How Fear Helps (and Hurts) Entrepreneurs – SCORE


Fear of failure stalks the world of the entrepreneur, from losing key clients to running out of money. For entrepreneurs, courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to persist in spite of it. These fears are well-founded: Studies suggest that roughly 75% of ventures fail within 10 years.

Even success can provoke anxiety. We asked Hamdi Ulukaya, the Turkish-born founder and CEO of the yogurt company Chobani, whether he was ever afraid while building his multibillion-dollar business. “Every day,” he replied, “because if I had failed, a lot of lives were going to be affected by it.”

While “fail fast and often” is the constant refrain of the lean startup movement and many others, no one really wants to fail. Failure has many ramifications that it would be foolish to overlook or downplay, including potential bankruptcy, repossession of workers’ home, social stigma, and people losing their livelihoods. Most existing research has thus focused on failure as an inhibitor of entrepreneurship.

Our research shows a more nuanced picture: Fear can inhibit and motivate. Rather than simply stopping people from being entrepreneurial, fear of failure can also motivate greater striving for success. We interviewed 65 entrepreneurs in the UK and Canada. Some had established businesses, and others were in the early stages of developing their business. We defined fear of failure as a temporary cognitive and emotional reaction to a threat to potential achievement. Fear of failure is a state rather than a trait.

The research identified seven sources of fear. These were repeatedly raised by the 65 entrepreneurs and have been validated by further research:

  1. financial security
  2. ability to fund the venture
  3. personal ability/self-esteem
  4. potential of the idea
  5. threats to social esteem
  6. the venture’s ability to execute
  7. opportunity costs

Not all fears are created equal. The source of the fear is important. Our research found that worries concerning opportunity costs, personal financial security, or ability to obtain funding for the venture were all positively associated with an entrepreneur’s persistence in pursuing their goals. Thus, if entrepreneurs contemplated the choice they had made in pursuing their venture, and how this necessitated missing out on other opportunities, whether in their professional or personal lives, they were more motivated to carry on with the venture. “It just makes me more aggressive to get this thing going as fast as I can,” one interviewee commented. Similar positive effects on persistence were observed for financial concerns — either personal financial security or the ability to obtain financial support for the venture. In each case, rather than inhibiting behavior, these sources of fear drove greater effort.

In contrast, when entrepreneurs worried about the potential of their idea or their personal ability to develop a successful venture, they tended to be affected more negatively and become less proactive. Numbers are crunched remorselessly, resulting in paralysis through analysis. Decision making is slowed down as all possible data is sought and the avoidance of making a wrong decision becomes the primary driver.

“Instead of being on the phone trying to get a customer, you are sitting there talking about why we need to call more customers, why we don’t call customers anymore, or why we should start emailing them. So, you are talking about it and not doing it,” one entrepreneur confessed.

Fear of failure can also change the nature of goals that entrepreneurs set for themselves. Where fear of failure is greater, they may select either easier, readily achievable objectives or wildly impossible goals. (Ironically, selecting impossible goals allows us to more easily rationalize our failure to achieve them.) Either way, fear has the effect of undermining effective personal goal setting.

Another outcome we heard: a tendency to escalate commitment to specific goals at the expense of other activities, and sometimes in the face of evidence that a particular path was doomed. Once a path had been chosen, negative feedback could actually lead to increasing investments in what otherwise might be considered losing strategies.

How can and should entrepreneurs respond to the fear of failure? Our research revealed four strategies that enable entrepreneurs to ensure that fear of failure works positively:

Emotional self-monitoring and control. Emotional intelligence involves both awareness of one’s feelings and being able to control their influence on thought and behavior. Some of our entrepreneurs could pull this off. “If I’m in a lower mood one week and I look at my projects, I see only negative things and reasons why it can’t happen. I started to learn that that’s actually not associated with the projects, but it’s associated with my emotions,” one said. Added another, “I’ve recently been learning to separate that anxiety out because I’ve learned that it’s just transient.”

Emotional self-awareness is a skill that can be learned, and it involves becoming aware of the signs of emotions intruding upon consciousness through feelings and moods, anticipating their impact on thoughts, and using this awareness to limit their effects on decision and action. Practicing self-awareness can help curb the potent influences of negative emotions on goal setting and decision-making.

Problem solving. “Anxiety helped in the sense that I would try to figure out every single flaw there was in my business — because all of them have flaws — so I was trying to figure out, where is the hole?” one entrepreneur told us. Actively seeking out flaws and weaknesses and doing something about them is a powerful means of reducing the fear of failure.

