Advice for overcoming fear of quitting a good job to build a startup


I am having a lot of anxiety and fear when thinking about quitting my high paying job to join a startup that has a lot of potential. I have great hours, an excellent management team, and rewarding work.

Unfortunately something within me just wants more, I want to build something from the ground up and have the perfect opportunity to do so right now with a very solid team in a vertical I've always been very passionate about, a lot more passionate than the vertical that I'm currently working on full time. I'm facing a lot of psychological drawbacks, mostly fear and anxiety of taking the plunge. My wife supports me, and even though my salary will be essentially halved (this is mostly where my fear is coming from, I think), we'll have enough income to get by.

My second biggest fear is not that the company will flop, even though realistically this should be my biggest fear as it is always the most likely to happen, but it is that of finding an equivalent job that I'm as happy at as I currently am if I need to after this venture. Finding another job is straight forward, but having the benefits I have now with the team I'm working with is hard to come by.

I suppose a lot of these awesome things I have going for me at my full time work has given me anxiety about leaving it. This opportunity that has been presented to me though, is a rare one, with a solid team, solid business strategy and in an awesome vertical.

The one piece of advice I've taken on is ensuring I have enough in my savings account for a rainy day. Any feedback on overcoming my fear/anxiety would be very welcome, preferably from someone who's been in my shoes. I'm definitely losing sleep over this and feel that shouldn't be the case, because both opportunities that I have right now are not bad things.

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asked Aug 17 '11 at 02:50
205 points
  • Any chance that you can keep your current job and work on the startup part time? What would happen to the start up without you? – A. Garcia 13 years ago
  • The startup has an aggressive launch date that has been established with seed investors. Working on it part time isn't an option, they need me for more like 12 hours a day at this point. Also, the later I join full time, the less equity I'd be eligible for. – Imaginative 13 years ago
  • Any reason why you can't go back to your current employer if your startup flops? – Henry The Hengineer 12 years ago
  • I'd like to see you have 6 months income in savings before making this move - this would negate the salary differential for 12 months (since you're taking a 50% pay cut). Can you do this? Or if not, can you practice for a few months living as though your income *had* been cut in half? – Scott Wilson 12 years ago

9 Answers


I struggled with the same fears and apprehensions for a couple years before taking the plunge. I actually started my business and began working on my product ideas during the weekends while I still had my full-time job. But then I quit my job, moved to Colorado in April, and I've been working on my products full-time ever since.

I think the biggest thing is that you have to be ready for failure. I wanted to have enough savings that I could live with no salary at all for a couple years if I had to. Once you have some momentum behind your business, with some sort of prospects on the horizon, and savings in the bank, the decision to go for it becomes a little easier. If you don't have all of those things, then you may not be ready.

answered Aug 17 '11 at 04:06
Steve Wortham
287 points


Now I'm in the same situation, and weighted all pros and cons. My decision is to stay at my job, work part from home for startup, and hire outsource people to do startup job. My day job hour is 40\hr and outsource is 10-20\hr so I can hire 1-2 people and control their job instead of doing everything myself by cost of 40.

answered Aug 17 '11 at 04:32
Areshchanka Alexandr
49 points
  • How did you find people working for less? – I Sid 13 years ago
  • I'm using odesk, also I'm not native US citizen, just arrived by greencard, so I have connections in my own country and hire them directly, I worked with them a lot so I know their skills and they wouldn't cheat me. If you would hire somebody on odesk I would suggest to make strong interview, even with camera cause I know cases especially with indian people that interview passes one person and then working is another. – Areshchanka Alexandr 13 years ago
  • OK so you are using the services of those people via oDesk to receive payment etc.? – I Sid 13 years ago
  • You can find people there to do job what you need, as they are living in countries with less cost of living then in US you can hire for example Senior Developer with 10 years of experience by 2-3k\months. I'm working in us and my salary is twice bigger, I pay all my debts and have extra 2-3k after that. So I can work under my startup and hire people by that money. It speeds process a lot. About payment, you can pay them how you want through paypal, odesk or whatever else. – Areshchanka Alexandr 13 years ago


This is a tough call but I am sure that, in the long run, you and your wife will be fine.

I guess I have more questions for you. Worst case scenario, the startup busts. In that case, could you go back to your current employer? Who are the other partners? Are they risking as much as you are? The more you risk, the higher your compensation should be. Do you have a mortgage? Kids? Could you substantially reduce your expenses if need be without dramatically reducing your quality of life? When does the new company expect to break even? Under what conditions would you leave the new company? What is the upside? Can you realistically expect to make a lot money, say, in 2 or 3 years down the road?

Also, are you really passionate about what this startup offers? For me, this is critical. How happy are you in your current job? What are the prospects for growth in your current position? If you were 95 years old and you could talk to yourself now at whatever age you are now, what advice would you give to yourself?

Fear and anxiety in these situations are normal. As a matter of fact, it would be weird if you didn't feel this way. Progress is based on change. Without change there can't be no progress at all. At the same time, you need to make sure you can more or less manage that change and have a decent chance of succeeding in this new venture.

Money is not everything, and even if this new venture doesn't go anywhere, you will still have plenty of time to recover (I am assuming you are in your 20s or 30s).

I am trying to get the whole picture here and maybe all these questions will help you structure your decision.

