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.

Newsletter 622 – Two Growing Trends

Podcasts 3
This week I read two articles that describe growing technologies: one newer, the other well established. The first is the subject of the August 17 Time cover story (US Edition) titled “The Surprising Joy of Virtual Reality: And Why It’s [nearly upon us, better than you think… and] About to Change the World.” Put on those increasingly sophisticated virtual reality goggles and our whole perceptions change. This is not just about making video games more dramatic. It can be about treating the effects of trauma, dealing with various psychiatric disorders, and revolutionizing education. I wonder about its potential for changing how we lead, learn about God, or advertise. And are there dangers that we don’t yet see? Apparently we’ll encounter lots more about this come Christmas shopping season.

Much more familiar are podcasts, recently discussed in a Wall Street Journal article (August 8-9.) We’ve all seen podcasts and webinars, some very sophisticated, which move us beyond radio, television or weekly written blogs like this one. Friends have urged me to replace or supplement this Podcast 2newsletter with audio and/or video posts, especially since these tend to be favored by so many people who like to listen or watch rather than to read.

  • A good communicator knows the characteristics of his or her audience. Surely this includes knowing how the audience learns or prefers to get information. Most readers of this newsletter are older, educated, and presumably inclined to learn by reading. Like me. Would a different audience be attracted by a podcast or other non-written, video or audio format? What about using both formats?
  • Experienced bloggers have demonstrated the value of captivating titles, eye-catching images, and succinct introductory sentences. These are more likely to attract and hold readers to the end. Similarly, aren’t most of us grabbed and retained by articulate speakers in attractive settings telling interesting stories with practical implications? Boring podcasts may give us something to hear or watch but they make no more impact than boring blog posts.
  • Podcasts can be produced relatively easily. All you need is a computer with a camera. I have done these with my classes, replacing long lectures with video clips to be watched at leisure.
  • Podcasts and webinars can be produced from anywhere and allow feedback so observers are more involved with the action. Should you be doing this? Should I?

Please comment. Tell us how you have used podcasts, webinars or virtual reality.

Newsletter 610 – Anticipating the Future by Looking at the Present

future 2King Saul was not the first person to consult a medium or fortune-teller (1 Samuel 28.) Efforts to predict the future using sorcery and fortune-tellers have been around for centuries and even interest some Christians despite the Bible’s condemnation of these practices. In the church where I grew up, visiting preachers would sometimes conduct prophecy conferences where parts of the Bible, Revelation especially, would be interpreted in ways that seemed to mix biblical exegesis with preacher speculation about current and future events.

Today we take a more secular, quasi-scientific approach. We carefully look at trends in the present and make speculations about how these might play out in the future. Often these predictions are wrong, especially in an era of rapid and unpredictable change. But sometimes we can predict accurately enough to plan ahead wisely. Best example is the predicted development of well-studied diseases. Business magazines and newspapers often give predictions like those in the April 27, 2015 Wall Street Journal where experts made predictions on subjects including small business, the economy, mass marketing, retirement, religion, virtual reality gaming, health care and even sex. Here are three examples that might interest you:

  • “The Internet of the future will be everywhere—and the more people who have it, the more important it will become…. Instead of seeking out the Internet, we’ll be surrounded by it. Instead of extracting data from it, we’ll be fed a constant stream of curated, personalized information to help us solve problems and live better.” If we can strike a balance between caution and convenience, the spread of connected devices will have a profound impact on the way we do just about everything.”
  • What about books including textbooks and other printed communication? It’s likely that reading will always remain but the format will be different. Future books will be more on electronic screens than on paper, despite the tastes of maybe dwindling numbers of bibliophiles (people who avidly read, collect and/or have a great love for books.)
  • Education, especially higher education will survive and thrive but it will continue to change dramatically. Information dumps and the “sage on the stage” will fade further. Teaching methods and models will shift to fit our increasingly digital world. Interaction and on-line activities will increase. Universities that thrive will have no alternative except to do teaching online and offer quality courses. What does this say about long sermons by “talking head” preachers?

Surely you have reactions to this. Please comment.

Newsletter 607 – When Life and Goal-setting are Disrupted

Last December I took an on-line seminar that promised to make this my best year ever. The main message was about setting goals for the year along with deadlines and plans for achieving success. There was not much new in the presentations but the information was solid and similar to what coaches, teachers, and counselors urge for others and Detours1try to implement in themselves. Perhaps not surprising, the seminar seemed to assume that each of us is in control of our own lives and careers. Overlooked was the fact that goal-setting can fly out the window when we encounter the crises, unexpected health issues, career disruptions, or other unpredictable detours and roadblocks that are the reality of our lives.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (April 7, 2015) reported research studies showing how physical health and mental well-being are both impacted by the ways we frame life crises and shattered dreams. In one study adults were asked to tell their life stories. Each was evaluated in terms of several themes that emerged and were described with somewhat confusing academic titles. The first of these we might prefer to call sense of control in which subjects felt able to influence and respond to life events. The next, connection means how much people are in contact and association with others. Third, positive perspectives refer to the degree to which we can take negative experiences and find positive sides to our new realities. People with these characteristics had lower levels of depression, higher levels of life satisfaction, and greater psychological and social well-being when compared with those who focused on self-pity, bitterness, and whatever was negative.

