Train Your Brain to Overcome Fear

Train Your Brain to Overcome Fear

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Entrepreneurs have to take big risks in order to succeed, but even well-known leaders are often terrified to leap. In one famous example, fear of failure almost kept Kevin Rose from starting Digg, the enormously successful social news site that made him a multi-millionaire.Over time, he learned to trust his gut by taking the initiative to learn sides of the business that were unfamiliar or scary at first.

You don’t have to be a natural risk-taker in order to succeed, and learning how fear works can empower you to overcome it.

When you become fearful and hesitant, your brain is focusing on loss aversion, meaning that it’s trying to protect you from harm. It’s an adaptive strategy that kept our ancestors from getting killed.

In that mode, your brain becomes hyper-analytical. It catalogues everything that could go wrong and recalls past memories of failure in an effort to keep you safe. “The unintended consequence is that you get demotivated and don’t take any action,” says Monica Mehta, author of The Entrepreneurial Instinct (McGraw-Hill, 2012).

Your brain is wired to avoid anything that could harm you, so your aversion to loss is powerful. “Loss aversion is two and a half times more powerful than greed,” Mehta says. With a ratio like that, it’s no wonder that fear holds so many people back.

But your brain also has a system, known as the reward pathway, that releases feel-good chemicals when you do something novel or thrilling. This system overrides loss aversion and rewards you for taking risks.

“People with naturally active reward pathways focus on novelty or action,” Mehta says. To overcome fear, adopt some of their strategies for focusing on the positive side of risk.

Here are three tips to help you do that:

1. Don’t weigh the pros and cons. When you’re taking a risk, a bit of research and a gut reaction is all you really need to make a good decision. Wading in a swamp of pros and cons will only activate fear. “The more you go into an analytical mode, the more you activate the part of the brain that makes you fearful and demotivated,” Mehta says.

If your gut tells you to say yes, then prevent fear from taking over by simply diving in and adapting as you go. That doesn’t mean you should be reckless, but the sooner you start to take action, the less likely you are to get scared.

2. Set many small goals. To get comfortable with risk, start small by setting a series of manageable goals that you can accomplish in a short period of time. Include some that are a little scary, but the main purpose here is to experience success repeatedly.

Those early successes will motivate you to seek out bigger risks. “Every time we achieve success, our brains release dopamine, which motivates us to go back and tackle the next success,” Mehta says. If you approach a big risk at that point, you’ll be primed to take action and less likely to get bogged down in fear of potential losses.

3. Surround yourself with risk-takers. A big part of comfort with risk is exposure. If you have people in your social circle, or especially in your family, who have been willing to take risks, then you will be much more likely to do the same. “There’s a huge social aspect to entrepreneurship,” Mehta says.

Risk-takers will be more likely to encourage you to take chances, and they will also be living examples of what it takes to risk and fail and risk again. “If you look at the biography of a famous person, it all depends on where in the biography you stop,” Mehta says. “Success comes by way of many, many failures.”

Why Most People Are Full of Shit, and How to Not Be One of Them

Why Most People Are Full of Shit, and How to Not Be One of Them

Another in the series “How to be Taken Seriously.” This time, we’ll focus on not being full of shit.

I’ve got an exercise for you. For the next seven days, make a concerted effort to count how many people with whom you come in contact who end your conversation with “I’ll call you,” or “Let’s get coffee!” or “We should connect for a drink!”

In two weeks, go back and visit the list you made, and see how many of them followed up on their suggestion.

The answer will more than likely be “none.”