Intuition is a potent source of information, and research has demonstrated that among experts, tacit knowledge and gut instinct lead to rapid and effective decision-making. Such instincts are often associated with feelings rather than specific thoughts. Feelings of fear driven by concerns over the idea, for example, can offer important signals that work is needed. When treated as such a signal and acted on, rather than being repressed or ignored, these emotional flags can help entrepreneurs eliminate weaknesses and flaws in their venture idea.

A proactive, problem-solving response to feelings of fear can help reduce fear. But our research also shows that such action tends to be inhibited when the fear is caused by doubts about the validity of the business idea. This suggests that taking a deliberately action-oriented approach, overcoming the desire to repress or ignore the problem, will be especially important. Of course, weaknesses can never be eliminated altogether. For any entrepreneur, perfectionism is potentially dangerous.

Learning. “Fear pushes me to work harder, to take more care of what I am doing, and to educate myself to be the best I can as I am developing these businesses,” one entrepreneur said. Entrepreneurs told us one of the ways in which they overcome the feelings of fear was through learning and information seeking. This might be for core knowledge, such as computer coding skills on the part of the software entrepreneur seeking financing, or learning to cope with the high pace of activities that most entrepreneurs experience. Some of the entrepreneurs we interviewed learned through formal education and training, although it was more common to do research, reflect, and network with experts and mentors.

Learning is a powerful antidote to fear of failure, helping to mitigate one’s doubts by increasing one’s capabilities. But uncertainty is real and constant. Uncertainty and ambiguity are defining features of the challenge of entrepreneurship. There are always unknown unknowns out there, and so a recognition that one will never have all the information one wants — that one will always have to keep learning — is important.

Seeking support. “Reaching out to mentors who are directly related to the business you are starting is really key and really helpful,” one of our entrepreneurs said. For entrepreneurs in a constant battle with fear of failure, mentors and networks can be a vital source of reassurance. Mentors and social supports are beneficial because they support the three strategies of learning, problem solving, and self-awareness.

Speaking of the impact of fear of failure on her problem solving, one entrepreneur said, “[Fear of failure] just fueled me to learn more, to talk to more people and figure out why I was wrong in the first place.” Another said, “Fear of failure forces you to come up with…better ideas and look for people who are going to give you constructive criticism along the process.” Social forms of learning, from those who have “been there, done that,” seems to be a particularly powerful antidote to the experience of negative thoughts and feelings among entrepreneurs.

Early-stage entrepreneurs frequently benefit from local communities and networks, which provide formal or informal access to mentoring from those with more experience. Through this process, they learn that feelings of uncertainty and worry are commonplace, as well as which issues are deserving of attention and which will fix themselves over time.

Our research suggests that fear of failure is widespread and has both negative and positive effects on motivation, decision making, and behavior. Motivation from fear can also bring higher levels of stress, with potentially negative health consequences. So while fear is a natural state for an entrepreneur, the ability to anticipate and manage it is a vital skill.


From Forbes – 7 Things That Make Great Bosses Unforgettable

An excerpt from the Forbes article –  7 Things That Make Great Bosses Unforgettable – 

Read the full article here


1. Great bosses are passionate. Few things are more demotivating than a boss who is bored with his or her life and job. If the boss doesn’t care, why should anybody else? Unforgettable bosses are passionate about what they do. They believe in what they’re trying to accomplish, and they have fun doing it. This makes everyone else want to join the ride.

2. They stand in front of the bus. Some bosses will throw their people under the bus without a second thought; great bosses pull their people from the bus’s path before they’re in danger. They coach, and they move obstacles out of the way, even if their people put those obstacles there in the first place. Sometimes, they clean up messes their people never even knew they made. And, if they can’t stop the bus, they’ll jump out in front of it and take the hit themselves.

3. They play chess not checkers. Think about the difference. In checkers, all the pieces are basically the same. That’s a poor model for leadership because nobody wants to feel like a faceless cog in the proverbial wheel. In chess, on the other hand, each piece has a unique role, unique abilities, and unique limitations. Unforgettable bosses are like great chess masters. They recognize what’s unique about each member of their team. They know their strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes, and they use these insights to draw the very best from each individual.

4. They are who they are, all the time. They don’t lie to cover up their mistakes, and they don’t make false promises. Their people don’t have to exert energy trying to figure out their motives or predicting what they’re going to do next. Equally as important, they don’t hide things they have the freedom to disclose. Instead of hoarding information and being secretive to boost their own power, they share information and knowledge generously.

