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How to Overcome the Fear That’s Holding Back Your Business and Probably Making You an Asshole

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NOTAFRAIDA few months back, we had the first meeting of the RFS Mastermind, during which I led 40 up-and-coming entrepreneurs through a full weekend of coaching to help build their businesses.

There were lots of lessons, a ton of actionable information, and some truly deep discussions about a myriad of topics.

Of all of the things discussed, the item that came up most frequently was fear.

Fear, in all of its varied forms, is without question the number one reason people aren’t 

It’s important to understand, of course, that fear manifests itself in different ways. There’s the predictable fear of failure. For a great many people, the big fear is the idea that you can work hard on a project for weeks or months, only to release it and have nothing happen. Crickets. A scary thought.

There’s also the fear of success: that your product will make a noise, make an impact, and garner attention. This can be scarier than fear of failure. If you do something and it fails, usually no one knows about it–but when you succeed, you get attention. Once that happens, there are eyes on you, opening you up to criticism. That alone can be scary.

But with success often comes expectation–which can be even scarier. Once you’ve done one thing, people start wondering when you’re going to do the next. When’s the next book? The next product? The next launch? The very idea of that type of pressure can certainly be terrifying.

Finally, there’s fear of the unknown. And this is by far the fear that creates the biggest and most frequent hurdles when trying to build a business–because fear of the unknown is the mostly likely to inhibit action.

And above all, in order to have a successful business, you absolutely need to take action.

What I’m talking about is fear of not knowing. And, often, fear of learning.

Here’s what happens:  You don’t know what can have the biggest impact, so you do nothing. This is by far the most common fear that holds entrepreneurs back.

  • Should I focus on social media?
  • Start a podcast?
  • Do I need to learn SEO?
  • Should I be focusing on my growth?
  • What about Facebook ads?
  • Copywriting?

Not knowing what to do leads to inaction. But this is often simple to overcome: do anything. Literally anything. As long as you’re taking some sort of action, that’s better than standing still.

But a big part of the reason people don’t take action isn’t just that they don’t know which action to take. It’s not the fear of doing something–it’s the fear of doing something new. Something unknown. And of learning something new. 

The fact is, there are so many skills to learn that it can seem intimidating. So intimidating that you can begin to suffer from something called paralysis by analysis — a phenomenon caused by having so many options leads you to chose none.

You’re running this business, or trying to, and there are so many tools to help you–too many. And that scares you, so you choose none. Which moves your business exactly zero steps forwards.

This is especially popular for individuals who are, by their own estimation, doing pretty well. The thought process for them is that if they already have things in place and business is going reasonably well.

If things are going well, there’s not a lot of impetus to change them—unless you’re willing to overcome fear, step out of your comfort zone, and go from good to great. And that is precisely what it takes to really crush it.

You can’t just keep doing the things you’re doing and expecting them to blow your business up.

A Personal Example

One of the most valuable moments of my life was during a night in NYC sometime in early 2011. It was 2am in the West Village. My friend Lewis Howes had invited me out to grab a drink with a few badasses, despite the fact that he doesn’t drink.

We were hanging out at the White Horse Tavern, and I was in the middle of a diatribe extolling the virtue of hard cider over beer when a snippet of conversation between Ramit Sethi and Noah Kagan (both of whom I was meeting for the first time that night) caught my attention. I stopped mid-sentence and hopped on the bus, because my ass was about to get schooled.

Ramit and Noah were having an animated conversation about metrics and split testing, exchanging tips and new strategies (many of which would be implemented into Noah’s suite of AppSumo products). I listened in, and despite doing my absolute best to follow the conversation, I felt like the dumbest human being on the planet. It was like they were speaking a different language.

At that point, I wasn’t aggressively tracking metrics, and I certainly wasn’t doing any split testing. I had been telling myself that my job was just to create amazing content, and the rest would take care of itself. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Not that I didn’t see the value of marketing. I was actively learning copywriting, but that was it. Between that and getting published all over, I thought I was set. It was working so far, after all.

My error was made clear to me in a blinding flash. You can be the best trainer/coach/writer/player in the world, but if no one knows, it doesn’t matter.

Getting your message to as many people as possible is the fucking game

It’s not enough to just learn the basics of marketing, you need to know how effective that marketing is and be willing to tweak it. It’s not enough to write great copy; you need to write effective copy–and to know what’s effective, you have to test.