We live in a world where 99% of the people you meet are full of shit. It just is. It’s not up for debate, it’s not a scientific fact, it just is. I think this is the case for several reasons, but the most logical one is as follows: We all want to be thought of as “The nice guy.” Ironically, by doing this, we usually come across as full of shit, as opposed to the nice guy. If we play the nice guy role in the beginning “Call me! Happy to help!” Or “Let’s get coffee!” and then never follow up, or cancel plans, or never answer the resulting email, not only are we blowing our “nice guy” persona, but then we’re proven as even worse than a “not nice guy,” we’re proven to be full of shit. At least if you’re not nice and honest, you’re true. But being nice on the surface and never returning the call moves you from “nice” to “not nice” to “full of shit.” And that’s the worst place to be.Others are full of shit because they only look out for themselves, feel the need to attempt to win by taking everyone else down, or simply put, just don’t care. Whatever the reason, just look around – there’s no doubt we’re living in a world full of people who are just full of shit. I’m on an Amtrak as I write this, and the guy next to me just got off his phone with a “OK, you too – Totally have to get together, no doubt, I’ll call you!” He hangs up, and under his breath, as he’s shaking his head, he mutters, “douche.”So if that’s the case, there’s one really awesome thing you can take out of it. If everyone is full of shit, it’s never been easier to be at the top of your game and own the playing field. Think about it – It’s the same logic as the kinda-thin girl who hangs out with fat girls – By comparison, she looks hot. If everyone else spends their time disappointing everyone else, all you have to do is rise 1% above the fray, and you win it all.So here’s how:1) Exceed relatively low expectations. Again – We don’t expect much out of people anymore. Used to be we’d expect stellar service on all counts – Whether it was the windshield being washed when we pulled up to the gas station, or our meal being brought to our table – that’s pretty much gone nowadays.

Sure, it’s awesome to set the bar totally high and exceed it. And I’m not saying don’t do that. But focus on building your reputation piece by piece. If you don’t want to have coffee with someone, don’t suggest it as you’re saying goodbye after your first meeting. If you DO want to have coffee with someone, why not suggest a Skype call, and when you email to follow up, upgrade it to coffee. Start off low and grow quickly. It’s the easiest thing in the world to do.

2) Do “unexpected followup” daily. I have a big, big stack of business cards. Probably over 3,500, 4,000 cards. These are people I’ve met once, usually at a conference or trade show. They’re not “contacts,” per se, but they’re also not complete strangers. I keep these cards in a giant fish bowl on my desk, where people who don’t constantly worry about their weight would keep candy. Each day, I pull ten cards out, and email the people on them, just to say hi. No selling, not even that much talking about me – Just asking about them. How are they, what are they working on, etc. This keeps me “top of mind,” and does two other things: Brings some of those people from “quasi-contacts” to “clients,” and as beneficial, makes me first in their mind when someone they know asks if they know anyone who does what I do. Added bonus? I get to say hi. Nice touch.

3) Do the little things no one else does. You have any idea how many times I show up at early morning meetings with donuts? I call it “Insta-Hero.” It’s incredibly easy to be the Insta-Hero. Show up to an early morning meeting with Donuts. Make sure there’s a full bowl of candy on your desk when people come by. ALWAYS carry a pen, a stick of gum, and a lighter. (And not just for people who smoke – Lighters can act as a scissor and burn down a loose thread, among millions of other uses.) Be the one who always does the little things, and you’ll be the one people turn to when they have a budget to spend.

4) Find out what people are doing. If you had any idea on how many people I have Google Alerts, you’d call me the King of Stalking. But in fact, those alerts are one of the most helpful tools in my arsenal. Someone gets quoted? Drop a congratulatory note. Someone gets promoted? Send cookies. Someone takes a new job? Send a six pack. It’s not hard, doesn’t cost a lot, and keeps you well above the fold of mediocrity. Why? Because no one else does it. Again – When most people are full of shit, it doesn’t take that much to not be! So don’t be! Everyone wins! (Especially you!)

5) For God’s sake, if you do nothing else, just be nice! A smile goes a hell of a long way towards proving you’re not full of shit. Just by being a touch nicer – Offering to help someone put their bag in the overhead compartment, letting the obviously time-crunched person go ahead of you at Starbucks… You never know where these small, innocent acts can lead – But yo do know this – If they lead anywhere, they start off with the other person believing you’re in fact, NOT full of shit – And from there, it’s up to you to keep proving that.

