Businesses, just like relationships, fail all the time. Sometimes it’s nobody’s fault and sometimes there’s a clear reason for the failure. There may also be times in our lives that we are so afraid of failing at something that we decide not to try it at all. Or our fear of failure could mean that we subconsciously undermine our own efforts and quite literally talk ourselves into our own failures before we’ve even begun. We could even be so fearful of our failure that we press the self-destruct button without even realising it.
The fear of failure can be immobilising and cause us to do nothing, bury our heads in the sand, stop us from moving forward in our lives. That’s not a good place to work from when you’re trying to build a business. But when overcoming the fear of failure, you must first address the reasons behind the fear.
The Definition of Failure
We all have different definitions of failure. One person’s failure may be another’s learning experience or a lucky escape. Giving in on a business is not the same as giving up but may be viewed as the same level of failure. Others might call giving in a smart business decision. The definition of failure is subjective.
The fear of failure can also be linked to experiences in your life. For example having unsupportive parents, friends and other family members or past trauma. These factors can lead to raised levels of stress around certain situations, lowered self-esteem, avoidance, pessimism and even cheating your way through situations you fear.
If you are so afraid of failing at something you limit your chances of actually starting it. But is it the failure you fear or the fallout from the failure? The embarrassment, adjustments, uncertainty, upsetting others, losing face with others? Luckily, all that stuff can be overcome.
Reducing The Fear Of Failure
The most common fear is an embarrassment. Ask yourself, who do you feel embarrassed to? Parents, friends? If they care they will be supportive. If they aren’t supportive then ask yourself is their opinion worthy? Are they holding you to unrealistic standards? Are they judging you on unknown facts?
I once sold the assets of a business. The business itself was very stressful, I was young and it was relentless. Then I got an offer too good to refuse and made more money from those assets than what I was making day to day in that business. I didn’t shout this from the rooftops or brag about the money. I just closed what remained of that business and moved on. The gossips loved to chat about how I’d failed. I hadn’t and they didn’t know the facts. I was happy with the outcome. They were happy with what they thought was my failure. I guess we all came out of that one happy. But their opinions didn’t matter. And I learnt that those people weren’t my cheerleading squad.
Perhaps there’s a bigger reason why you fear failure? Perhaps you don’t actually know what you are doing. This is common. I see it all the time. People going into businesses that they don’t understand, don’t want to work at and think they can wing it. This is a problem you need to address. There is only so much winging it you can get away with. If you don’t know what you’re doing, then you will fail. So, learn quickly what you need to know. Seek out help. Pay for help if you need to. Get support. But get through your fears with the confidence to know you have the right people on your team to make sure you don’t fail.
Focus On What You Can Control
When it comes to failure, there are about a million things that can go wrong in any given situation that are beyond our control. There is simply nothing we can do. Covid, for example, has wiped out many businesses. Should we fear that something similar might come along in the future and destroy our business? How would you know it’s coming or if it is coming? You might be living in fear of something that could never happen and have no control over. What if your competitors lower their prices? Whatever they do, you can’t control. What if it rains on the day of your big outdoor event? Do you have a backup plan
When you are in a situation that you fear could lead to failure, look at what you can control and focus on the outcome, not the process. Ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen? Examine all the possible outcomes of your decisions. Even if your business fails, can you rebuild your life again? How much could you really lose? Rather than looking at things with pessimism, think about what could go right and the good that could come. Even if you fail, could it lead to a better opportunity? Could you learn from it to avoid the same mistakes next time? What is positive to be found in a possible failure?
Embrace The Success
We all make mistakes. We all get things wrong. At some point, we all end up in a situation that leaves us scratching our heads wondering how we got here. If we feared every little thing that might happen then chances are we’d never leave the house. During lockdown that might be a good thing. But sooner or later the world needs us to move on and rise up. We all stumble and fall. Some people have built careers on their failures. Because they learn from them. They overcome their setbacks and move on from them and don’t dwell. They dust themselves off and keep on moving forward.
Rather than letting the fear of failure hold you back and stop you from doing things, take it slowly. Baby steps. Focus on the outcome. Don’t go from zero to a hundred overnight. Look at small increases, slowly but surely. This will make it easier to plough through the fear and overcome it without failure.