Listening to them talk made me realize I was fucking up massively, and I resolved to actually learn this shit.

But that led me to questions—why hadn’t I already learned? Why had I been so aggressively avoiding learning it?

The answer was simple: I was afraid. I was terrified.

This was an entirely new world. It wasn’t enough to learn how to write copy and release a product: I had to set up split testing to see which offer and price point performed better; I had to learn SEO so that more traffic would come to the site; I had to learn about heat-mapping so I could tell which areas of my pages what actually being read and clicked.

The idea of learning this entirely new skill set was fucking scary. I was starting from absolute zero, and had no idea what to even do to get going.

For a moment, the fear froze me in my tracks.

You see, I’d been operating under the assumption that just by creating content and releasing products, I was done. I was winning.

But at that moment I realized that I’d only been doing half the job.

Thankfully, I was able to put this into context by calling upon one off my favorite video games of all time: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

In it, you play Alucard, the bastard son of Dracula. You go through the game, hacking and slashing through Drac’s castle, and then, just when you’ve beaten your last nemesis…

NOPE.

You’re not done with the game. The castle spins and spins, eventually settling upside down. Turns out, you just finished half the game. And you’ve still got a long way to go.

The reaction to this in the video game world was astounding. People fell into two camps:

  1. Those who were completely resentful that they had more work to do.
  2. Those who were ecstatic that they had so much more gameplay ahead of them.

I understand the first reaction. And this exactly what happens whenever I tell people they need to start increasing their business by stepping out of their comfort zone and learn some new business skills — they seem completely defeated.

While this is an understandable feeling, it’s fucking bullshit, and it’s holding you back.

How Fear of Developing New Skills is Holding Your Business Back

Here’s a fact: if you really want your business to succeed, it’s not enough to just create great content.

It’s not enough to release products. You need to really dig into the data and see how these are performing.

There’s no way around it: tracking is important. Testing is important. If you’re a fitness professional, you do this every day. You track your clients progress in terms of strength, weight, and body composition. You probably have them track nutrition in terms of macros.

And testing? You’ve spent your entire career running tests, figuring out which movements are the most effective in various situations.

You track and test because these things are comfortable to you, and you started doing it after having established a baseline level of knowledge of the material in question.

But when it comes to business and marketing, so many professionals just don’t want to learn. Because you’re afraid. It’s big. It’s scary. It’s outside of your comfort zone. You like feeling like a badasses, not an idiot.

So instead of learning of learning the ins and outs of marketing, you just do life harder and keep focusing on the shit you already know.

Congratulations on reading a 500th deadlift article; I truly hope that new cue you learned makes you a better trainer. But is it going to make more money? Is it going to get you more readers? Is it going to allow your to reach more people, HELP more people? No.

If you want to get people to read your deadlift article, you need to master social media. You need to have a basic understanding of SEO. You need to understand the importance of formatting and readability.

But so many people don’t want to do that; they don’t want to learn it. Because they’re scared. Because it’s unfamiliar. Because getting past the suck threshold seems too intimidating, so why even try.

The worst part is, this fear filters into everything else. Sure, it keeps people from being willing to learn these business practices…but it also creates resentment against those who aren’t afraid, and who employ these techniques.

If you listen to Yoda, the consequences of fear are dire, and lead to a straightforward progression: 

 

fear-leads-to-anger-anger-leads-to-hate

This is annoying, destructive, and serves no one.1

I firmly believe that nearly all of the people who spend their time trolling on Facebook and lambasting marketers have devolved into haters because their fear of getting out of their comfort zone and learning this shit has made them bitter.

Fucking stop. Stop being hateful–because most of the time the hate comes from fear. So stop being afraid, and embrace the things you need to learn.

Just learn it. It’s not that fucking hard. Listen, I’m the world’s worst tech guy, so if I can learn this shit, anyone can.

  • Learn how to write copy.
  • Learn the basics of SEO.
  • Learn how to run an A/B test.

Don’t wanna learn? Hire someone to do it.2

But, honestly, you’re going to be a thousand times better off if you just fucking learn it.

Listen, I get it. I was in the same position as you are for years: I didn’t want to learn all the Big Scary Things, so I convinced myself they weren’t important.

And, by the way, I STILL DO THIS.