5. They are a port in a storm. They don’t get rattled, even when everything is going haywire. Under immense pressure, they act like Eugene Kranz, flight director for the Apollo 13 mission. In the moments after the explosion, when death looked certain and panic seemed like the only option, Kranz kept his cool, saying, “Okay, now, let’s everybody keep cool. Let’s solve the problem, but let’s not make it any worse by guessing.” In those initial moments, he had no idea how they were going to get the astronauts home, but, as he later explained, “you do not pass uncertainty down to your team members.” People who’ve worked for an unforgettable boss often look back later and marvel at their coolness under pressure. That’s why, 45 years after Apollo 13, people are still talking about Eugene Kranz and his leadership during that crisis.

6. They are human. And they aren’t afraid to show it. They’re personable and easy to relate to. They’re warm. They realize that people have emotions, and they aren’t afraid to express their own. They relate to their people as a person first and a boss second. On the other hand, they know how to keep their emotions in check when the situation calls for it.

7. They are humble. Since these bosses don’t believe they are above anyone or anything, they openly address their mistakes so that everyone can learn from them. Their modesty sets a tone of humility and strength that everyone else follows.

Bringing It All Together

For many unforgettable bosses at Google and elsewhere, things clicked once they stopped thinking about what their people could do for them and started thinking about what they could do to help their people succeed.

Inspire. Teach. Protect. Remove obstacles. Be human. If you cultivate these characteristics, you’ll become the unforgettable boss that your people will remember for the rest of their careers.

May 2018 Newsletter

May is Military Appreciation Month

GCubed is proud to employ veterans and support the transition to civilian employment through training and education opportunities. Veterans account for 20% of our workforce, and we look forward to increasing that number.


Vernon Green Jr. – Profiled by UMUC

Our Founder & CEO, a retired Chief Warrant Officer, was profiled by UMUC for Military Appreciation Month. Read the write up here and watch Mr. Green’s Facebook interview here.


We’re Nominated!

The Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce announced the nominees for the 2018 Outstanding Corporate Citizenship Awards, and we made the list! The awards honor extraordinary business leadership and above-and-beyond corporate social responsibility. Learn more here.


Praise from Center for Army Analysis

Kaniz Hussian was recognized by CAA leadership for a job well done on migrating customer databases to a new database server with no impacts to their users. Keep up the great work, Kaniz!



New Hires – Welcome to the team!

 Charles Ndode – Desktop Support Specialist, CAA

 Philip Morgan – Desktop Support Specialist, CAA

 Catherine DeStefano – Senior SharePoint Developer, CAA

Open Positions

Apply today – or contact Nicole Albertson for more information.


Employee Spotlight  

Our Human Resources Assistant, Joan King, is known as GCubed’s “Swiss Army Knife”; she does a little bit of everything in the corporate office. Assisting HR and finance with their daily tasks, all while taking on the role of receptionist, has quickly made Joan a vital member of our team. 

On her days off, Joan enjoys taking her two dogs to the trails and going on long hikes with her friends. Reading and collecting globes are a couple of her hobbies. She loves all things organic and natural; if there is a natural alternative to chemicals or man-made products, she will find it or make it herself. Joan even makes her own natural skin care products.

Joan is enjoying every moment on the job. Each day brings new knowledge and opportunities to strengthen her skill set, allowing her to shape her career as she wraps up her Associate’s degree. She is eager to be part of GCubed’s continued growth.



Volunteers Needed

G³CS has several exciting volunteer opportunities through coaching, mentorship, training, and education. People and organizations that bring passion, expertise, and resources are needed to help accomplish our mission to improve lives and strengthen communities. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact us at

Extraordinary Young Minds

The EYM program touches on personal responsibility, education, dream building, and the importance of foundational core values. We meet every third Sunday of the month at the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office from 4-6pm.

Hoop 4 Hope

Come out and enjoy a day of family, fun, and community bonding.

July 15th, 10am-6pm at St. Clair Brooks Park 80 Butler Road Falmouth, VA 22405

EYM Car Wash

Support the EYM Car Wash fundraising events!  

June 16, 9am-1pm at Burger King – 269 Garrisonville Road Stafford, VA 22554

July 14, 9am-1pm at 7-Eleven – 201 Garrisonville Road Stafford, VA 22554

July 21, 9am-1pm at Burger King – 269 Garrisonville Road Stafford, VA 22554

August 4, 9am-1pm at 7-Eleven – 201 Garrisonville Road Stafford, VA 22554

Follow G³Community Services on Facebook for news and updates on future events!

GCubed is Relocating!

We are excited to announce that we are moving to Stafford in October! Our new office features more space and exciting resources – essentials as we continue to hire new employees and take on new clients.

We are grateful for the many opportunities the Fredericksburg business community has given us, and are eager to make new partnerships in Stafford. 

Stay tuned for details on our Open House taking place later in October!