Today, I woke up.

Thirty minutes before my alarm would have gone off at 5:20, I sat straight up in bed. I had instant clarity.

I’ve been living scared, and it’s cost me.

Some of you may be surprised at that statement.

I can fake it pretty well. Since I was 21, I’ve called myself an entrepreneur. I’ve started and owned over a dozen businesses. Some quite successful, some so-so, and several flops. And now I know exactly why: fear.

In some cases, I started a business because I was afraid of the alternative. I took partners and hired people to do tasks I was afraid I couldn’t learn. I took investor money because I was afraid I couldn’t get started without it.

Afraid. Afraid. Afraid.

When you make decisions based on fear, it rarely works out. The price might be deferred for a bit, but it comes back around – with interest. From firsthand experiences, I can attest to this truth.

The story doesn’t end there, though.

The most unusual things have been happening for the last few months. It’s felt like everything I’ve heard or read was directed right at me. In fact, it’s often been so real – and so raw – that I couldn’t write about it publicly.

Even before I recognized the fear, God knew. He just kept turning up the volume until I finally got the message.

Look at who all he’s used, online and off, individually and collectively:

Karol GajdaThis.

Gary Vaynerchuk, whose raw enthusiasm for business is absolutely contagious. This about sums it up.

Julien Smith, whose writing, especially this post and his book Flinch, gnawed at me every single day because I knew it was true.

Michael Ellsberg, whose thought leadership on the idea of credentials crystallized a feeling I’d never been able to articulate.

App Sumo’s Business Blueprint Course which taught me the concepts of Lean Startup before I was aware of the label.

– Lean Startup at SXSW rocked my world and gave me a framework to embrace the inherent risk. Plus, it introduced me to Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas concept that is absolutely brilliant.

Dan at Tropical MBA could have written their entire blog just for me. This article really got me unstuck. And the quote from this article is burned in my mind, “The conversation is over once you’ve got cash flow.”

Bil Cornelius, my pastor at Bay Area Fellowship, whose  sermons during a difficult season were beyond relevant.

Laura Harris, my mentor and friend, is a constant source of encouragement.

Chris Guillebeau, a dear friend with quiet confidence that serves as living proof that all things are possible. His latest book, $100 Startup, proves once again that there are no excuses for living an unfulfilling life.

Joel Runyon, who organized our skydive last June and has given us a front row seat to his impossible adventure.

James Altucher, who reminds me regularly that there are always options.

Jonathan Fields, who taught me to embrace uncertainty and use it as fuel.

Alene Snodgrass, who taught me the power of giving up normal.

Sarah Zink, who reminded me just yesterday that we can never stop learning and growing.

– Vic Magary, whose post outlined exactly how I could compel myself forward despite the fear and resistance.

Honestly, I’m still scared.

I’m scared that my business ideas aren’t good enough. I’m scared of what people will think when they see me testing them. I’m afraid that I don’t know how to market or sell. I’m afraid that I won’t have the time or energy to do all this and fulfill my commitments to the team at Port Royal. (Hi Guys! I’m not going anywhere, but I gotta do this too.) I’m afraid my family will think I’ve really gone off the deep end. And I’m intimidated by the new technologies that I’ll need to learn to create great products. Videos and audio recordings terrify me.

In spite of all that, I decided today to start moving forward.

I’ve picked three product areas around a general theme that I’m passionate about, and I’m going to systematically develop and test them. I’m committing to myself to have my first sales letter (at least 2,500 words) up by 2:00pm CST on April 23, and I invite each of you to hold me accountable to that. Complete the simple form below before 9:00pm CST on April 19, and I’ll pay you $5 for every day after the 23rd until I get it posted.

Yes, I know that could get expensive. I hope it does. I’m counting on that to force me to overcome my fear of trying something completely new and being vulnerable.

Here we go. The first step forward begins right now.

(Update: the accountability signup form has been removed. Click here to see how I fared.)

Before we close, I just have to ask: Is there a chance you’re living scared too? What can you do to force yourself forward?