposefully avoided.

For years I've put off doing something out of fear of everything. What if no one buys anything. What if people think the prices are too steep. What if people like it and I can't keep up with demand and I disappoint them. What if I start it and then run out of enthusiasm and quit. What if no one likes it – or worse, what if no one likes me.

[Editor's note: Notice how our fears about business – or most things, really –  ultimately boil down to our secret fears about ourselves? Like when we say, "What if it fails?" when what we really mean is, "What if I fail?" Better get used to that. Small business ownership is basically just a slightly more expensive form of therapy.]

And so the fear would quickly smother any hope or momentum I may have had and my dream of owning a vintage furniture shop would quietly slink back to its place in the far, dark corners of my sincerest hopes and dreams.

Because somehow, doing something felt scarier than doing nothing. Because if you do nothing, you avoid the risk of failing at something. And because if you do nothing, you can still cling to the idea that you could, one day in the distant future, do something. In other words, by failing to try I managed to avoid the risk of failing. Of course, I also avoided any chance at success, personal growth and purpose.

But you know the funniest thing about fear? As soon as you challenge it, it dissipates – sort of like a dementor faced with a particularly well-executed patronus. [Editor's note: If you got that last sentence, we are now officially friends. If you didn't, you should immediately turn off your computer, drive to the nearest library and rent the entire Harry Potter series. No seriously, like now.]

The real truth – the one that fear doesn't want me to tell you – is that on the other side of fear lies freedom. That getting over fear can be as simple as climbing the invisible bridge that spans the gap between fear and freedom and consciously landing on the side of freedom. Which is exactly what that Facebook invitation was for me – a bridge from doing nothing to doing something, even if that something was taking the first step to what could be an ultimate failure.

Once you choose to forgo fear in favor of freedom, the rest of the path just sort of naturally unfolds before you. Where once you saw only pitfalls and opportunities to fail, now you're treated to infinite possibilities – chances to grow and build, chances to succeed, and chances to face more fears and choose freedom at every turn. A whole new world of possibility and promise that, if we hadn't already established this preference for freedom over fear, could be sort of terrifying in itself.

So here goes nothing. As of a month ago, I'm officially (and finally) on the road to opening the vintage furniture shop (or at least the online 1.0 version of it) I've spent the last few year saying I would but never could. I'm registering names, commissioning a brand identity, organizing and refinishing potential shop stock, making plans to turn a corner of our attic into a makeshift photo studio and continuing to meet new and inspiring women who have chosen freedom over fear and are doing (or are on the path to doing) the same thing I aspire to.

Is it scary to type that out loud and publish it for all the world (and especially my friends and family) to see? Oh hells yes. Deciding to choose freedom over fear doesn't reduce the risk of failure and it doesn't make fear any less felt. But it's also liberating in a way that holding back never was.

Here's to being free.