Fear of Failure: Is it Holding You Back?

UPDATE Feb 2013: I wrote this article after I was a guest speaker for Become a Mumpreneur, a training programme which has since closed.

I had a great time being the guest speaker on Become  a Mumpreneur’s Expert Webinar this week. I’m a trainer by profession and after eighteen months of basically being a writer I only need half an excuse to get talking again!

During the webinar Erica Douglas (co-owner of Become a Mumpreneur) and I were talking about getting started in business. I first started out as a freelancer back in 2000, so I’ve had a lot of ups and downs as a self employed person. One of things Erica and I discussed was failure and how it’s really nothing to be ashamed of if you’re in business. In fact it’s pretty much inevitable that you’re going to fail at some stage.

If you’re being held back by the thought of failing, or if you’re trying to come to terms with failure in the past, here are five tips that might just help.

  • Don’t be so British!

The USA has a higher proportion of entrepreneurs than the UK, partly because the American attitude to failure is much more positive there than in the UK.  For us Brits, failing in business  is something to be embarrassed about whereas in the US it isn’t. If you want to be an entrepreneur, it could really pay to lose your stiff upper lip!

  • Failure is an essential part of the learning process

If you’ve watched your children learn to walk, you’ll see them stand up, fall over, then stand up again. Over and over again. Sometimes the only way to learn is to try, get it wrong, then try again until you get it right. We don’t expect babies to get it right first time and we shouldn’t expect ourselves to get it right every time either. The best lessons I’ve ever had in self employment have been as a result of screwing something up!

  • Fail fast,  then move on

Now it makes sense to avoid failure if you can, but when it does happen just accept it and move on. Don’t linger on your failings, learn the lessons that need to be learned and get on with what comes next.

  • You should be failing sometimes

I would even argue that if you never fail, you need to get out of your comfort zone. If you never take a risk you’ll never give yourself the opportunity to try new things, to learn and to develop.

Of course you need to be sensible in the level of risk you accept (don’t risk money unless you can afford to lose it, for example) but a little risk could open up opportunities you simply won’t see otherwise.

  • Each failure brings you closer to your end result

This is Erica’s attitude to failure and it’s just brilliant. Each time something goes wrong it shows you’re one step closer to where you want to be.


Creative Commons License photo credit: Jekkone

7 Replies to “Fear of Failure: Is it Holding You Back?”

  1. I was just thinking about this yesterday! I was planning to Blog about this very topic. I have a painting I’ve been dragging my feet on and I finally realized it’s becasue I would rather imagine how great it will be than face the reality of it not turning out as well as I had hoped. No more! Gotts do it! Thanks!

  2. Totally agree. I think growing a business is like building up muscles. Every time you try something new, whether you succeed or fail, you get a little stronger. The more challenges you look in the eye, the stronger your business skills will become.

  3. Being a former body builder, that muscle comment helps me too! Thanks so much for all this, the fear of failure has always held me back.

  4. Yes we alll need to fail but if we really want something we need to get back on the horse and ride again. Failing makes us stronger and more determined but I think that often we need to take a step back and stop before moving on.

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