Rub shoulders with leading experts and industry disruptors at TNW Conference →

No-nonsense perspectives on startup growth


The secret to personal growth? Be scared and show up

Or that's at least what my mom told me

The secret to personal growth? Be scared and show up
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

CEO and co-founder, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and pr.co. Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

Boris is the wise ol’ CEO of TNW who writes a weekly column on everything about being an entrepreneur in tech — from managing stress to embracing awkwardness. You can get his musings straight to your inbox by signing up for his newsletter!

A friend of mine was complaining to me about one of his projects. At one point, I said to him, “Look, if it bothers you so much, why not just cancel it? Just leave it to someone else.”

He thought about it for a few seconds and then said, “No, because the reason I’m complaining and being hesitant is that I’m scared of something. And if I’m scared of it, I need to face that. I try to do at least one scary thing a day. That’s how I know I’m making progress.”

I’m not as brave as my friend, but his response did remind me of my first public radio appearance. I was still a kid, maybe 10 or so. I don’t remember the show’s subject or why they had me on, but I do remember being scared. So scared that I contemplated canceling the whole thing.

When I expressed my doubts to my mother, she just shrugged and said, “Everybody is scared and nervous, so you’re on equal footing there, and your fear is irrelevant. So ignore that and just go.”

[Read: Why ‘never speak for free at events’ is bullshit]

Her answer didn’t really hit home when I was that young, but I slowly started to understand my mother’s philosophy. Much later in life, I saw a quote that encapsulated it well: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

I’m still scared a lot. I’m scared of hurting myself. Of being let down. I’m scared of disappointing people and of not being taken seriously. I’m scared of making a fool of myself and about losing the people I love.

But I show up, despite my fears, because now I assume this is a universal feeling, shared by everyone. My brave friend takes it a step further. He actively searches for the things that cause him fear and anxiety, and then he drives right in.

Whether you just show up or actively search out the things that frighten you, I believe we all want to improve ourselves. So while it might be more comfortable to stick with what you know, if you start being honest with yourself, you might realize what scares you and eventually overcome it.

In the meantime, just keep showing up.

Can’t get enough of Boris? Check out his older stories here, and sign up for his newsletter here.

Also tagged with