Let's talk about beer...and fear

What does it take for you to admit that you're scared? What does it take for you to admit that you're wrong? How far will you go to avoid addressing it in the first place?

I'm asking because I'm having a fearful moment. I'm scared, and I'm looking for some advice. This isn't the "oh crap that dog is huge and running at me" scared...this is the uncomfortable, intangible, creeping sort of fear that accumulates on your soul like the inevitable dust that accumulates on top of the book shelf. You know it's there, and you're better off addressing it sooner than later, but no one can see it, and leaving it alone is easier right? This is the fear of an entrepreneur, a visionary, or really anyone who aspires to affect change.

I'm going to label this "entrepreneurial fear" for now, but as I said, this can really translate to almost anything in your life. How do you address it? How do you know you won't fail? How do you know you won't be judged?

You don't know. You'll never know until you put one foot in front of the other. And while I haven't started a business in a substantive way, I'll say that I'd like to, and I'll tell you that I'm scared that I'll fail, and that you'll judge me, and this will all happen while I climb headfirst into an invisible ceiling of competence, unable to go further because I'm just not good enough.

There will be over 3600 breweries in this country by the time the summer comes to a close. That is an inspiring number of small businesses, growth, and entrepreneurial spirit for a country that has less than 1500 breweries 10 years ago. 85% of these breweries put their lives on hold to get their brewery off the ground. They leveraged their time, their mortgages, and their job security to do something more interesting. Let's not forget that a lot of them have families. Husbands, wives, and children who signed off on this crazy idea. How the f#$k did they do this? How can you tell me that this is a good idea when you just don't know what's going to happen?

Here at The Brew Enthusiast, I've spoken with a lot of brewery owners who have done just this. Upslope Brewing Company started with a passion for beer, a couple energetic ideas, and that's about it. The owner mortgaged, and remortgaged his house to pull every last drop of equity out of it to build a brewery. Black Shirt Brewing did the same. So did Dogfish Head. So did Brooklyn Brewery. And Full Tilt Brewing. I could literally go on for hours.

But how!? Did they just do it and hope for the best? Did they really think this was the most prudent way of accomplishing their goals? They clearly had a plan, and they did their research, and they leaned on their family and friends for support, and did all the other activities that they thought would lead to success...but did they still just do it when they weren't sure about the outcome?

Yes...yes they did. They couldn't have known the result until they made a move. Inaction wasn't an option, so they pushed forward through that wall of debilitating uncertainty, kept their heads on a swivel, made a lot of mistakes, but eventually put together a brewery. They worked their ass off, and made it happen. This is really the story of any business, but because we're all about good beer over here, the brewery analog just makes sense.

I'm not actually trying to start a brewery, but I think we can go to school on what these breweries have done. Somebody definitely judged them while they did this, and somebody definitely hated on their idea, but it didn't dissuade them. Why move out of your comfort zone when no one is pushing you out? Because no one will ever push you out of your comfort zone the way you can. No one else is inside your head, and no one else looks at the world through your lens. Taking a moment to realize this, it's a scary idea that the biggest hurdle to success isn't usually money, or time, or your family and friends. It's usually your fear of failing, and knowing that someone else saw you fail. It's an all consuming sort of fear.

But I have great hope for all of us fearful souls, because I think even the most successful entrepreneur is always going to be scared of failing. I was wrong about 10 times yesterday, and I'll be wrong at least that many times today. I mentioned earlier that, like dust on the top shelf of a bookcase, no one can actually see your fear. Well I have news for you my friends. We can see it the same way we can see the emotions on your face. It's visceral, and raw, and present. Let's face up to it, try our best, fall down a few (thousand) times, and do it again.

I need a beer.



Guys - I'd love to hear a quick anecdote from other breweries out there. How did you get going? What was your most fearful moment? What can you tell us about your successes and failures? Let us know and we'll put it up on the site shortly.