Three Reasons Fear of Failure Should Make Entrepreneurs Fight to Succeed



You’re already wondering what fear of failure has got to do with entrepreneurship. You’re likely thinking of fear as a negative emotion. How can something negative inspire success?

I won’t bore you with tales of the outrageously low survival rates of businesses (start-ups) published on the internet. Which have you heard? 9 out of 10? Or 8 out of 10? Or 3 out of 4?

The Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) 2014 edition of FAQ’s about small businesses says: “About half of all new establishments survive 10 years or more. As one would expect, the probability of survival increases with a firm’s age.”

Not exactly the gloom and doom portrayed after all. But what has fear of failure got to do with the survival rate of a business?

Here are three reasons fear of failure should make entrepreneurs work harder at their businesses:


  1. People said you and your business are bound to fail

You have a business plan. You’ve gotten an awesome location. And you have enough funds to start your own business.

Deep down inside of you, you’re set to become “the next big thing,” or maybe all you really care about is self-sufficiency.

But there’s a problem. At the very mention of your business plans to your friends, spouse, relatives, parents or siblings, they try to kill your dreams of starting the business.

No, they’re obviously not going after your business with a shotgun or machete.

It doesn’t matter to you. You believe you can pull it off. You believe you will succeed. After all your research in the industry, you know the signs are good. But the naysayers do not change their minds.

But even though you feel your business will succeed, you’re scared.

Scared you’ll never reach the heights you’ve set for yourself. Scared the naysayers are actually true prophets of doom. Scared setting up your business was the wrong thing to do in the first place.

That’s where the drive to make your business a success should come from. You’re going to be scared to death especially if you’re a first-time entrepreneur. You see, in the words of Paul Sweeney:

“True success is overcoming fear of being unsuccessful.”

What’s more, you would have overcome the prophets of doom on your business. And you’ll find that one of the greatest pleasures of life is doing something you were told you cannot do.


  1. From the onset, you and your business are touted for success

There are always the neutrals, those who believe you’ll neither fail nor succeed.

Normally, the indifferent people are often an exception and not the rule. If you’re not expected to fail, you’re expected to succeed. And sadly, when businesses are touted for success even before they’ve begun, it means there are astronomical expectations of success for the business.

People may even support you financially, physically or otherwise. But you know, the onus is on you to make your business a success, not on anybody else. Otherwise, you’re deemed a failure.

That’s quite some pressure, quite a burden to bear. And unfortunately, a great many are not adept at handling pressure.

Now, considering these expectations and burdens, would it not be a wise course to consider why businesses crash and burn and what you can do to avoid such an outcome? Or would you not rather take time to study why businesses in your niche (or in general) fail, and try to avoid the mistakes? How do you look those people giving you the support in the face and say “I can’t succeed” by your actions?

There’s no denying that if after all the expectations, you still fail at your business, it’s much easier to begin feeling like a failure.

Such fear is what should keep entrepreneurs devoted to their businesses, because for some, failure could have disastrous effects on their emotional health.


  1. You’ve failed several times before now

No, you did not necessarily fail at starting a business. Every human fails in one way or the other over the course of their lifetime. You’re not the first human to have failed, nor will you be the last.

This is closely related to people giving your business no chance to survive even before it has begun. Humans are fond of drawing general conclusions from isolated incidents. For example, a lady might say “all men are cheats,” if she’s been on the wrong end of heartbreaks several times from men. Similarly it’s easy for an entrepreneur to be labeled a failure if he’s had several other smaller business failures.

Take Nick Woodman for an example. Before creating his popular brand of wearable cameras GoPro, he failed with two online startups previously, even losing almost four million dollars on his second startup.

In this article on Forbes, he said: “I mean nobody likes to fail, but the worst thing was I lost my investors’ money and these were people that believed in this young guy that was passionate about his idea…

When you fail, you start to question, are my ideas really good?”

“I was so afraid that GoPro was going to go away like Funbug that I would work my ass off. That’s what the first boom and bust did for me. I was so scared that I would fail that I was totally committed to succeed.”

Needless to say, he is one of the youngest billionaires in the world and owns the fastest-growing camera company in America.

What’s the point? Nick’s fear of failure gave him added incentive to fight to succeed. In his words, he was so scared he would fail that he was totally committed to succeed.

You can’t begin imagining how shameful it would have been for him if because of complacency of some sort his business fell under. Not to say he did not have his challenges.

Pursuing anything worthwhile will be difficult at times.

Like how Woodman himself had no engineering skills and couldn’t build the cameras but outsourced the work, and yet some wouldn’t meet his specifications and had to be returned by him for modification – all through FedEx. Or how he’d spend hours on end carving the camera model with raw plastic. Or how he moved back in with his parents, and worked twenty hours a day, seven days a week to get GoPro started.


It’s in the way you look at it

Fear is largely called a negative or harmful emotion. In fact, many schools of thought believe you should fear nothing.

But you’re human, an imperfect one at that. Christine Louise Hohlbaum, the author of The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World in this article on Psychology Today said: “Love your fear….It really wants our best, no matter how irrational it sometimes is.”

A man is told he will have diabetes if he continues his sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits. He knows diabetes brings complications like stroke, heart disease, and sometimes blindness. He is scared to death. But that fear of diabetes moves him to start working out, eating healthier foods and doing regular medical checkups.

It isn’t much different with fear of failing at your business. Truthfully, you are the man at risk of having diabetes. Your business is your lifestyle. Failure is the diabetes.

You don’t just fold your arms and panic or get paralyzed with fear because you may get diabetes. No, that fear makes you want to avoid the dreadful disease…at all costs.

It applies in business too. You’ve got to work mighty hard to succeed. And you should start working now.


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