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What a Wasp Taught Me About Startup Fear

wasp

When I started writing this post I had a wasp on my leg. I also dreadfully needed to use the restroom, but I couldn't get up for obvious reasons. Thankfully, I had my laptop conveniently resting on my lap, and felt inspired to write this post. It's about those powerful mindsets people rarely ever talk about in business, our fears.

So there I was in extra lean startup fashion, working on the logo for my new company, Dreamfuel. I was having an awkwardly fun time dusting off my Photoshop skills, when a wasp landed right on my bare leg. Not good...

My younger self would have immediately swatted it off with an 80% probability of experiencing the joy of being non-lethally poisoned. Talk about being present! But I wasn’t looking for that journey this time.

My more mature self listened to my intuition and it said, “Start meditating...right...now…” As the cortisol kicked into my bloodstream like a fire-hose, my mind started racing and shouting, “This thing is gonna sting you, and last time you checked, you’re allergic to wasps!”

At this point it was basically dancing on my leg raising its hindquarters up and down in classic wasp fashion, teasing out all of my childhood fears. I’ve been to the emergency room over a wasp sting before. My prize for enduring an inch long EpiPen shot was a giant, swollen clown hand for which I was teased mercilessly.

Not today though. I’ve been consistently practicing meditation since my college days, so I shut my eyes and concentrated intently on my breathing. As it tickled my leg and I worked to not flinch my muscles, my intuition started speaking to me again.

I’ve spent the last two weeks talking to 13 people working at high growth companies about their dreams and their fears. Fears can often be as seductive as dreams and desires. First, they lure you in with doubt. And then before you know it you’re putting more of your energy into imagining your fears than your goals. Yikes...

Deric from the Powderkeg team once told me that when a race car driver starts to lose control, they focus on the road, not the wall. The car goes where you focus your attention. This is natural to a race car driver, but it’s not always as obvious to a startup team member.

The stakes are huge personally and professionally when you put everything you’ve got into growing a company. Fears creep in from all directions, just like this wasp that landed on my leg. But I decided to not let my fear cause me to panic.

I began a meditation technique called box breathing and started to relax. Surprisingly, the wasp relaxed right along with me into some sort of trance where I could freely type without bothering it (see photo). Do these things sleep??? So I lifted my computer up and took this blurry picture with my webcam.

Like most fears, the wasp was just a teacher. And in this case, it was teaching me to breathe deeply through my fears and to continue focusing on my dreams. Even as it woke up, crawled up my chest, and feasted on some salt on my neck -did I mention I’m allergic- before it flew off. Cheers!

P.S. Box breathing is a technique used by the Navy Seals to keep their nervous systems out of fight-or-flight (FoF) response when in combat. When we stop breathing during stressful times, our bodies automatically go into fight-or-flight, causing our intuition and creative thinking to suffer. FoF also feels awful. You can learn more about it here.