I wish you all the best.

answered Aug 17 '11 at 09:02
A. Garcia
1,601 points


The other answers have lots of good questions to think about and also lots of good advice. I have perhaps one point to add that hopefully gets to the core of what I believe you are probably really asking here:

How do you remove or overcome the fear/anxiety of making the leap?

My Answer: You don't. Having the fear and anxiety associated with taking a risk is rational. I would be more concerned if you had no fear about it in your situation. Also, as long as this fear is not debilitating, it's an asset to keep you well motivated after making the jump. Entrepreneurship is about taking managed risks and the taking of risks by healthy rational people involves some level of fear.

From what I have read in your question, I think you've thought this through. In effect, you have a problem of two good opportunities and in my assessment are probably over-estimating the security and value of your current job vs. exaggerating the risks/downside of the alternative option.

Heed the advice provided by the other answers here and think it through just a bit more, but I think you already know what to do. Let the data and logic rule the decision, and use the emotions to fuel motivation. It's not clear exactly when there is going to be a better point to seek the fulfillment of your ambitions.
ie: If not now, then when? And, exactly what is going to be different then?

answered Aug 19 '11 at 06:41
Tall Jeff
1,406 points


A lot of it depends on who is dependent on you. If you have a family to support, risking your stability and security may not be wise, especially if their not backing you up.

That being said, here is a recent post from Seth Godin:

Dig yourself a hole

Make big promises.

Burn your boats.

Set yourself up in a place where you have few options and the stakes
are high.

Focused energy and serious intent will push you to do your best work.
You have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. (Better than the

answered Aug 17 '11 at 05:59
Nitrous Cloud
296 points
  • I really don't want to 'flame' this comment, but my comment is directed more at Godin. Godin's mission is to sell books, seminars and himself. If you take a read of Rework, for example, they advocate hanging on your paying job. This "burning your boats" advice could be really damaging. – Nicko 13 years ago
  • Thanks for the comment, Nicko. Like all advice, it needs to be weighed with reality. The point is, put yourself in situations where where you have no choice to excel. Commit to something that requires you to maintain sharp focus. Perhaps "burn your boats" isn't the best advice, but the message can be helpful. – Nitrous Cloud 13 years ago


King or emperor should not afraid to fight in war otherwise he will never become king. If you are in real war field then only you can understand the real issues and problems. And obviously the one who can handle those problems smartly with proper plans and steps will be the ultimate winner and become a king.

Working under emperor as a efficient soldier is like working under one big MNC company with good reward. And you have to fight every day to prove your efficiency around your professional life.

Working as a home minister (or the kind of such position) under King is like working in start up company with good position and pay. But obviously you have to fight for your king's kingdom existence around the clock.

Starting your own Enterprinuer is like forming your own kingdom. First you should not afraid for your life (here in IT field it is personal financial issues). If that is the case you should not think for your own kingdom, just work under some king or emperor.

Moral story is first you must have believe on your capabilities, If you had strong believe on your capabilities then don't wait for any thing just do it. Successful enterprinuer will never afraid for failures they will always fight to win.

Its not a moral story its true in every civilization in world history. But thing is that it is viewing in different forms time to time.

answered Jun 1 '12 at 18:38
11 points


I am in a similar situation.
I have a stable job with a high job security.
The only downsides to my current job are:
- average or below average pay in contrast to the rest of the industry
- capped my career development at this place

I have been given an offer at a startup which comes with a 40% salary increase over my current salary.

You must be thinking that I am crazy to not say yes right away but I am still running into this fear of taking the risk with a startup that might end up nowhere.
I have no kids, no wife, and I am in my 20s. I have never taken a job at a startup and I am somewhat anxious about leaving my current job but excited at having the opportunity to contribute making this startup grow.

My priorities are compensation and opportunity for growth. Those two seem well covered by this opportunity. This would come at the risk of job security and stability.

Any thoughts or further insight is very helpful.

answered May 5 '12 at 04:02
Top Gamer
11 points


If you don't know whether you are ready to startup, you are not.
If you believe that you are ready, it's possible that you are.

answered Aug 19 '11 at 15:17
Dave Kushan
21 points


It seems you are afraid of giving up a "good thing" for something that is unknown. But if you are even contemplating such a choice, that means this is a risk that you are prepared to take. In fact, you might regret it if you don't. Money plays a big role in the allure of joining/founding a startup, but that's not the main appeal. So it really doesn't matter how much money your current job pays vs your potentials earnings with this startup. The appeal of joining a startup is the prospect of building something valuable from the ground up and watching it thrive (knowing that it exists because of you). The act of creation is a powerful force in all of our lives and it's not something that we can rationalize or ignore.

There are a whole bunch of factors in deciding whether your should join a startup or not. But really what we're talking about at the moment is fear. It's only natural to be afraid, especially if you are an adult with adult responsibilities. So don't let anybody tell you that your apprehension is evidence of you being a faux-entrepreneur. But if you want to overcome your fear that means you have already made a decision and you just need somebody to give you a push. But you don't need a push. Taking that next step is simply an act of will. If you want to do it, do it...and it will be done. There's no other way of doing this. (But if you change your mind, there's no shame in that. There will always be another opportunity to take that leap.)

Good luck.

answered May 6 '12 at 08:35
357 points

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