Starting a small business is risky. According to the Small Business Association (SBA), 50 percent of startups fail within five years. Starting a small lifestyle business in a highly seasonal, niche industry? Even riskier. Is it worth it? Is my idea good enough? This refrain played out in my head last year as I weighed the pros and cons of starting my ski apparel brand, Orsden.
The pros? Doing something I loved. Turning a passion into a career. Creating a product needed in the market.
The cons? Failing. Taking on significant emotional and financial stress. Giving up a stable job.
Ultimately, I decided I couldn't live in fear of the cons. Yes, there were risks involved, but every time I ski down a mountain, there are inherent risks. Those don't hold me back. There could be a terrifying precipice just off a trail, a sudden change in visibility, or a treacherous patch of ice. I don't dwell on those possibilities. Instead, I stay calm, focused, and I find a way down the mountain.
I've applied this lesson to my career, creating a road map to help manage my fear of failure and embrace risk. Whether you're starting your own company or trying to achieve another goal, these tips are highly relatable no matter what mountain you're trying to conquer:
1. Be honest with yourself.
Before embarking on a risky endeavor, assess your strengths and weaknesses. Do you have the necessary hard and soft skills to improve the likelihood of success? If you don't, how can you acquire them, or whom can you bring on board to help? It can be hard to do an objective self-assessment, so survey family and close friends. Let them know you want frank feedback. The worst thing that can happen is feeling helpless on a metaphorical double black diamond.
2. Commit to the endeavor.
Once you decide that you're equipped to take on the risk, commit and go for it. Wavering only increases fear and doubt. Don't look back. Stay focused on the end goal. I love that when skiing, you have no choice but to find a way down the mountain. That's true commitment. Gravity won't let you hesitate.
3. Stay in control.
As you barrel toward your goal, it's easy to feel out of control. Learn to fight that feeling. Take small steps to remind yourself that you have agency over your actions. I find it helpful to repeat a mantra about being calm, confident, and in control when I feel anything but that. This grounds me and helps me manage—and even embrace—the stress and chaos that comes from taking a risk. Eventually, you'll be able to conquer your own slopes with both speed and control.
4. Trust your instincts.
When you embark on this risk, some people will try to talk you out of it or tell you to change course. In those moments, you have to trust your instincts. You've committed to it. No one knows the vision behind it better than you do, so stay true to your gut. I don't mean that you shouldn't be open to advice, but make sure that your decisions are aligned with the direction you've laid out. Sometimes a run feels totally effortless—every force and condition is in sync That's the sweet spot I seek out in decision-making.
5. Embrace the highs, and learn from the lows.
Exhilaration, pride, power: It's important to embrace those feelings when you achieve success after taking a risk. Take time to acknowledge your accomplishments. However, remember there will definitely be lows, too—those moments of regret and self-doubt. Don't let them stop you. Learn from them and continue charging forward.
I can't say I'm far enough along in my own risky endeavor to be out of the danger zone, but every day I'm learning from new challenges. While I hope for more epic runs than crashes, I'm aware that there will be plenty of both along the way.Just know, though, I don't for a second regret taking this crazy entrepreneurial risk—so look down the mountain, take a deep breath, and get after it.