Dealing with Fear of Failure

Dealing with Fear of Failure

Dustin Lien
May 29, 2017

The number one reason people don’t start businesses is fear. Fear is paralyzing.

It’s the voice in your head telling you you’ll fail and run out of money. Your children will go hungry, and you’ll look like a fool.

You’re not smart enough, and your skills are too shallow. You’re too young or too old to start. You’ll never make as much money on your own as you will working for someone else. There aren’t enough hours in the day to start a business while working full time.

These are all normal and completely reasonable thoughts and worries, but don’t let them stop you. Fear is a hurdle you have to practice jumping over until you succeed.

Let’s jump.

I hear entrepreneurs say it all the time, “You have to fail to learn what works.” That gets misinterpreted a lot. Failure doesn’t mean that you have to start a business and go bankrupt in order to succeed later. Don’t go into your first venture hoping to lose all your money and fail.

That being said, everyone experiences at least some level of failure. A lot of business people are successful with their first ideas, and rather than experiencing total idea failure, they experience small failures only.

Some ideas do completely fail, and it’s up to you to know when it’s time to move on to the next idea if that happens.

Think of failure as a learning experience rather than a negative end of a journey. It doesn’t have to be a scary thing if we’re prepared for it.

Failure doesn’t have to necessarily end your big idea, it just teaches you to adjust. Successful business owners learn how to adapt and find new routes toward positive results.

The top of the mountain looks the same no matter which side you climb. Some sides are easier to climb than others, and you learn that as you try. Failing teaches us what doesn’t work, and that’s a valuable step toward learning what does work.

My first big failure helped me transform my business into what it’s becoming today, and more importantly, into a much better businessman.

My LLC was born in 2012 as an agency to help local bars bring in more business on slow nights. I lived in a college town at the time, so there was a big market for alcohol promotions. The first thing we did was start growing an audience so we had leverage when selling services to the bars.

We collected phone numbers from people who were interested in receiving one text per day with a local bar special. The agreement with bars was that it had to be a really good special, preferably one that was exclusive to people on our text list so that we could prove ROI and provide a service that consumers would be pumped about.

It was free to join the text list, and bars would pay a monthly fee to send text blasts to the list. Our main selling points to bars were the size of the list and the fact that 94% of people will read a text sent to them as opposed to the average open rate of an email which is about 15% in that industry.

Pretty good selling points (business owners really like strong statistics). What we failed at was execution. That was my first big lesson from entrepreneurship—no matter how good your idea is, if you fail to execute tasks, the idea can’t arrive into fruition. An idea is nothing more than a passive thought until you execute.

I read a book recently called “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done” by Larry Bossidy (Former Chairman and CEO, Honeywell International) and Ram Charan (Author of “What The CEO Wants You to Know.) The best line in the entire book was in the last chapter: “Leaders need to master individual processes and the way they work together as a whole. They are the foundation for the discipline of execution, at the center of conceiving and executing a strategy. They are the differentiation between you and your competitors.”

If you can create and master the execution of simple processes one by one, your business will run well. You might have small failures along the way, but you’ll learn invaluable lessons from each one that will guide you toward success.

You have to strategically disconnect your business from your financial situation until it’s profitable enough to take over as your normal income. Keep your day job until you’re at that point or close. Failure isn’t as scary when it’s no longer tied to financial stability.

It’s just the truth.