Every entrepreneur deals with the fear of failure.
Fear is a problem, because it can damage everything in life. It ruins your productivity, destroys your dreams, and keeps you from building the business you're trying to build. Fear robs life of its joy.
Entrepreneurs are audacious people--forming businesses ex nihilo, disrupting industries, transforming conventions, shaping cultures, and improving lives. We grit our teeth, muster our powers, focus our minds, and make stuff happen.
And sometimes, we're afraid.
In order to do something big, you have to overcome something big. One of the biggest things to overcome is fear. Fear isn't a business problem. You can't solve it by spending more money, working harder, buying software, or delegating it.
You've got to deal with it in other ways. Here are four principles that I've discovered for helping me deal with the fear of failure.
Accept that failure will happen.
We fear the unknown. Is this business going to go bankrupt or succeed? Will I burn out, or stay alive? Will I lose a million bucks (been there), or make a million bucks?
To deal with fear, let's get the unknown factor out of the way. Here's how: Realize that you are going to fail.
We need to readjust our view of "failure." We tend to think that failure is a bad thing, but that's simply not true.
"Failure" is a matter of perspective. You may have "failed" at starting a company or gaining funding, but look at what you've gained. You're one step closer to success. You've learned valuable lessons. You're that much more experienced and knowledgeable.
That sounds to me like a step towards success.
Thomas Edison said, "I failed my way to success." A pile of failures can turn into a mountain of success, so go ahead and fail. Better yet, fail as fast and as early as you can. Failure is temporary, but success is permanent.
Rather than turn and run from failure, run towards it. You're not running towards disaster, you're running towards success.
Find the true cause of your fear, and solve it.
When we fear failure, we're at a crucial point of development. We're admitting to ourselves that something is bigger than we are. In this case, it's our fear.
Take a step back mentally, and ask this question: "What am I really afraid of?" "Failure" is not clear enough. There's something more, something concrete.
Keep thinking, and find the big monsters that are freaking you out:
- "I'm afraid that we won't be able to get enough funding."
- "I'm afraid that I'll screw up my SEO."
- "I'm afraid that the developers won't meet production deadlines"
- "I'm afraid that my mailing list isn't big enough."
- "I'm afraid that my content marketing is crap."
Okay, that's better. Now you've distilled your fears to actual objective, concrete challenges.
What do you do now? You can either solve it on your own or ask for help. The biggest gain is boiling down the hairy problem of "fear" into a few scary objects.
This may take a few tries. Once you understand why you're afraid, you can deal with the problem rather than suffer from the fear.
Never stop pursuing your goals.
Your fear should never erase your goals. As real as fear is, your goals and dreams are just as real and just as big.
Once you've accepted the fear will happen, have a plan for getting back up. Another business to start. Another objective to conquer. Another challenge to overcome.
The minute you start doing something audacious again, those fears will come back. But by this time, you've learned the lesson that your fears aren't worth being afraid of.
And even if your worst fears come true, you always have goals to pursue.
Do what you fear.
"Do what you fear, and fear disappears." (David Joseph Schwartz)
When you do the very thing you fear, then the fear goes away. You fear failure? Go ahead and fail.
Oddly, we often fear most what we desire most. If we can just realize that the other side of our fears is success, we'll be more willing to do what we're afraid of.
It's easy to type those words on my keyboard, but way harder to actually do what I'm talking about. Doing is never easy. But it is rewarding.
Ask any entrepreneur, world leader, business mogul, high achiever, or otherwise well adjusted person.
Every single one of them has experienced fear. They've also dealt with those fears, not by shrinking back, but by going forward.
What is that you're afraid of?