The Big Jump! Risk, Fear and the Freedom to Fail


Today, I’m doing something that pretty much terrifies me.

I’m taking a risk and stepping completely outside of my comfort zone.

For most of my career, I’ve played it pretty darn safe. I graduated with a journalism degree, became a newspaper reporter and worked my way up the ladder to become an editor. For most of that time, I’ve also been a business journalist, which is arguably even one of the “safer” areas of journalism. And while I certainly consider myself a tough business journalist  — no CEO ever cowed me — I wasn’t exactly dealing with bloody crime scenes or war zones.

But today, I’m launching a fun little beauty device, My Brush Betty, on Kickstarter. And this, it turns out, is what terrifies me. Because it’s completely outside of my comfort zone.

Does this fear make any sense? Probably not.

I’ve done my homework, to make sure my product makes sense and that it fits a real market need. I’ve checked and adjusted my spreadsheets and marketing plans. I’m pretty sure I haven’t overlooked any major risks.

Along the way, I’ve practically begged my family, friends, and business associates – the ones to whom I dared preview this concept – to give me some excuse to call the project off. When you’re really afraid of taking a risk, you see, any excuse to use the exit door will do …

“You’re not going to get the “don’t do this” from me!!!” one colleague wrote me in an email.

Once this project got started, it was like this fun little snowball that I bounced around my head. Every time I had a new thought or idea, I packed on a little more snow. And it grew and grew. Eventually, I knew I would have to deal with this thing I was creating, and logically, making the business decisions hasn’t been so tough.

Emotionally, though, this project has been a real surprise. At various times, I’ve had trouble sleeping, felt tightness in my chest, broke out into inappropriate sweats, even felt sick to my stomach. All for a fun little beauty device?

Logically, I had to remind myself, the risks were actually pretty low here. I criticized myself for being a bit ridiculous. My employer and family were being supportive. I could afford to lose a little money if it failed. What the heck am I so afraid of? What’s really going on in my head?

What is the deal with this thing called fear?

There’s a lot of advice out there in the business and psychology community about taking risks and facing fears. Some research says we humans overestimate risk; some says we underestimate it. But most of the research seems to agree that the only way to really get over your fear is to confront it directly. Exposure therapy.

So today, I’ve given myself permission to try something new and crazy — and I’ve given myself permission to fail.

Some Helpful Links


By Sarah A. Webster
My Brush Betty

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