What are you afraid of ?

Back to 2014 I decided I wanted to set up Zol and Zola. I kept dreaming of opening a centre in Khartoum, where youth (and by youth I mean: millennial) would come to study, or work , or meet friends, or attend our events. A safe space where no one would wan’t to leave.

In August 2015, after many long months of looking at property and buying furniture and sweeping floors - the Zol and Zola Club was ready for business. It looked great. Simple – with tables and chairs dotted around the main hall and training room. The air-conditioners were finally installed, and the office was assembled. There were even posters on the walls with our logo. The Facebook page was up and running and I had employed my first marketing assistant.

I remember once evening, before our launch, a few friends came to see the centre. It was nearing sun down and there was little light coming in through the windows. After all the visitors left. I closed the door and in the dark a panic settled over me.

“What have I done? What am I doing opening up a centre in Khartoum? Who did I think I am - wanting to run community activities when I had absolutely no experience doing it? Why was I leaving a medical career in the UK to pursue something completely different in Sudan?”

The questions rushed into my head and I had no way of stopping the intruding negative voice that was taunting me. I couldn’t answer any of its questions either. All I could do was cry as hard and as loud as I could. I was relieved that I was completely alone because I didn’t want anyone to witness my internal battle erupt onto the surface. The uncertainty of the future made me weak at the knees.

“This isn’t going to work” I kept thinking. “Just leave everything behind now and go back to Europe”.

On the way home, I kept wondering if it would be possible to do that - leave it all. But then I remembered how much money my father had invested into the centre. The rent. The furniture. The projector. Those blue chairs and the three white boards. I couldn’t leave. Not now. Not after I promised I’d be successful. I didn’t want to fail in front of my parents. It had to work. I had no choice.

18 months later, the Zol and Zola clubhouse was so full during an event, we had to turn away extremely disappointed visitors. “Come early. Seats fill up very quickly” was our new motto. I remember standing at the back during the cultural event and thinking how far my team and I had come. That lonely night in the centre had transformed into days filled with many new friends and lots of laughter and joy!

At a SHORTI cultural night at the Zol and Zola Club.

At a SHORTI cultural night at the Zol and Zola Club.

Now, in 2019, I decided to give Zol and Zola another chance. Over the past 5 months I’ve brainstormed the new business model with a friend, registered the business in the UK, built the website, refreshed the brand with a new logo, revived the Facebook page and created an outline of the online training I hope to launch this summer.

Yesterday when I made the final changes to the website, I sat back, and I knew I was ready to go. Ready to do this again. And that’s when I panicked. It was like someone threw a bucket of cold water over my head. My heart started to beat quickly.  

“Oh my god, Wafa what are you doing? Do you really want to launch an online course? Who in their right mind would want to enrol in your classes? And at a premium cost? You’ve never done this before!”

I couldn’t stop that criticising voice inside me. “You’re a dreamer. That’s all you ever were!” It continued.

And in that moment something hit me. Why didn’t these thoughts go through my mind throughout the last 5 months? Where was this voice when I was planning everything? When I was listening to different guru’s on how to build online businesses? Or when I was changing the colour scheme of the website or planning the course content or revising the marketing strategy? Why now?  

I realise that my fears only peak their ugly heads once I’ve immersed myself in an idea completely. And just as the hard work is about to kick in: that’s when I’m most terrified. It’s not the fear of failure I’m afraid of: it’s the fear of putting in the daily effort needed to make my goals a reality. In short - I start things with great enthusiasm but I can never finish them. This is because, instinctively, I tend to run away from everything that scares me.

So that brings us to the most important question: How can someone like me keep going, rather than give up?

Go all in.  

That’s the life-lesson that has worked for me. You only continue working on your goals if you have everything to lose. In the past, I worried about how my parents saw me and disappointing them. Now, I’m more concerned about how I see myself and losing my self-respect. Giving up on Zol and Zola is not an option, because I would be giving up on myself.

And that’s not a risk I’m willing to take.

What we are afraid of most, and what we lose by not trying, is different for each one of us. Finding that one motivating factor that supersedes even our deepest fear helps us hold on in the long run. It’s a simple formula to follow really: if you’re more afraid of not achieving your goal than the fears that pop up along the way: you’ll make it. Eventually.

What now? What next? Answer these 4 questions and you’ll know what you should do next:

  1. What do I want to achieve most in my life? _____________________________

  2. What will happen if I don’t? ____________________________________

  3. What am I afraid of the most?  ___________________________________

  4. Which is worse? A) my fears/insecurities or b) not making it? _______________________________

If you answer is B to question 4, you and I are on the same boat. Start tonight, as I have by posting this blog. And let me know what you’re starting by commenting below. You can always send a direct message by clicking here.

  • Blog written by Wafa Elamin