If you don’t know the story of TOMS, it’s really quite remarkable. Learn more about it here.
Basically, Mycoskie started a shoe company with one simple idea: for every pair of shoes he sold, he would outfit an impoverished, shoeless child with a new pair of shoes.
It was a radical idea, but Mycoskie was not about to let fear stand in his way.
* – For the record, at the end of typing that intro sentence and adding that link to TOMS, I went and bought a pair (this one). I recently canceled my cable – more to come on this in a later post – so I decided to reward myself and help deliver a pair of shoes to a child in need with what I’ll save on my bill next month.
The trip to Argentina that inspired Mycoskie was in 2006, and the company hasn’t stopped growing since he launched it right then and there. In Start Something That Matters, Mycoskie recounts the tale of TOMS’ humble but inspired beginnings and divulges some of the lessons he learned along the way.
I’m about halfway through the book as I type this, already brimming with post ideas.
Today, I’m going to talk about fear and one particular lesson I learned (or perhaps re-learned) from the chapter in the book devoted to the subject.
Everyone who succeeds battles through adversity. The more you read biographies, talk to successful people, and listen to business leaders, the more you’ll hear about mistakes, screwups, fears, and failures. But you’ll also see that those downers often turn out to be the biggest blessings they ever received. This is a lesson you have to keep learning.
I guarantee that in any new endeavor, there will be days you’ll feel completely doomed, convinced that failure is inevitable and that, no matter how hard you work, you will never succeed. I had plenty of these days during the first few years of TOMS. We were doing something totally different and it was scary. When that does happen, you will be faced with one of the most important tests you’ll ever encounter. Setbacks and fear are inevitable. The thing that distinguishes ultimate successes from the ultimate failures is this: What do you do with them?
Think of the odds Mycoskie was facing:
- He had no experience in shoes or apparel, though he had founded a successful company before.
- A business model like his – a “one for one” model of selling and giving – had never been attempted before.
- The shoe design was a traditional Argentinian style that was not proven to sell in the U.S.
When most people would have turned back or given up, rationalizing the decision because of how unlikely success seemed, Mycoskie and TOMS powered forward and became a massive success.
Mycoskie was the right person at the right time with the right idea, no question. He saw an opportunity that no one else could even conceive and made it a reality. It sounds romantic and fun and almost simple in a way; but that doesn’t mean it was not also scary and challenging in those times when there were no promises of success, or barely even a glimmer of it.
But Mycoskie believed in his cause, in his idea, and in himself. That gave him the courage to face his fears.
How you react to negative feelings will be the key to your success. Becoming comfortable with fear, and acting confidently in its face, will not only give you more courage when facing it next time but also greatly increase your chances of achieving success and happiness.
We are experiencing this right now at our company.
Several years ago it was just me and Derick. We had achieved modest success growing our agency business with SEO, social media, and reputation management work. We felt good about things heading into our second Christmas holiday season as business partners.
Then we lost our biggest client, right around the time when the economy was reaching its nadir.
Needless to say, it wasn’t the Christmas present we were hoping to receive.
We had a few serious, somewhat somber talks about what was next and what we needed to do to make the business work. We couldn’t work for pennies – or what felt like pennies in relation to our efforts – forever.
But we did believe in what we were doing, in eachother, and we trusted that if we kept at it we’d make our own break somehow.
Traffic on Midwest Sports Fans became so high that the site crashed regularly. Derick, with his technology background, took it upon himself to figure out a better way to host demanding WordPress sites.
Yesterday, we were able to celebrate the Synthesis logo being officially added to the CopyBlogger website, fully integrating our services in with their other highly successful web products and respected online brand. It suggests an exciting, fruitful future for all of us, and we couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve accomplished together.
And just like with TOMS, none of it would have been possible if we had allowed fear to outduel our belief in ourselves, in eachother, and in our idea.
Reading the “Face Your Fears” chapter in Start Something That Matters reminded me of the importance of sizing up our fears, understanding them, and then powering through them. It was inspiring to read the stories Mycoskie tells about others who did just that, and it was a real moment of pride to remember how we had as well.
The lesson: Don’t let fear knock you off course when you are working towards your goals. Rather, use it to help drive you there faster.
You may just be amazed at what you can accomplish.
What fears are you currently dealing with that are inhibiting you from working towards your goals?
What fears can you see and understand, but are struggling to overcome?