I’ve been putting off learning Facebook Ads for well over a year, because I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing, and that’s scary. But I also understand it’s holding me back, and preventing my business from growing, which is why I spent four hours reading about Facebook Ads last night.

My point is simply that it’s not enough to be good at training or coaching or writing programs and articles. You have to get your shit out there. So you need to learn how to do it.

Resources (Paid)

Okay, you need to learn how to do these things. So, since I’m a nice guy and want to see you succeed, I’ve compiled some high-level resources for you to learn from.

  • Writing for Fitness – a few years back, I teamed up with Lou Schuler and Sean Hyson to put together a comprehensive resource of those who want to crush writing in the fitness industry. Lou covers writing books, Sean covers getting published in magazines, and I cover everything you need to know about running a fitness blog. It’s a legit recourse and has helped a few thousand people get going. 
  • Ramit Sethi’s Zero to Launch – Ramit Sethi, whom I mentioned earlier, is one of the best overall business guys I know. In ZTL, he covers how to go from starting at the bottom to actually launching a product or course. This is one of the best resources I’ve seen. Grab it for sure. 
  • Ramit’s Copywriting Course – No matter what business you’re in, you need to sell. The ability to write copy that convinces people to pay you is the most valuable skill you can develop. Ramit shows you how to write salescopy that’s great without being spammy, and allows you to display your personality. 
  • LeadPages – LP is a fantastic piece of world-changing software that allows you to quickly and easily create opt-in pages, sales page, and other useful stuff. All pages are customizable and pretty easy to set up. I’m awful at tech, and I can use it.
  • AppSumo – Noah’s brainchild that covers nearly every aspect of biz growth for a website. There are tools for opt-ins, heatmapping, Google analytics, and more. There’s a free version, by the paid is worth it.
  • Business Coaching – Work with a coaching one on one to increase your business. Pretty much what it sounds like. Lots of people offer this service, including me. More information at the bottom of the post.
  • RFS Mastermind – A “mastermind” is a group of people who are all working together to make improvements, usually under the guidance of one or two coaches. I run a biz mastermind for fitness professionals; 

Don’t want to spend any money? Okay, well I guess not caring about your business or success is cool, if you like endlessly toiling with the Sisyphean prospect of never quite getting there.

Cool, bro.

But, no worries, if you don’t want to spend money, you can at least spend some time.

Here’s a list of free stuff that will teach you the basics of some of this shit!

Resources (Free)

  • Article on SEO – General overview on Search Engine Optimization from the guys at Yoast, who make the definitive WordPress plugin. I’m not SEO expert, but I’ve learned enough to get more traffic to my site. Read this.
  • Guide to Creating Great Content – Free guide put together by Ramit. I’m featured in it, because I taught myself to be really, really good at writing copy.
  • ETR Copywriting Basics – This is the exact guide I learned from when I first started out. It’s excellent, and will get you 75% of the way there. Just put in the work.
  • Article About Copywriting – Solid article, worth the read. 
  • Article About Testing – If you’re not convinced that you should be split testing things, I don’t know what to tell you. But you should, and you need to. This article is a pretty comprehensive overview of testing in terms of both theory and practice, and is replete with examples and ideas. Do not skip.
  • Article on Readability – Sol Orwell is a smart guy, and when he talks, you should listen. In this article, he talks about how to adjust content and various aspects of how it’s presented to make sure people read it–and, ultimately, share it.

Overall, it’ll take you a few hours to comb through all of these pieces. Bookmark them and come back to them often, because they will absoutely remain useful in the future.

Don’t wanna spend any time learning this?

Well, then the fact is this: you absolutely do not deserve to be successful. And you never fucking will be.

The Cure for Fear: Start Taking Action

 

Here’s the truth: you have to learn some of this stuff. Not all. But some. You don’t have to become an expert in data analysis,  but if you’ve been running a website for a few months and you can’t tell me how much traffic you get, we’re in trouble. 

The single hardest thing to learn is how to be objective about your own business; metrics help (there’s nothing subjective about data), but detachment is better.

Which is why the force multiplier for your business is usually having someone else tell you what to do and how to do it; it’s why coaching is so effective. 

Having said all of that: if you want to invest some time and money now to save a lot of time and make a lot of money down the road, I’m happy to help.

At the present moment, I’m not working on much on the fitness side of things, so I had more time to get into business mode.

