Your greatest ally. And worst enemy.

Fear and its omnipresent role during the formation, growth and success of KPS3 cannot be understated. Its fingers touched every higher risk decision, missed opportunity, and created a desire to over-control everything humanly possible. And sometimes inhumanly possible.

I have always been in tune with fear. All my life. It’s been a motivator, accelerator, hard driver and protector. I never would have created KPS3 if I hadn’t been afraid of stagnating in the business I had been working (even though it was a great place and I grew immensely there). I also had the fear of regret not pursuing a long-held dream of having independence and creative existence with my own agency. This pushed me to action and thus KPS3 was born in May of 1991.

In 1998 I read the book “The Gift of Fear,” about seven years after I started KPS3. It was about seven years too late… but still helpful. If you have some time, read it.

The Constant Companion of an Entrepreneur

Soon after the agency opened, I quickly realized as an entrepreneur, your daily fuel is fear – the fear of the company not having enough work to pay your employees, the fear of having too much work and not being able to meet your deliverables on deadline, the fear of changes in the economy and all the other things you can’t control (i.e. a pandemic).

The only way I knew how to counteract this fear was to plan ahead, and that was one thing I was great at… planning. It may have been my background in crisis communications, but planning ahead for possible scenarios, good or bad, really helped.

I made sure that KPS3, even though we didn’t know what was around the next corner, was always planning ahead for the possible scenarios, good or bad. One thing we are good at… is planning.

There were times that the fear grew bigger and darker than just what I normally carry around personally. Take for example the Great Recession of 2008. We were unfortunately fortunate to have several real estate and development clients who started to see signs that were worrisome to them. We were concerned for them. As they started to make changes to their advertising and marketing budgets, we saw the handwriting on the wall, so we started to cut back: not hire vacant positions, put a pause on large capital purchases, and formalize and up our game for new business development. We’re fortunate we made those early sacrifices – made pay and benefits cuts, reduced work space to reduce rent, and we did it together. We only had a lay-off, painful as it was, of one employee. We considered ourselves fortunate compared to many other agencies and businesses who closed their doors, shrank dramatically, or lost their office space.

That fear also motivated us to be proactive and anticipate even more possible impacts. In 2008, while we were dealing with the Recession, we made the decision to strategically move into digital marketing with a vengeance. That has served us well, beyond belief. We also took steps to diversify our portfolio of client industry types even further, without stretching our internal topical expertise too thin.

Coping With and Embracing Fear

How did I personally manage fear through its ebbs and flows? It varied over time… I used to be able to run daily and loved it. But too many orthopedic injuries and surgeries intervened so I took up boxing. That’ll take your mind off of things for a while. I also found getting together with friends was a great diversion. Then international travel. I didn’t shovel Ben & Jerry’s into my mouth right out of the carton as some might… although a glass of bubbly or two was always welcome relief. I found comfort in the outdoors – camping, climbing, mountaineering, anything to bring me outside, preferable overnight, in beautiful places.

I was fortunate enough to have many, many coping devices, and needed them all. And then some. I don’t have any specific recommendations on how individuals should best deal with fear, but here are some hard-won pieces of advice that can be helpful:

  • Everyone has fear, but it varies in depth and breadth and the individual may not even describe it as “fear.” Do not be ashamed of being afraid. It’s human.
  • Fear will leak out somehow… insomnia (my favorite), headaches, stomach disorders, panic attacks, habits that may or may not be healthy for you such as smoking, lousy moods or behaviors, excess alcohol or other chemicals, or other excesses (even too much exercise can be unhealthy for some).
  • Try to recognize those behaviors – sooner than later – for what they are, and see if they are warranted or beneficial at the time, or if there could be something else you could do that doesn’t harm you or those around you as much.
  • Accept that fear can be your ally. Period. Don’t fight it. Don’t argue with it. Don’t deny it. It will always catch up with you somehow. Think instead about that feeling, that manic energy, or even that sluggishness you feel… is a result of it and ponder, “what can I do with this instead.”
  • Surround yourself with people who can recognize it, point it out to you without hacking you off, and be there as a sounding board, or even more. These people could, gasp, even be paid professionals if you don’t have those kinds of folks handy, or if you feel you can only confess that fact that you have fear to a neutral third party. There is no shame. And if the fear is debilitating or causing physical symptoms that are truly dangerous, get help that could also involve medication, if even for a short time.
  • There is no one solution for all people. Not everyone can meditate or pray. Not everyone will want to go to a gym or yoga class. Just keep working on possible options for you. KEEP WORKING ON THEM… because as I said earlier, your response to fear will leak out somewhere, some time, somehow.

Looking ahead

What am I afraid of next? Well, another economic recession or stagflation that will impact our client industries and ours as well.

And as I get older, and inch toward retirement, I have fear of “what’s next for Steph?” And as with any person getting older… ongoing relevance. I sense that this is the first era of women entrepreneurs who are now retiring, or at least thinking of it. Giving up our “babies.” That is the foreshadowing of my next and last blog commemorating KPS3’s 30th anniversary. Stay tuned.

In closing, if you thought this blog post was going to be another rollicking romp through some of the KPS3 30 years of fun and action, sorry.

I had some fear that you may not like it. But I wrote it anyway.

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