Fear of Failure: Are We Capable of Rising From the Ashes?
On the extreme resiliency of a human being and the real challenge of being an entrepreneur.
The difference between a mistake and a failure is this:
A mistake makes you stronger.
A failure makes you weaker.
When you make a mistake, you can use the occasion to learn, to improve yourself, and avoid a similar, or worse, situation in the future.
When you stop learning, you fail.
It’s really up to us to decide. Was it a mistake, a setback? A bad one, yet temporary? Is there something good that it has taught you? Is it worth it to keep going?
Or is it over? Is it that you don’t want to learn, to grow anymore? Have you given up control altogether?
Sometimes we make mistakes that bring about serious consequences. People get hurt deeply. Lives of many are affected. We lose money, respect, friends. Our self-worth is in shatters. At that point, it’s hard to say, “I made a mistake.”
It sounds defiant, maybe even arrogant. Yet, at the beginning of both a mistake and a failure is the very same thing: a wrong choice, a wrong decision. What matters, though, is what we see at the end.
The end result of making a mistake is that a brand new decision is made, a decision to reduce the past and inevitable harm, and to do one’s best to prevent any more harm, to both others and ourselves, in the future.
On the other hand, the product of a failure is an individual who has renounced their control over the situation and considers themselves a victim of the circumstances.
If you can’t decide on the wording (a mistake, a blunder, a total disaster?) — which is completely natural, since, as a rule, our words tend to reflect the intensity and color of our short-lived emotions — then simply think and talk about the wrong choices you have made. Try to understand why they were wrong, or why they seemed right at that time. Come up with ways to deal with the consequences. Set up an action plan of the next steps. And most importantly, make sure you’re motivated and determined to keep trying in the future.
Making mistakes, making wrong choices, is a sign of being human.
Accepting responsibility for one’s decisions is a sign of being a strong human.
Why are we afraid of failure then?
In reality, for many people, their fear of failure is a stronger drive than the vision of success.
Just think about it. If you don’t achieve what you want, you need to deal with the practical outcomes of your choices, or the “circumstances you couldn’t influence” (you choose how you put it), e.g., living in an awful place, getting paid much less than you deserve, dating someone you can’t trust… Is it then the situation itself you fear so much, or rather how it can make you feel? What is worse: getting less of what you want, getting hurt, or the ultimate damage to your self-esteem?
The good news here is that we do hold control over our emotions to a certain extent, and we can learn to change them in an instant.
Emotions are a signal sent by our body for us to understand that something is wrong.
While some of them are born out of desires, instincts, or information stored in the unconscious part of our mind (i.e., we don’t have direct access to them, and, as a result, we find it quite difficult to understand their message), others arrive as a consequence of our conscious analysis of the information that is received from our internal and external environment.
Therefore, emotions can indeed be regulated with the help of our thoughts.
In simple terms: something happens (objectively a neutral event), we make a judgment about it (a thought with negative, neutral, or positive charge), and this judgment shows in our body as an emotion (fear, disgust, anger, sadness, joy, surprise, etc.).
If the feeling is unbearable, we may bury it into the unconsciousness, which, on the one hand, will give us temporary relief, but, on the other hand, will create problems for many years to come, since our body won’t stop broadcasting signals (new distressing emotions, physical ailments, chronic diseases) in the hope that one day we understand their message.
That’s why emotions as such are not inherently bad or good; they simply come off as subjectively pleasant or unpleasant.
If we tried to generalize the whole process, we could say that bad thoughts (destructive, harmful…) produce pain (unpleasant emotions), while good thoughts (creative, productive…) produce joy (pleasant emotions). And since like attracts like, through joy we attract what we desire into our lives, and through pain we attract what we fear. Including failure.
In sum, by changing what you think, you are able to lessen the overall amount of strain, pain, and stress that hurts you.
It’s not easy. No doubt about that. It takes practice, and plenty of trials and errors. But the important thing to remember is that we are able to protect ourselves. Our bodies and minds have emergency mechanisms in place, which can help us any time we need them.
Human beings are extremely resilient. We know how to deal with pain. We are capable of rising from the ashes and starting all over again. But for some reason, the pain itself is not the thing we fear most. It is the judgment of those around.
We live our lives and run our businesses as if we constantly needed to prove ourselves. We compete with those around us. We compare ourselves with those who perform better than us in the game of life and feel disdain for those who don’t.
That’s correct. We spot and target weaknesses in other people because they remind us of what we can become, or what, deep inside, we believe that we already are.
You may have noticed that individuals with sound self-esteem and natural confidence rarely look down on others. They are also not inclined to compare themselves to them. It’s because when you are aware of your own value and of what you bring to the world, you don’t need endorsement. Besides, weaknesses and losses of other people don’t threaten you.
We always focus on what is important to us, what we care about.
Let’s imagine a beautiful, well-dressed woman walking into a room. One person would notice her amazing shoes — she spots them right away because she is a bit of a fashionista herself. Another person would directly stare at her rounded hips — he sees the body, rather than the clothes, because that’s what is on his mind more often than anything else. A third person’s first thought would be how superficial that woman must be — right away, he uses her appearance to judge her personality, possibly because his own intellect is something he is concerned about, although he may not realize it or admit it to himself, let anyone else.
What we give to others is what we expect to receive.
When I judge, I worry about being judged. Judgments and opinions of others mirror my own. That’s why I take things personally. Even though on the surface I am convinced I’m defending myself against the other, the truth is I’m defending myself to myself.
I expect people to see me as I see myself, which is rather a valid point. So if I condemn myself for failing, people around will start sniffing at me.
Mistakes can lead to progress, but failure only attracts failure.
The antidote to failure is value:
a) My own value
b) Value I provide to others
Do you know who you are and do you accept yourself fully? Do you strive to be better every day? Do you aim at creating value, in whatever you do?
If yes, then you cannot fail. You will make wrong choices, that’s inevitable. But they should not make you believe that you’re not good enough. That you’re not worth it — worthy of being appreciated, worthy of being liked, worthy of being seen.
Often the pressure is almost unbearable. The unimaginable consequences of a single bad move.
What is the maximum amount of money you might lose and still save your face? Could you look into the eyes of people whose lives may get wrecked because of your bad decision? How can you tell the point when it’s time to finally give up?
It is not easy and it will never be. But then, isn’t hardship ingrained in the skin of every entrepreneur?
As an entrepreneur you agree to assume a substantial responsibility, since your job is not only to make money but also to make lives of other people better. You respond to your partners, to your employees, investors, customers, your family, and likely also to local communities and other parties that are affected by your activities.
That’s a lot to take for a single individual.
Your words and acts can have a substantial impact, which is amazing and terrifying at the same time. That’s why learning is such an important element of being a successful entrepreneur.
You need to keep learning to predict, avoid, or rectify mistakes you make. Yet, the prospect of making them should not paralyze you.
It’s impossible to be perfect. It’s impossible to be always right. We can but let it go and aim for the best. We can work on our ability to get up faster when we fall. We can remind ourselves of our unique value to the world.
An awareness of our self-worth is an essential component of our ability to succeed. It is an integral part of the definition of what success means to us. Even though our actions affect others, at the end of the day, we only have ourselves to answer to.
Entrepreneurship takes a lot of courage and even more confidence. But you know what they say:
“You don’t need confidence to do something. You need to do something to gain confidence.”