Many would-be entrepreneurs let their fear of failure stop them from starting a business. Maybe it’s because of all the statistics we’ve heard (you know, the ones that tell us that 90% of all new businesses fail within 3 years, or something along those lines).
There are many reasons why a business fails (and just so you know, it’s not the end of the world when it does), but the fear of failure alone should never be enough to justify not starting one. It is perfectly natural to have feelings of uncertainty about what you’re getting yourself into as you become an entrepreneur. The trick is to not let those feelings paralyze you and keep you from taking action.
The only way to truly overcome a fear is to face it. You must decide to take action in spite of your fear. Yes, that fear will reappear from time to time, but the good news is you can learn to ignore it and stay focused on building your dream.
Here are 6 strategies to help you overcome your fear of failure as a startup entrepreneur:
1. Redefine what it means to fail
One of the main reasons why many aspiring entrepreneurs allow the fear of failure to stop them from starting their business is because they view failure as something that is negative. Interestingly enough, if you study the lives of successful entrepreneurs you will discover that in most cases their careers were riddled with “failures” before they succeeded.
Failure is not the opposite of success. It is a part of success. A failure is nothing more than a result that you get that you do not want. It is neither good nor bad, it is just feedback. By learning from feedback, and continuing to take action and make decisions that produce more feedback, you eventually learn precisely the lessons you need to learn to earn your success.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison
2. Stop comparing yourself to others
Every industry has a select group of individuals and companies that rise to the top of that industry. One of the most effective ways to succeed quickly is to learn from their approaches and emulate them. In fact, it is wise to study the successes (and the failures) of entrepreneurs in general, regardless of what business or industry they are in. Just be careful not to compare yourself to them.
In order to build a unique business, you must hold on to your uniqueness as an individual. It is unwise to compare yourself to others for the simple reason that you are not them, and you shouldn’t try to be them either. Admire the success of others, but don’t envy them. Respect the results that other entrepreneurs are able to create, but focus your attention on the results that you want to create.
3. Just keep going
Another effective way to overcome your fear of failure is to take action in spite of fear. When doubts, fears, or any other negative thoughts enter your mind just stay focused on taking action. Fear is a common feeling when you do things you have never done before. When you try something new, you leave your comfort zone – you enter the unknown. But instead of retreating back to your comfort zone whenever you feel fear, embrace that fear and praise yourself for having the courage to step into a new, unfamiliar experience.
By facing your fear head on, and continuing to take action, your comfort zone expands and eventually that new experience becomes a familiar experience and the fear will subside. Successful entrepreneurs have learned to use fear as a motivator to keep moving forward. Whether it’s the fear of failure, the fear of rejection, the fear of mediocrity, or the fear of poverty, they purposely use that fear to fuel their motivation to succeed.
“I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
4. Don’t focus on problems, find solutions
Never forget that businesses exist to provide products or services that solve specific problems to the marketplace. To succeed as an entrepreneur, you must learn to embrace problems, but not focus on them. Learn to perceive every problem as an opportunity to create a solution, to fill an unfilled need.
If your employees are complaining about specific challenges, there may be an opportunity there. If your customers are having challenges in certain areas or with certain products, there may be an opportunity there. If your suppliers are complaining about something, there may be an opportunity there. The more problems that you and your business are able to solve, and the more people you are able to solve them for, the more you will be rewarded (financially and otherwise) for providing those solutions.
5. Stay positive
Another important point for overcoming your fear of failure as a startup entrepreneur is to maintain a positive attitude always. As a leader of an organization and as the visionary for the future of your business, you must remain focused on the possibilities of the future and not so much the challenges of the present.
Expect setbacks and obstacles and know that overcoming them are the price you must pay to succeed. Your team will be looking to you for encouragement during difficult times, and so you must never fail to display a positive, optimistic attitude.
Keep in mind that a positive attitude alone will not be enough to save your business from failing (would a positive attitude alone have saved Blockbuster from failing as Netflix emerged?). It is important to acknowledge market conditions for your business and face certain facts that may not be ideal. You must operate from objective reality, but lean on your positive attitude to look for the hidden opportunities within that reality.
“Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” – Robert T. Kiyosaki
6. Start small and count your successes
The final strategy for overcoming your fear of failure is to start small, achieve positive results, and build on that momentum. You may have the expression “go big or go home”. Many people have used this expression to justify taking massive action or taking no action at all. In some scenarios this is a wise approach, but for many startup entrepreneurs it is better to begin with smaller goals – goals such as setting up your website, launching a crowdfunding campaign, or acquiring your first customer – and then building on those successes.
Success breeds success. By consistently achieving positive results on a smaller scale, you build momentum. That momentum is what will help to create the larger successes later.
If you treat every situation as a life and death matter, you’ll die a lot of times. ~Dean Smith
Anxiety is ever present. And this is not just in the world outside of us, but it is ever present in our individual lives. How can we deal with extreme stress or the constant worry that pervade our lives?
