I just got off the phone with a startup founder doing $20-$40 million in sales a year and asked him why people are so hesitant to take action on their dreams of personal freedom. 

"Fear of failure," he said. "We all feel it."

"Every day, I wake up and I'm afraid my business might crash tomorrow."

He wrestles with fear of failure daily. But he says you just gotta do it anyways. Channel your fear of failure into positive hustle. Otherwise, it's paralyzing.

Elon Musk said he feels fear very strongly. But if it's important enough, he forces himself to overcome fear.

It's a myth that entrepreneurs or successful people don't feel the fear of failure. In every conversation I have with a founder, they all absolutely feel the fear of failure.

It's what you do with it that matters. 

When you feel the fear of failure -- that friends will look down their noses at you if you fail, or that you'll bring shame to your family, or that you'll look like an a**hole on social media, or that your coworkers will judge you for trying, remember this....

You have two options:

  1. Stay still.
  2. Move forward.

The first option is easy. Don't do anything. Just continue living life. Normal. Undistinguishable from others. Stay in bed. Watch another show. Have drinks around a table with friends. Scroll through social media. Consume, consume, consume.

If you choose to stay still, at least you'll be safe and comfortable. Not terrible, right? Isn't that a good life?

A safe and comfortable life is a slow death. Studies show that excessive sitting still leads to an early death. Movement releases feel-good endorphins in our brains. We're built to move.

Studies show learning prevents memory loss. Learning leads to growing. Growing causes change. Change is uncomfortable. But is it worth it?

Movement and learning bring us joy, not happiness.

Happy is what you feel when you're safe and comfortable. Still.

Joy is what you feel when you're taking risks and learning. You're growing. You're changing. Actor Brad Pitt said in an interview that happiness is overrated. Joy is a much deeper and more satisfying life state that's more stable than fleeting and shallow happiness. 

So this second option is difficult. Conquering your fear of failure is hard. But let's break it down into two baby steps.

1. Do what you don't feel like doing. 

Have you ever laid out in the sun next to a big swimming pool for hours and your skin gets warm but you want to swim yet you know it will be ice cold because you've become all toasty-warm in the sun? The water is shocking cold and you're pleasantly warm. You don't feel like violently ruining this velvety blanket of heat wrapped around you. It'll be stridently uncomfortable. Hours later, when you've worked up the courage, you plunge in. Immediately, you regret your decision. IT. IS. FREEZING. But then you move around and swim a lap. The water rejuvenates and invigorates your body and your mind becomes clear and your heart pumps the oxygenated blood through your widening veins and arteries. You begin to feel joy. The terrible initial panic of the cold water subsides and you feel brilliantly alive. You feel unstoppable.

Want to conquer your fear of failure? Say no to the easy stuff -- what you feel like doing -- not what you really want to do. There's often a difference between what you feel like doing and what you really want to do.

2. Obey your first idea. 

Creativity can hit us in any random moment of the day. An impulse to write. A burst to run. An inspiration to cook. A break-through to work through. A boldness to sing. A 'f**k it' to invest. An affection to serve. These initial ideas hit you and your imagination spins up a positive vision of your future. "What if..." Then fear of failure crushes your creativity like a boot heel crushing tender flower petals. Reason, rationalization, social norms, and "responsibility" bombard your inspiration to its death. At this point, you need to remember your first idea, and cast your good reasons (which are really just excuses to remain still, safe, and comfortable) aside. Move forward towards the vision and adjust course as needed. 

Want to conquer your fear of failure? Take action on your first ideas. Otherwise, you'll talk yourself out of it and do nothing. But if you obey your creative drive, you'll find joy.

Not everyone wants to move forward. Many people are fine with being still. Both are fine. Neither is bad. 

It's your life. And it's a short one. 

What are you going to do with it?

Published on: Oct 13, 2017