Here’s the deal: I’m going to offer you 50% off of my business coaching. I normally charge $997 for 60 minutes of my time, and to be honest, I’m taking a loss. I just enjoy it.

But between now and March 1, you can jump on the phone with me for an hour for $497.

We’ll rap about your biz and your projects. I’ll listen attentively, nod sagely, and then dispense advice and wisdom in a flurry of F-bombs and ideas.

I’ll tell you what you’re doing right. What you’re doing wrong. Tell you to stop some shit that’s wasting your time. Give you resources for the shit you need to learn. And just generally set your feet on the path.

Can I fix your business in a 60-minute call? Probably not. But I can teach YOU enough to allow you to fix it, which is actually the fucking point.

Of course, you can’t just jump on the phone; there’s a screening process. You can fill out an application here, and my assistant will decide whether or not you’re a good enough fit for her to escalate it to me.

Assuming you are, I’ll be in touch and we can get on the phone and start slaying some dragons.

But, this isn’t for everyone. It’s entirely possible you don’t want to be on the phone with me. And equally possible I don’t want to talk to you…like, ever.

To save us both some time, here’s a quick checklist.

 If you aren’t thick skinned, don’t apply. I’m not going to be mean, but I’m going to be honest. And if you can’t handle hearing about how you’re fucking up, don’t bother.

 If you can’t handle foul language, fuck off, don’t apply.

 If you’re not “sure” about this, don’t apply. Here’s a tip for life: if it’s not FUCK YES, it’s no. If you’re not convinced I can help you, I have no desire to sell you on this. I know that what I have to teach is helpful, and that’s more than enough for me. This is not a sales pitch, it’s an offer.

 If you’re not ready or not going to listen, please fucking spare me. I’m super passionate about this. And when someone signs up with me, I get way too emotionally invested in their business, and it’s a drain on me. Nothing is worse than trying to Miyagi someone who doesn’t put in the work. If you’re not going to listen to me, don’t bother.

 If you have don’t believe in evolution, don’t apply. That is seriously all I need to know about you to know we aren’t going to get along.

 If you’re racist, homophobic, anti-marriage equality, or just generally on the wrong side of history, I have no desire to help you be successful. Absolutely do not apply.

On the other hand…

 If you’re sick of wasting time, and you’re ready to invest, this is probably for you.

  If you’re willing to actually learn a few skills which can instantly increase your traffic, conversions, and the amount of money you make, please apply.

 If you’re an awesome human being and want to kick shit up a few notches, fuck yeah, let’s do it.

 If you’re 100% ready to improve the general quality, readability, and shareability of your content by orders of magnitude, you’re gonna want to fill out an app

 If you pretty much hate the idea that you’re less successful than you should be because of some stupid tech bullshit, but you’re gonna do it anyway, hop on board.

Wrapping Up

Long story short, kids: if you want to be successful in business, you have to learn to run a business. You need to develop those tools.

And to do that, you need to stop being afraid to learn new shit. 


Footnotes

  1. Here’s an example of fear leading to hate: When Alpha came out, I marketed that shit aggressively. I sent emails. I went on podcasts. I wrote articles for everyone. Affiliates promoted it. The end result is that these people, controlled by fear of learning marketing, begin to publicly tear down those who market.

    We had a lot of marketing in place.

    But, there are people who don’t like marketing, and this annoyed them.

    The general campaign pissed the Hate Brigade off to the extreme, and a ton of people negatively reviewed the book on Amazon, citing the marketing rather than the content. In fact, some vexatious cocksucker made it his goddamn job to camp out in the reviews section, up-voting all of the 1-star star reviews and going so far as to not just down-vote the 4- and 5-star reviews, but also argue with people about their positive reviews.

    I was too busy celebrating hitting the bestseller list to address it, but it’s emblematic of what happens when people allow resentment to take control.

    My own personal issue with these individuals notwithstanding, it is my honest contention that if these individuals spent more time building their own businesses, they wouldn’t have the energy to hate mine.

  2.  Can’t afford to hire someone? Yeah, well that’s probably because you’re not making enough money, because you’re too busy spitting anti-marketing vitriol on social media. Just kidding. But seriously.
About the Author

John Romaniello is a level 70 orc wizard who spends his days lifting heavy shit and his nights fighting crime. When not doing that, he serves as the Chief Bro King of the Roman Empire and Executive Editor here on RFS. You can read his articles here, and rants on Facebook.

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