Fear Is A Four-Letter Word for Entrepreneurs

By Patti Villalobos


Growing up, my father helped people get loans to start small businesses. I remember friends whose fathers were doctors. That sounded cool. Or worked for the post office. I knew what the postman did. What does an 8-year old know about consulting?

My siblings and I used to visit my dad’s office on weekends. So, although it’s 40 something years later, may I sincerely apologize to his co-workers for having to put up with our odd paper-clip statues, pencil forts, and copies of body parts we left strewn on your desks. Oh, and I hope you found your family photographs we stashed in random file cabinets. Yeah, um, really sorry…See, watching dad work with his endless papers and forms was b.o.r.i.n.g.

But then, there was this other part – the times our family walked into one of the businesses he had helped in some way. There was a Chinese restaurant that was so beautiful and exotic, with its large wooden Buddha adorning a circular booth. My sister said she loved that statue, and all of a sudden, the grateful proprietor was thrusting it into my father’s hands despite his protests of, “no, no!” There was the Mexican restaurant in New Mexico where we were treated like royalty, and we couldn’t pay a check if we tried. There was the ski rental shop owner who had the added mystique of skiing on one leg. Dozens and dozens of business owners so appreciative to the man with the magic touch who helped them navigate the labyrinth of bureaucracy to get the bank loans or credit they needed. It was quite surreal to be in the spillover of their indebted appreciation.

Patti and Dad

Patti and her Dad

What I didn’t realize, until many years later, was that the real heroes were the lady who actually owned the Chinese restaurant; the family who ran the Mexican restaurant; the ski rental shop owner. It was the men and women who lived and breathed their businesses. See, to us it was an adventure to visit; to them, it was putting everything on the line. It was their survival, their mortgage, their children’s college fund, or a springboard to better life.

What I know now, not only from personal experience but also from having worked with people who run their own business, is it takes courage. You step out with some genius idea, a magic touch with people, a brilliant patent, or a talent in an arena where talented people are a dime a dozen. Sometimes destiny encourages you out on your own via downsizing; sometimes, it’s a run-in with people of small mind who can’t understand your vision. Whatever the motivation, I guarantee you also bring some FEAR.

“What if I can’t make it?”

“What if I step out and I’m judged.”

“What if I expose myself, my family, my dream, and I fail.”

More and more courageous people are launching bold ideas in creative and unprecedented ways. The old order is crumbling, and yet there are people driven to do something different. Can’t get credit? Don’t have the money for a brick-and-mortar store? Publisher won’t talk to you? Launching a business so cutting-edge, or off-the-grid, you’re not sure even how to market it? FEAR says you can’t succeed. Fear covers her ears and eyes and burrows deeper into your soul until you vibrate with unease, finding it hard to breathe.

COURAGE, instead, says “enough.” She lifts your head, so that with unflinching gaze you can look clear-eyed into the depths of fear, recognizing it for what it is: the clenching against the unknown. So with deep breath and even deeper trust, you just move forward. It may not be comfortable at times, but I for one would rather embrace courage and be propelled forward, alive and afraid, rather than to simply survive, stifled and numb.

Because after that, fear is simply a 4-letter word.


Three Steps to Achieving Business Well-Being


By Patti Villalobos


Your Level of Well-Being = Your Business’ Level of Well-Being

Okay. I will admit it. I am a recovering adrenaline junky. Or maybe it was a control junky. Or maybe I just took off the mantle of “Responsible for the Known Universe.” Whatever it was, I know that today my life flows with an ease that I’ve never known, and a peace that I never knew possible.

And that is NOT because life is easy right now.  It is not easy launching another new business while getting a handle on complex health challenges. It’s exciting, but it’s not easy. So what changed? So many things, but two of the biggest changes have been in my attitude towards balance and creativity.

Many years ago, in the midst of an enormous project that was so behind schedule it was unrecoverable, I was overseas presenting to The Big Kahuna. A mere two minutes into the presentation, in front of a room full of peers and higher ups, he launched into a screaming tirade because of the project dates. When I say screaming, I mean vein-bulging-red-faced-accent-tinged cursing and berating the teams on both sides of the Atlantic.  I’m sure it was only 5 minutes or so, but in that surreal moment, it felt like hours. I remember thinking to myself, “Oh my… He’s going fall over from a stroke…and not a single person here is going to help him!”

Several weeks later, when my husband called at 5pm to ask if I wanted to go to a yoga class, I yelled into the phone, “Are you kidding me? I AM TOO STRESSED TO GO TO YOGA CLASS!”  Yes, the irony…

Whether in a family, a small business, or a giant corporation, if the people at the top are out-of-balance and stressed, then so is the rest of the “family.” In counseling, Family Systems theory talks about the interconnectedness and interdependence of family members. Well, organizational health follows the same principles: if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

So what does that mean for as a business owner? If you are “mama” or “papa” to your organization, it means choosing to prioritize your personal well-being is not an option. You either learn how to do it, or you will create chaos in your business. Period. That is NOT good for your health, your employees’ well-being, your customers, or your bottom line.

Here’s what I have learned through experience is:

1. Balance is not a static state, a goal you achieve and check off your list. It is, as a yoga instructor once taught me, a series of constant little adjustments that you make. You will have to practice and be mindful. You will fall when you add something new. That’s part of gaining muscle memory and strength. In business and personal life, it requires the same thing: practice and continuous small and large adjustments, until you find what works for you.

Patti - Crow

Yep, this is me demonstrating the Crow yoga pose!

2. Balance is also about courage. One of my most difficult poses (Crow, for you yoga aficionados) isn’t so much about me not having the strength; it’s about me not having the courage to lean forward enough. Out “there” feels vulnerable, like I’m going to land on my face. When I was coached past that point, I found that sweet spot where balance was possible. In business and personal life, you may need to give up what feels comfortably uncomfortable, or set some courageous boundaries, in order to find your sweet spot.

3. If you neglect your creative mind, you are missing a crucial tool for problem solving. Think of a time when you wrestled with a problem that seemed utterly unsolvable. The way out of a soul-draining dead end usually does not include banging your head against the wall at the end of the hallway. Step away from the problem and see in a different way. Oh look! I could turn right! There is a different path I was unaware of in the blindness of my self-imposed headache! In business and personal life, making time for left-right brain integration via creativity reaps rewards you cannot even begin to fathom until you make this a priority.

Integrating more creativity and well-being into your life requires more than just saying you’re going to do it; you need the desire, a plan, and then the drive to execute it.