This reframing is central to what have been called personal narratives: the stories we tell ourselves and try to live out, especially when our life-plans and goal-setting are barricaded. In addition to the sense of control, connection, and positive perspectives, other research found that personal narratives help most when we:

  • Openly acknowledge what has happened.
  • Accept the new realities,
  • Reframe the ways in which we view life circumstances and events (sometime bad things can have positive outcomes,)
  • Resist dwelling on the negative,
  • Determine to change whatever is changeable, and
  • Believe and live out our new life stories.

Have you or your associates had experiences where this applies? Where does God fit into this analysis? Please comment.

Newsletter 584 – The Future of Everything

future 4In 1989 the Wall Street Journal reached its 100th anniversary with predictions about what the future would look like twenty-five years later. That’s now. “We got some things right,” the newspaper commented. And got “a lot wrong.”

Last week (July 8, 2014) on its 125th anniversary WSJ tried again with an entire section of the paper labeled “The Future of Everything.” Leading thinkers, innovators and futurists shared their visions on where the world is heading. The editors admitted that this mostly is a form of entertainment but here are samples of their speculations. Before long:

  • Everyone in the world will be online.
  • Privacy will be gone, except for the very wealthy.
  • Cash also will be gone so the economy will be more global.
  • People will live longer and be happier and healthier in old age.
  • Education will be individualized. Students won’t advance from one grade to another. They will advance on what they know.

There are predictions about art, robots, automobiles, medicine, parenting, water and food supplies. There’s the good news that we still will drink coffee like we have since the 1530s. But I did not see anything about changing values, belief systems, terrorism or emerging generations.

Apart from curiosity why should anyone care? Next month I speak a group of doctoral students, leaders and mental health professionals. They all have completed years of rigorous training and skill building but their training is becoming outdated. A bigger question for us all is not what’s coming but how do we keep up?

In part the answer depends on your personality, field of interest, education, aptitudes, areas of expertise and health. Nevertheless, consider this:

  • Never stop learning. Always keep your brain active. Use your own learning style. Do whatever you can to uncover new information.
  • Apply what you learn to yourself and others. Taking in new information like a sponge is only part of the process.
  • Keep connected with others, including those who think differently than you and know what you don’t. I learn from people of different ages, backgrounds, expertise and values.
  • Find someone to help if you need expertise that you don’t have.
  • Take care of yourself. Exercise, rest, and healthy eating keep you sharp, creative, and alert.
  • Keep connected with God. He alone is able to predict and control the future. Trust him to show the way.

What would you add? Please comment

Newsletter 574 – Changing Personalities

old nun 1Several years ago somebody gave me a copy of a prayer by a 17th century nun. (You can find “old nun’s prayer” on the Internet). Here are some excerpts. Do they apply to anybody you know, maybe you?

“Lord, Keep my mind free from the endless recital of details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by.

 “I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.

“Keep me reasonably sweet…a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, Lord, the grace to tell them so.”

 I thought of this when the Wall Street Journal published an article ((April 22, 2014) on how our personalities change as we get older. It starts when we’re in our twenties and thirties. Bitter and complaining old people showed similar personality characteristics when they were young.

There are two sides to this according to research cited in the WSJ. Often we get worse and more ornery as we get older. But we also can get more pleasant. Some personality traits improve on their own, as we gain experience and broader perspectives. Overall, many people get more trusting, interested in others, open about feelings, pleasant to work with and less anxious—to list a few examples. And the improvements can be speeded along in people who learn to let go of the negative attitudes, including the belief that “This is the way I am so I won’t ever change.” That’s not true, as that old nun probably knew.

All of this can have great influence on leaders, coaches, counselors and others who work with people. Change for the better is slow and occurs in small steps. The Bible describes how the Holy Spirit moves the change along (Galatians 5:22-25) and so can the help of counselors, pastors, and others.

How do you react to this? How does it apply to your work or to you personally? Please leave a comment.

Newsletter 569 – Hardest Word for Most of Us To Say?

Just say no 1It is not a vulgar word or a long word like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious of Mary Poppins fame. A Wall Street Journal article (March 11, 2014) calls No a “tiny word, but tough to say.” Many years ago former First Lady Nancy Reagan had an anti-drug campaign with the slogan “Just Say No.” Sounds like a great idea but it’s very difficult to comply when any of us is surrounded by peer pressure urging us to say yes.

Saying no is especially difficult when the request is legitimate or when we want to please the person who asks. When asked to help with a worthy cause, donate money to charity, or help a friend – or even a stranger, many of us say yes because we feel uncomfortable or guilty if we decline. We value kindness and being helpful. We don’t want to reject others or risk hurting a relationship. Some of us are people-pleasers who want to be liked so we make ourselves available to anyone who calls. These may be admirable characteristics but they can create problems. I have a friend who rarely sets boundaries. He revels in the opportunities and projects that he has been offered and accepted. This is affirming and ego-building. But periodically he gets overwhelmed because he failed to say no. Sound familiar?

None of us was created to meet everyone’s requests. Even Jesus set boundaries (e.g. Mark 1:35-38). Each of us hasJust say no 2limited time and energy. These need to be rationed. Saying yes to one thing means that we are forced to say no to another. Our families, closest relationships and health all suffer when we let other people set our agendas. How, then, do we say no?

  • Set your priorities. I don’t accept committee assignments or speaking invitations apart from my specialties.
  • Clarify your values. Never agree to something that you think is wrong or unwise.
  • Delay your answer. This gives you time to think how to say no.
  • Avoid peer pressure situations.
  • Give reasons for saying no, but avoid debates about your decision. These often lead to more pressure.
  • Don’t say “Maybe later” unless you mean it. These words insure that you will be asked again.

What would you add? How do you help yourself or others to say no?