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.