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Why a Little Fear in a CEO's Day Can Be a Good Thing

Learning new skills and taking on new challenges can strengthen the leader and the organization
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If you’ve ever been both nervous and exhilarated at the same time, then you know exactly how I’m feeling right now.  

In early March, I committed to doing something I’ve never done before -- conducting a sizable fund-raising campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. As a cancer survivor, I know only too well what people with such illnesses go through. While I jumped at the chance to compete for the San Diego/Hawaii chapter’s 2014 Man of the Year award, I was extremely nervous that I would not raise enough money and feared failure.  

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I decided to take on the challenge, reasoning that every dollar raised would make a difference.

Engaging in a stretching exercise. As I went through this thought process, I became inspired to do something different. I asked myself, Why can’t I raise a million, one dollar at a time? After working a series of late nights, our team at Jacob Tyler launched in the hopes of collecting at least $50,000 for the organization by May 17.

The reality is I’ve never done anything this ambitious before. Sure I’ve started companies and experienced their ups and downs, but raising funds for a worthy cause is a new proposition for me -- and I’m not sure exactly how it will end up. I know one thing, however: No matter the outcome, the experience will be positive on so many levels, professional and personal.

Learning some lessons. Philanthropic achievements aside, this initiative has already taught me a great deal. As we continue to receive (through the site) contributions ranging from $1 to $1,000 (from folks I don’t even know), I’m reminded that the limits I set for my team and myself are largely of my own doing. They are not etched in stone or mandated by a higher power. Instead, they represent a comfort zone -- and a situation like this is something that entrepreneurs need to recognize for its stagnating effect.

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As a business owner, I can’t rest on my laurels too much or get so bogged down in the daily grind to not take a look at how my staff and I are tracking toward our . I also need to keep in mind that lofty aspirations are by no means inattainable; they are very much achievable with the right mind-set and a whole lot of tenacious effort.

My project is in some ways a crash refresher course in this. We’ve got a lot to do to get the word out about this fund-raising campaign, and my competitive personality won’t let me settle for less than trying to meet our goal. So the pressure is on.

But even if we don’t, we’ll know more about why we fell short and what can be improved in our methods while still raising much needed funds for life-saving cancer research.

Re-evaluating processes. To that end, this initiative has given me an invitation to examine how we do business at Jacob Tyler. I find myself challenging certain assumptions more and examining whether our growth goals, target markets, service offerings and staffing needs are aggressive or comprehensive enough.

It’s a healthy review process that is forcing me to imagine what’s possible instead of quickly assuming it's not. This is a far more positive and lucrative strategic position to be in and one that many of us won’t permit ourselves to assume unless we take ourselves outside our comfort zone every now and then. I hope my fellow entrepreneurs do so and not be afraid to do things that make them afraid.

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