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Fear of Failure (and how to move through it)

5 levels of failure
Image Credit: Rod Long on Unsplash

Is fear of failure crippling your business?

Fear of failure is common in business owners. Failure is rarely seen as a prerequisite for success. And nobody starts a business or creates something new to sell wanting it to fail. Yet, the more you are willing to fail, the greater your chance of success will be!

Beat fear of failure in 5 stages

The five levels of failure are defined as the:

  1. ability to fail
  2. willingness to fail
  3. eagerness to fail
  4. comfort with failing faster and more often, and
  5. eagerness to fail exponentially (which means failing with your entire team all failing together)

Most fear of failure is short-sighted — meaning we don’t generally fear failing to do something well after years of practice, hard work and repetition.

What we really fear is failing to do something right the first time. That’s why “fear of failure” is not a useful fear at all. It only keeps us from attempting to accomplish anything at all.

In reality, you learn far more from your failures than you do from your successes.

Where fear of failure comes from

Many struggle with fear of failure because they connect it to feelings of shame and unworthiness—holdovers conditioned in us throughout childhood.

As babies, we had no fears. And we certainly failed many times when we were learning to walk. At that stage of life, our failures were celebrated as markers of progress toward worthy goals. It didn’t matter how many times we fell. We just kept trying. Our parents kept celebrating our efforts. And, eventually, we succeeded!

It’s the same when you are building a business.

You won’t know how to do many things the first time you try them out. And that’s perfectly ok!

Relinquishing our power to the fear of failure often results in procrastination. The way to overcome it is to understand where it comes from and what’s driving it within us.

Why we have fear of failure

The main root causes are:

  1. patterns we bring into our business from childhood
  2. chasing perfectionism
  3. false self-confidence, and
  4. over-personalization (ego identification with failure)

The way out of our fear then involves re-framing the belief(s) behind the feeling(s) holding us back.

It’s a process. And you must want to get over the fear to get to the other side of it.

Generally, you can ease into failures progressively. Once you’ve got a few under your belt and realize you’re still standing, the exposure and reflection lessens the fear.

If that’s not your experience, then ask yourself, “What is the payoff I’m getting from giving in to my fear of failure?”

Eventually, you do reach a point where you can feel the fear, accept it, and just go ahead and do things anyway. Without being held hostage by potential doomsday scenarios you manufacture in your own mind.

(Most of which never come to pass and even if they did you can plan for how to handle it in advance.)

Conclusion

In business, there are only two failures to fear:

  1. Not trying at all.
  2. Not taking the learning forward and trying again.

So let go of those two and celebrate the hell out of all your fails! Turn your lemons into lemonade!