Newsletter 627 – How Fear Can Derail an Entrepreneur

entrepreneurRecently I completed a newspaper questionnaire promising to reveal my “career type.” Designed by Universum with at a least minimal scientific support, the tool identifies seven types of careers. Each of these is described if you click on comments below. I was identified as an Internationalist, somebody who is enthusiastic about building cross-cultural connections. In addition I would have liked to fall into the Leader or Entrepreneur categories but a Wall Street Journal article (August 24, 2015) shows the one big obstacle that paralyzes entrepreneurs and maybe others who are attracted to creative, innovative entrepreneurial work.

That obstacle is fear. The WSJ report describes research by Phillip K. Berger at University of Bremen in Germany. Here are highlights from Berger’s surveys and interviews with 600 entrepreneurs who talked about their start-up worries:

  • People are less fearful if they have leadership experience.
  • Same applies when there is intrinsic motivation. Fear is lower and perhaps success comes more often when there is a high determination to reach an entrepreneurial goal.
  • Initial fear is seen more often in women, but women and men are equally successful when they move forward and build enterprizes.
  • Cultural differences also play a role. The American culture seems to be more accepting of failure, especially because of the widespread “get up and try again” attitude. In other cultures there is more criticism and less acceptance of entrepreneurs who fail. That increases start-up fears.
  • Fear is lower in people with a very high estimation of their ability to succeed. That might be expected. But these high-confidence entrepreneurs often lack the skills and qualifications to succeed so they’re more likely to fail.
  • As might be expected, fear lessens when potential entrepreneurs can find partners, business professionals or others to join the venture.
  • Fear also goes down when the entrepreneurial project can be broken into smaller steps so failure along the way is less catastrophic.

This was not in the article, but it would seem that fear would decline and confidence could grow when entrepreneurs have social support. Likewise, might fear be less in people, like Joshua in the Old Testament, who believe that their ventures are from God and who trust him to lead? Please click on comment to share your perspectives and experiences.



    Developed by Universum (

    Entrepreneur: Curious and creative, driven by challenging and innovative work. Entrepreneurs thrive when they are leading teams through challenges.

    Leader: See the big picture in any situation and aspire to work with a team. Leaders often start and grow new projects.

    Harmonizer: Responsible and loyal, friendly, with positive energy. Harmonizers fit in team-oriented settings.

    Idealist: Strong values that are not compromised. Idealists work best in settings with strong ethical standards.

    Hunter: New opportunity people with a dose of healthy competition. Hunters like dynamic, fast-paced careers that challenge and demand the development of new skills.

    Careerist: Persistent, not afraid of working hard to move up the career ladder. Careerists value mobility plus opportunities to move forward, and grow personally and professionally.

    Internationalist: Globally minded and passionate about building international connections. Internationalists are open-minded, curious, culturally sensitive. They value cross-cultural interaction.


  2. I just got off the telephone with a woman who identified as a Christian and then told me that God has me exactly where He wants me to be (as a nascent neuropsychologist with my first post-graduation job), and that He brought us together in light of her husband’s dissociative fugue and my passion for people with neurologic disorders. Such a proclamation gave me the confidence I needed to be bold in my diagnostic hypotheses and even more assured in my new leadership role, despite my lack of board certification and seemingly little experience working with individuals with idealistic and harmonistic leadings.


    1. Hi Scott, Of course these kinds of things are affirmations that you are on the right career track. Maybe you have heard me say this: We don’t find our niches or calling; our niches and calling find us. Not profound but I think it’s true


  3. I agree with this statement tremendously; “might fear be less in people, like Joshua in the Old Testament, who believe that their ventures are from God and who trust him to lead?” Staying true to my vision / calling, working with integrity and letting God lead me provides a great deal of peace. Rick Warren also had a good teaching on this subject today (09/17)


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