On Fear

On Fear
September 5, 2019 Summit Coffee
In Blog

It’s 4:44pm on a Thursday, and I am sitting alone at the roastery. The five or six people who were busy here today have done their work, very well, and headed elsewhere. Yet I am still here, sitting, and it’s becoming more often than not that I am the last one sitting in this office with all the lights off save the blue light on the computer in front of me and the natural light shining through the window to my left. I am here, sitting alone, and trying to tie up loose ends before I get to head home to my wonderful family.

I’ve found myself sitting alone more often lately, and it’s weighing on me, so I do what I do to vent (I’ve already run once today) and I write. When I write these blogs every week, I start at the first word and finish at the last and don’t stop in between. Once I publish, I re-read it to check for misspellings or things that don’t make sense. All this to say, when I write, it’s a pure stream of consciousness explosion.

I opined a few weeks ago how there are two ways to handle transitions, and the one I most often choose is to see them as opportunities. But since I am being totally honest, I’m not buying my own blog right now. It’s hard to be effusively positive, all the time, and constantly fend off doubts and stresses and remain a relentless leader. I’m in one of those lower moments right now, and even though while I am writing my dad just texted to refer to something as “another opportunity,” it comes from one thing:

Fear.

The business that Summit has become, the business that I have helped build, has been built on optimism and vision and growth. Summit is a great place to work, I tell everyone, and we’re doing remarkable things. We’re innovative, we’re young, we’re sharp and we’re doing things different than our peers. I am a walking marketing team around our office, and my genuine excitement and belief in everything we do has been palpable in stimulating our growth.

But I have an aching fear — what if I am a fraud? What if Summit is a fraud? What if everything we’ve been trumpeting is a lie, or misleading, and my words are drowned out by the reality that they exist in. I see myself as a visionary, as a leader who wants nothing more than the best for our staff and our business, but it’s hard to be selling your own message. On days like this, in weeks like this, I feel a bit like Democratic Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson. I have something to say. Is it resonating? Am I the only one who believes these things? Am I talking to myself?

To be clear, there are dozens of Summit people kicking ass right now, and at 5:00am this morning, and at midnight tonight, because they do believe in this vision. But the more time I sit in our company HQs by myself, looking around and wondering why we haven’t finished (or started) the remodel of our front room, the more I wonder a lot of other things.

I don’t do well with alone time, and the more I have the more I can make the narrative I tell myself seem worse and worse. That’s probably why I run great 20 mile races when a marathon, unfortunately, is 26.2 — I am out there, alone, spending miles and hours trying to fend off doubts and fears until all of a sudden I can’t, and I walk, and there goes another Boston Marathon without  qualifying.

I have a fear of being bad at this job. It goes hand in hand, I suppose, with everything else I have written that I would have this fear. Hell, I wrote a Barista Magazine feature story on Failure. We’ve joked around the office that I am going to be famous for failing, but … is it true? Is that what I’m doing? Am I merely looking positive and waxing optimism in the face of multiple failures? Is there a limit to how many failures, employee transitions, bad projects that you can spin into a “learning lesson” or “another opportunity?” Again, am I a fraud?

I’m not sure what the purpose of this blog is other than to share where I am, with myself and maybe with my loyal blog readers (hey mom and dad). But it felt important to be real. That not every day at Summit, or every story, has a narrative that comes back around with a killer thesis, a final message to charge into the future with.

Running this business is hard. Maybe other business owners can relate here — some days feel heavy, and like everything you’ve been trying to build for eight years might all be less real house, more dollhouse.

I still believe in the future of Summit with all my being. In fact, I’m recently coming into the best idea I have had in perhaps all my time as CEO. But as I am sitting alone, now 5:09, at the roastery that’s a little bit darker than it was 25 minutes ago, I can’t help but wonder if this idea, too, is just another failure in the making.

I have real fear, of making bad decisions and leading people down the wrong path, telling people to follow me and then taking them somewhere different from what I described. I have fear that I am the right person for this job, and I have fear that publishing this blog is going to make some people freak out just a little bit.

Maybe it’s OK to have fear? Maybe fear inspires action, when it’s not paralyzing. I’ve counted on that, and am counting on that. For tomorrow and the next year and the next 10 years. But I wanted y’all to know that this fear is real, it exists, and I am trying to figure out what the heck to do with it.

Until next time.

Comment (1)

  1. Randee 3 months ago

    A little stress leads to action, focus. Too much can break you. May this fear be a positive stress leading to positive action & focus.

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