Fear of Failure
In one way or another, fear of failure has held all of us back at some point. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can all come up with examples of when we didn’t reach for something that we weren’t sure we could do, but knew would be glorious - - even life changing if we accomplished it - - because we were scared we couldn’t do it.
I have always wanted to start my own business. I watched my dad do it at our kitchen table in 6th grade. But leaving my cushy corporate gig to start something from scratch was scary for so many reasons. Why would I leave such a great job? What if I failed? Then what?
Over time, my fear of failure was replaced with the fear of complacency. What if I woke up in 10 years and regretted never believing in myself to do something bigger, better and more meaningful to me? What if I stayed and the opportunity just passed me by? Would I be ok with that? No, I decided, I wouldn’t. For me, living my passion and my purpose, was more important to me than staying in a job that was financially rewarding, but fell short on the fulfillment side of the equation.
So I spent a lot of time thinking about and ultimately reframing failure for myself. What would happen if Fly Feet didn’t work? Would we be ok? What would we do? How would we get out? How would I see the signs before it came to that?
But here is the thing … Failure gives you clarity. It’s an endpoint that allows you more effectively find success. The saying “fail fast” means that it’s better to find failure quickly than sit in mediocrity or that space where you’re not really winning or losing, you’re just holding ground not moving anywhere. Understanding and being willing to flirt with failure allows you to find success faster. So in a perverse way, it should be embraced, not shunned.
If you’re planful, you can see failure coming before it’s catastrophic. It’s not something to be afraid of. Instead, it’s just one of the many possible outcomes that you have to plan for. Many of us are paralyzed by the thought of failure. Here is how I deal with it:
It’s ok to be worried about failure, but you can’t let it bleed into everything you do. Use it to your advantage. Acknowledge it and move on. Give yourself space to think through it and plan for it, but compartmentalize it. Think about it as a possible outcome and then quickly go to step 2…
For me, fear of failure drives action. If failure is a possible outcome, then what are all of the things that I can do to mitigate that outcome? Plan for it. Plan. Plan. Plan. Build out the scenarios. You’ll find many ways to mitigate failure and, more importantly, you’ll be able to see the signs that things could go sideways before they do. And then you pivot.
Strategize against the worst-case scenario
When you do this, you realize a couple of things. A) The likelihood of the worst-case scenario happening is very low. B) There are many signs along the way that will allow you to mitigate the worst case scenario.
In planning Fly Feet, there were many worst case scenarios. I planned for all of them. In detail. And in the end, if it all fell apart in complete irreparable disaster would I be ok? Yes, I would be ok. I’d go get another corporate job and in the rear view mirror, this would all have been an incredibly robust learning experience (albeit an expensive one!)
Don’t fear failure. It will hold you back.