Overcoming The Fear of Failure

By Fatmanur Erdogan, Hürriyet Daily News

Welcome to this week’s installment of the “Neophyte Entrepreneur” series, where we deal with the fears and obstacles that hold corporate professionals back from their entrepreneurial dreams.  Today we discuss the fear of failure, and how to keep it under control so it doesn’t stop your dream in its tracks.

When you first picture life as an entrepreneur, everything looks rosy.  You imagine you’ll have more freedom to choose your own direction.  You’ll get to be more creative.  You’ll be able to make things happen quickly, without having to cut through bureaucratic red tape.  You imagine you’ll have more control over your personal life.  You’ll be able to pick up your kids from school any time you like.  You’ll be able to go to Ikea in the afternoon to get that piece of furniture.  You’ll get to live the independent life you’ve always wanted.

But you know that in reality, the transition won’t be easy.  You currently have a good position at a great company.  You make nice money and the paychecks come dependably every month.  You work with products and brands that you like.  You have a support network of departments around you, and you succeed or fail together as a team.  You have a structure built around you that insulates you and protects you from some of the business world’s bigger shocks.

So you start to worry that when you leave the corporate world for an entrepreneurial life, you’re going to lose that protection.  The self-doubts start to creep in.  You ask yourself, what if I don’t succeed?  What if I lose my life savings?  What if I embarrass myself in front of my friends and family?  What if my business flops and I can’t find a job afterwards?  What if it turns out I don’t have the skills I thought I did?  What if the market doesn’t respond to my product?  What if I’m not good enough?

Emotionally, this is a lot to deal with.  The fear of falling flat on your face can bring you to a grinding halt.  So here’s a suggestion for getting past that fear.  First, calm yourself with daily reminders that you want to be an entrepreneur because you are passionate about doing something that means more to you personally.  Say these words over and over to yourself.  You are sending a positive message to your brain, and it will respond by keeping your stresses at bay.  With your emotions in a positive, optimistic state, you’ll find that the next step comes so much easier.

Second, start taking small actions that give you a taste of your future life and build the confidence to keep moving towards it.  For example, if your dream is to run a cooking school, start giving small group cooking classes to your closest friends.  Practice entertaining them as you teach, and learn how to deliver a stunning performance that makes your friends go “wow”.  Don’t worry about anything other than that.  Just work on your performance skills.

When each session is over, keep your momentum by immediately scheduling another one.  At each session, improve your performance just a little bit, until it becomes so good you are proud of yourself and can’t wait to get up there and do it again.  As your confidence grows in this one aspect of your future business, you’ll feel ready to take on the other obstacles that stand in your way, too.

This approach requires you to take small but regular steps outside your comfort zone.  That’s okay.  Bit by bit, you are learning the skills you will use to flourish in your future career.  If at any time you feel overwhelmed, it’s okay to slow down and go at a more comfortable pace.  The key is to keep moving forward.  It doesn’t matter if you move fast or if you move slow, as long as you move forward.  Keep the momentum going, and one day you’ll wake up and realize you are already living the life you dreamed of.

Last week in the Neophyte Entrepreneur, we talked about becoming comfortable with your new identity.  This week, we discussed the fear of failure and how to keep it from stopping you.  There’s yet another fear that holds us back, though.  That’s the fear of letting go, and we will address it in next week’s installment of the series.

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