Anxieties are real. Sometimes well meaning people may say to us, “Snap out of it. What’s wrong with you, you are bigger than that situation.” Or, “Why are you allowing that little thing to stress you out?” At times, just saying this may be all that is needed to get us out of that state; and a change in thought patter. There is the occasion though when we need a bit more than that.
Anxiety has its tentacles in areas such as phobias, fear and panic to name a few. In some cases, I know of persons who experience persistent anxiety and are in need of medication. And wants prescribed by a medical practitioner I will encourage all to take these as directed.
I could recall experiencing high levels of anxieties in my own life. One of the occasions had to do with a final examination. This was a final exam for my Masters of Arts programme. I had studied for this exam for many months. In spite of the evidence, that I had done all I could have done to prepare, still the stress was there. And what made this period so stressful? Well firstly, burning in my mind was whether I was good enough to pass. The fear of failure was crippling at times, even affecting some of my study periods. Secondly, on my brain was the idea of not knowing what to experience on that day. I mean, the areas that questions were to come from, were told to us. Still I felt as though this was not enough. Third, I knew if I had failed, I will have had to pay to write it over. Further, I will have had to wait for another year before I could get this opportunity again. So much was on my mind.
Well, I wrote the exam and passed. But the pounding of my heart and the difficulty sleeping were real. So I know what anxiety can feel like.
In spite of all that is going on around you. Really try to reduce high levels of anxiety. It can affect more than your heart and blood pressure, pushing your body to the edge. Anxiety can affect your sleep and influence moods, eating habits and relationships with others.
Here are three (3) helpful tips to preventing anxiety:
1. Confronting fear.
2. Managing conflicts.
3. Talking with a friend, spouse or accountability partner.
Do you believe there are other methods to prevent anxiety in life?
Successful people may have similar fears and concerns over failure as other persons do, but it does not prevent them from pushing forward.
Everybody is afraid of something. Common fears include fear of embarrassment, fear of speaking in front of a group, fear of not measuring up to the expectations of others’, and fear of change.
Fear brings about one of three results. It motivates, it provides safety, or it results in paralysis. The best way to respond to fear is to determine what exactly the fear is, how the fear is affecting you, and what you need to do in order to deal with the fear.
These 3 steps are what will give you control of your fears:
1. Defining your fear
Defining your fear requires more work than simply naming your fear. For example, let’s say you have a great new idea for a modification to one of your company’s products. You want to bring it up to your boss, but you know he will ask you to give a presentation.
The idea of doing that makes you break out into a cold sweat. Clearly, this means that you can define your fear as fear of speaking in public, right? Maybe not. Do you always fear speaking in front of others? Maybe you are afraid of your idea being rejected, or that it won’t work?
Your fear could be defined as fear of rejection or fear of failure. Nobody can figure this out for you, it is just something you have to determine on your own. Once you define your fear, you know what you are working with and you are ready to move on to the next step.
“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” – Henry Ford
2. Determine how your fear is affecting you
Right now, what is your fear doing for you? Is it paralyzing you? Is it keeping you safe? Is it motivating you? There is nothing wrong with fearing things that are dangerous. If a fear keeps you safe from actual danger, that is a healthy fear.
However, it is very easy to confuse fears that truly keep us safe with fears that paralyze us. Here is a trick that may help you determine if your fear is keeping you safe, or simply holding you back. If you stop doing something, based on fear of a legitimate danger, you won’t question yourself. You won’t feel guilty.
However, if you stop doing something or refuse to do something based on fear, and then find yourself full of doubt and regret, chances are you are letting fear paralyze you, and that is unhealthy. The only thing this leaves is motivation. Is your fear motivating you to challenge yourself and improve yourself? This is a great thing.
3. Dealing with your fear
If a fear is leaving you stuck and hindering your success, it needs to be dealt with. This means taking control of the fear and turning it into a source of motivation rather than a roadblock. You’ve already done a lot of great work if you’ve defined your fear and determined the way your fear is impacting your life.
Now you can determine what to do with it. Ask yourself this question? Why do I need to turn this fear into something positive? Let’s go to the example of the presentation that was discussed above. Maybe your fear would be rejection and failure.
That’s fine. That is your definition. Maybe you’ve determined that the impact your fear has is unhealthy avoidance (paralysis). This is also fine. You know how your fear impacts you. Now is the time to make change.
“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” – Bertrand Russell
A few extra action steps
Let’s begin with the one thing that you should not do. You should never belittle or ridicule yourself over your fears. It is unhelpful and you don’t deserve it. Here is a positive step that you can take. You can think of the negative results that you may face, and then figure out ways to turn those into positives.
Let’s say that your presentation goes badly, and the marketing department doesn’t go forward with your idea. Yes, that is a bad thing, but their rejection also means that you made it through your presentation. It is a well-known fact that presentation skills are vital to success, and you’ve just improved your presentation skills a bit. This doesn’t take away the rejection, but it does put it into perspective.
Another thing that you can do is to look externally. Who do you admire? How do other successful people deal with fear? Is there someone else who has dealt with a similar fear as yours and turned it into a point of motivation?
To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. ~Anonymous