Leadership & Productivity

How to overcome 'fear of failure' in business

8 min read

18 October 2019

Fear of failing is something that all business owners great and small think about, and all too often. So how can they overcome it?

What is the force that drives you? Is it the fear of failure or the anticipation of success? As it turns out, most people are driven by a combination of the two. The idea of success gives us wings, but before we can do anything about it, the fear of failure creeps in and starts chopping off our feathers.

The fear of failure can be so strong that many people who dream about becoming entrepreneurs waste their time preparing, reading business books, taking classes, and watching others succeed.

They are so scared of failing in their big project that they never take the chance, which is a failure on its own.

Why do we fear failure?

All too often fears of failure dominate the thoughts of entrepreneurs.

Every one of us has a different definition of failure, but one thing is clear: no one likes to experience it. Whether it was a presentation that went poorly in school or a failed exam, the feeling of crushing pressure, humiliation, and low self-esteem will follow for years to come.

This leads to a reluctance to try anything you know may not have perfect results, this means lots of sabotaging yourself out of cool experiences goes on.

Managers who focus more on ‘protecting’ are driven by the fear of failure and miss out on opportunities that require a higher level of risk.

However, it’s important to understand that you’re not alone. Every human being has and will go through failure. It’s how we learn and grow. And, if you manage to face your fear, in time, things will get better.

The drive to succeed…

In business, as in life, it’s natural to want to succeed, but you won’t be able to make good decisions (or any) if you’re afraid things won’t turn out as you’d hoped.

Everyone who is now wildly successful had to go through rejection, failure, and self-doubt. But they overcame their fear and kept on going, and this is what you should do as well.

Here are a few tips to help you out..

1. Adopt a growth-oriented mindset

When it comes to leading a business, there are two types of managers: the ones focused on growing their business and the ones focused on protecting and/or maintaining what they already have.

As you can probably imagine, the ones with a growth-oriented mindset are also the ones who achieve big success and get to earn more than it is the norm of their industry.

On the other hand, managers who focus more on ‘protecting’ are driven by the fear of failure and miss out on opportunities that require a higher level of risk.

How do you know which type you are?

Well, if you don’t buy new equipment because the one you have still works (even though it’s ineffective), or if you don’t invest in training because you believe you can do it, or if you don’t implement change because you fear customers will leave, then you are the second kind of manager.

You’ll never know if it could have been a success or a complete and utter failure. Sure, it takes a lot of courage to leap into the unknown, but it’s important to act on your thoughts.

To change your pattern, try to identify your limitations. Otherwise, you’ll end up like a deer caught in the headlights, paralysed by the fear to move in any direction.

2. Take action!

In business, there is no greater enemy to success than the lack of reaction. For instance, if you have a good idea for a startup, but you never get to implement it, that idea is lost.

You’ll never know if it could have been a success or a complete and utter failure. Sure, it takes a lot of courage to leap into the unknown, but it’s important to act on your thoughts.

Otherwise, you don’t move in any direction; you stay stuck. For instance, if you want to start a business but don’t have the concept, you start browsing online for ideas (the guys as Foundr have some pretty cool recommendations). When inspiration doesn’t come willingly, you go out and seek it!

3. Be consistent

One thing that all successful people understand is that consistency is the key to greatness. You don’t get to be a world-renowned singer or performer without practising your craft every single day.

The same goes in business. Nothing happens if you are not consistently applying yourself. You need to be stubborn with your vision and focus on developing the skills you need to succeed.

Look at the success stories…

Let’s have a look at the big visionaries of our times like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. They did not have it easy, and they were laughed at by the industries they ended up reforming. But they didn’t give up. Both these great men knew that what they wanted to do was worth doing, and they never let fear put them down.

Think about the great leaders of this world and see that, instead of fearing it, they embraced failure and learned from it.

Of course, these are extreme cases of consistency and boldness, but anyone can make it with just 10% of their determination. Think about the great leaders of this world and see that, instead of fearing it, they embraced failure and learned from it.

4. Take it as an ‘experience’

Failure is not the end of your adventure, whether your start-up didn’t succeed, or you took a risky investment that didn’t pan out.

Failure is an experience that teaches you about the paths that don’t go up. As you take more and more of these, you learn to recognize the signs and slowly discover the way to success. It may be slow and difficult, but the final result is going to be so much better!