Fear of failure – how to deal with it?

It made me think about all the failures I had in my life. I started failing when I was a kid. I remember how I failed when I tried to learn how to ride a bike – I climbed on it, started peddling, it started going for a few seconds, left-right, left-right and I was on the ground in less then a minute. Encouraged by my brother’s mocking, who was standing proudly and very stable on his bike, I got up and climbed on mine again. And I fell again. And I thought I could not make it, it seemed too hard at the time and it was so much easier to just quit. “You have to fall at least 10 times more before you learn how to ride a bike”, my dad said. And I got on the bike again.

Does it sound familiar to you? I thought so…

As someone with an entrepreneurial interest, you probably have heard the word ‘failure’many times. Isn’t it normal for a startup to fail – every media shouts. 90% don’t make it after the 2nd year, 90% fail massively. Now, that might be true as a statistic in a way, but it is taken out of the context and you do know, like me, that we shall not trust simple facts without thinking of the context. My problem with all of that aggressive bragging about failure is that it can be taken in a destructive way and instead of motivating people or help them understand that starting a business is not easy, it might get them to think that it is impossible and scare them.

So what is failure actually?

History knows a lot of stories about people who failed in many things before they succeeded in something. But just as well known to all of us is the fear factor. Fear is this emotion, which stops us from risking, this emotion, which makes us postpone things and doubt in our own skills and capabilities, even when we know what we should do and what we can do. Fear of failure is what often stops us from doing things we want or in which we see value. It is in human nature, before we take up some actions to think about the eventual negative result from them.

Do you remember a moment when an idea emerged in your mind for the first time – what happened? You probably felt a burst of excitement and then a cold shower followed: “But what if I fail?”? You have heard many times the negative stats and in their context it is actually quite normal for that thought to show up as quickly. What’s damaging for you as an entrepreneur is to let it stay longer.

Now, in your own defence, you can call this realistic way of thinking and consider it very normal, even smart. And as mentioned, to some extent you will be right. Sometimes the negative (eventual) option looks so scary and painful that it seems logical to quit before we have even given a chance to our idea to become real. This fear is simply a perception of the situation, created by our minds and very often based on wrong self-evaluation. Many times, fear is not logical, it is not based on facts, it just seems like an evidence, real enough to convince us and lead our actions. (F.E.A.R. = False Evidence Appearing Real – think about it)

If you would like to practice, here is an idea: A good way to approach this situation and make sure you protect yourself from falling in the fear trap is to act quickly and act upon small steps. Once you have an idea, define the first few steps you shall take towards accomplishing it and do them now. Don’t wait and don’t schedule them from 1st of next month. Accomplishing one thing by another, you achieve two things:

  1. get sense of accomplishment and become more confident throughout the process
  2. avoid being scared of the end result, if it looks too far away, too big to accomplish or too difficult to do so as of the moment

As an entrepreneur you have a responsibility towards yourself. And that responsibility is to try thinking the opposite way:

What if I succeed?


Don’t get me wrong – this is not about avoiding calculating risks in any business endeavour or  just putting pink glasses on and adopting a mindset that it is all going to work fine easily without figuring out the challenges. It is about the approach and the attitude you will have towards it. (Have you heard that what happens to us is important to about 10% and the rest 90% comes from the way we act upon it and the attitude we have?) If your mind is set on the positive side you are more likely to figure out ways to deal with the challenges. If you are set on the negative one, you are more likely to figure out ways why your idea will not happen.

When we do not succeed in something, this means we did not do it right and there is probably a reason for that. But we tried at least, we took action. ACTION! Tell yourself “Bravo”, “I won” and keep trying. Because you won some knowledge. I am not saying it is always easy to stand up when you fall, but action is the only thing that cures fear, that can kill it. The difference in the results will come from the way you approach the situation the second time. When you fail at something the first time, think through all the little steps you have taken and try to analyze what you could have done differently and then try again this way. And if you do not get the result you wished for the second time, do the same thing and learn from your mistakes. After a few tries you will eventually get there, it will all work out. But this is a very important step of the whole process, because insanity is to do a same thing repeatedly and to expect different results. If we make mistakes, it means we are growing. And yes, this growing sometimes hurts, but not growing at all destroys.

This is a question of personal choice. A choice, which you and me have, a choice what our attitude towards failure and success would be. A choice that differentiates entrepreneurs from people who are not.

So are you ready to get on your bike and learn how to ride it, no matter how many times you will fall off or you will simply give up, thinking “I cannot do it!” and will go to find yourself another toy? And if you decide to quit and stop learning now, are you ever going to find this toy that will make you happy and satisfied?


Evelina Prodanova


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