How do you overcome the fear of entrepreneurial failure? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Everyone in the business world is dealing with their own fears. Fear of failure. Fear of losing money. Fear of not getting promoted. Fear of what comes next.
It's not just you, trust me. It's everyone. Both in big companies and small.
It might ease your mind to know that everyone is in the same boat, but no matter who you are, too much fear is a problem. Being afraid affects your judgment--it influences your decisions and pushes you in directions you wouldn't normally go.
Fear is the reason that many founders won't make it. Fear is the reason most people don't start in the first place.
Right now, I'm working on my second startup, Washlava. It's easier the second time around, in some ways. But am I still afraid of failing? Afraid I won't be good enough? Of course I am.
If you're feeling the same way right now--or you're thinking of jumping the corporate ship--then you need to know how to adjust your mentality and deal with this strongest of emotions.
The truth is, fear drives everyone's behavior.
Everyone in the startup world is afraid of something.
Startup founders are afraid of failing. Investors are afraid of losing money. Team members are afraid they won't have a job in six months. It doesn't matter how smart or talented a person is, they're dealing with their own set of fears and doubts.
When people lash out or behave irrationally, it's usually because they're afraid. Everyone's heard about the CEOs and startup founders who are bombastic and loud--the guys who scream and yell at people to get what they want.
Those people are more afraid than anyone, and they're not managing it well.
No matter your mentality, fear is a constant. It's an overarching theme, and an inescapable part of the journey you're making.
Fear is the reason behind a majority of obstacles startups face.
Lots of people want to be entrepreneurs now, but being an entrepreneur means facing your fears and moving ahead regardless. Not everyone can do that, and it's a tough skill to teach.
If you can't deal with fear, you'll run into problems immediately. It can paralyze you when running a business. If you begin to get nervous, or have negative thoughts about an outcome before it even happens, that will influence the quality of your decisions.
A founder's ability to suppress fear in themselves--and amongst the people on their team--is directly related to the success of the venture.
You set the tone for your organization. There's a reason the pilot on your last flight didn't get on the intercom and tell everyone, "Hold on folks, I'm not sure how this next bit of turbulence will affect us." Even if that's really how they feel, they keep it to themselves. It doesn't help anyone to panic.
The same principle applies in startups. You can't cause unnecessary fear in your team, because they've got enough to worry about.
Entrepreneurs and founders have to face the facts.
The reason you're afraid is because you know the odds are against you. Roughly 10% of ideas get seeded, and just 40% of those startups make it to Series A funding or beyond. Just accept that the odds are long.
Whenever you start feeling anxious, look objectively at the facts. If things are going well, and the facts prove it, recognize that you're just letting fear get the best of you.
According to the numbers, yeah, your startup is a long shot.
But Leicester City wasn't supposed to win the Premier League--and they did. A few people in England who made that bet came away with millions. Granted, they were probably hanging out in a pub somewhere when they placed their bets, but they certainly weren't worried about failure.
Sometimes, fear is good.
At its most basic level, fear is a reaction to danger. It's an instinct that we use to protect ourselves from threats. You see a snake, and a little red light goes on in your head. Danger: Avoid at all costs.
A little fear gives you the kick in the pants you need to make sure you don't lose a couple million dollars of someone else's money. If you're not afraid at all, well, you probably should be. You should have a little stage fright in this business.
The problem is that people tend to be afraid of the wrong things.
They're afraid they didn't come off looking like a CEO in a conversation last week. They're afraid they made a mistake and pissed somebody off. They inflate irrational fears into huge problems.
They're never afraid of what they should be. They're never afraid enough of losing other people's money. You have to be able to distinguish between your rational and irrational fears.
A little bit of fear is a good thing and will steer you the right way. An ability to self-assess and decide whether your fear is rational or otherwise will push you even farther in the direction you need to go.
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