Have fun. And if I missed anything, tell me in the comments.

Ways to Optimizing Your Freelance Profile

5 Smart Ways to Optimize Your Freelancer Profile on Job Sites

If you’ve been hunting for jobs on freelance marketplaces, you’ve probably found it both a land of opportunities and a pain in the neck.

Freelance marketplaces offer hundreds — sometimes thousands — of remote job positions globally, which makes it difficult to sift through the listings.

If you think you’re having a hard time, put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager. These marketplaces overflow with freelancers looking for both part-time and full-time gigs. Checking out profiles, much less evaluating who’s the best fit for the job, can be overwhelming.

I’ve had the chance to experience both sides. Developing my personal workflow to filter job posts and send out applications, I eventually gained traction. But when I was given the responsibility to seek out freelancers and build a business’s virtual team, I saw the other side of the table.

To make the hiring task easier and faster, I did what other hiring managers do: I checked out five places on an applicant’s profile. If everything in those areas looked good, the candidate was shortlisted for an interview. (Click here to tweet this insight.)

Want to have a better chance of standing out on your freelance job applications? To get noticed even if 50 other applicants are ahead of you? Here’s are the five spots on your profile you should be concentrating on:

1. Title

This field is your first attention-grabber. It tells hiring managers if you can do the job. Just like the headlines of blog posts and other articles, your title should clearly describe what hiring managers can expect from you.

Let’s say you’re applying for a social media manager position, but your title says you’re a freelance writer. As a hiring manager, I may not give your profile a second look and may go to the next applicant.

To avoid being skipped over, don’t be afraid to include relevant skills in your title.

For example, if you provide both social media marketing and blogging services, mention that. Your title could say “Top-Notch Blogger and Social Media Marketer.” Don’t limit it to words, either. You can use symbols to separate your job titles, like this: “Freelance Writer | Social Media Marketing | Virtual Assistant.”

2. Overview

This is where you can briefly describe what you bring to the table. This field is not limited to 140 characters like a tweet. It allows you more than that.

But don’t just write about yourself. Take advantage of the space to address common problems and concerns your prospective client may have.

Are they having a hard time writing blog posts? Are they overwhelmed with all their marketing tasks? Is their inbox so full they can’t even find the compose button? Tell them how your services can help. Show how aware you are of issues business owners face, and that you’re there to help. This also positions you as a reliable professional.

3. Work history and feedback

This list, for most hiring managers, is the deciding factor.

You can’t control what’s going to be reflected here, but you can control the experience your current clients will get working with you. Provide the best service you can give to your current clients, however big or small their project is.

If you don’t have any feedback yet, make sure to list your previous job experiences in the employment history section. (Don’t forget to include the dates.) Your previous job title and responsibilities will show hiring managers if you have skills or are easily trainable. The dates will reflect your commitment, motivation and level of grit.

4. Portfolio

This is where you can back up the claims you initially made in the overview section with samples of your work.

Most hiring managers take the time to check your portfolio to see if you’ve done similar jobs (e.g., a published logo, website, video, blog post or social media page). Be sure to link the items to the appropriate sites when applicable.

For writers providing ghostwriting services, it’s best to showcase only samples where you’re credited for the article. An author bio showing your name is a stamp supporting your skills.

5. Certifications and tests

Don’t take these small badges for granted, as they also present your value and strengths to potential clients.

Fill out your credentials and take the relevant aptitude tests, even if it’s just one per week. Your test scores bring to light other competencies like communication and leadership skills — factors you may not have thought were a consideration for the job, but which a hiring manager may still look for.

Freelancers, have you reviewed your profile yet? Does it address the given points? If not, put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager — would you be interested in your profile?

Jovell Alingod, a.k.a. The Petite Pen, is a freelance blogger and team and content manager helping entrepreneurs build and maintain a lucrative presence online. Get more from her on her website or via Twitter.

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