Fear of Failure

A few weeks ago, I announced the pre-sale of my new book See, Do, Repeat: The Practice of Entrepreneurship, which will be available in early September, 2021.  Writing this book over the past year has been fun and a great learning experience, but it has also been challenging and scary at times.  Like my podcast a few years ago, this project has taken me out of my comfort zone in several ways.  It reminded me once again about the role of any new endeavor.  When we dive into anything new, we have to be willing to be a student and a beginner again.   Success in most any endeavor, including starting a new business, requires stepping into the unknown and getting comfortable with ambiguity and fear of failure.

Fear is how our bodies and minds react to the unknown.  It is a survival instinct.  And, fear is healthy in many cases.  Fear protects us when needed.  However, fear can also keep us from fully experiencing life.  A long time ago, I realized that if I was going to live my life fully I had to get to know my fears intimately.  I love this quote by book author, Judy Blume, which sums up this sentiment well.

 Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.

 Getting to know our fears and understanding when we can push through them and use them as learning opportunities is critical for any entrepreneur.  It is how we build confidence in ourselves and our abilities.  And, what I have learned from facing my own fears is that when I have the humility to be a beginner, the outcomes are usually even better than I anticipated.  That is why I devote an entire chapter in my book to fear of failure. Below is a story from that chapter you might enjoy.

Each fall for many years, I have been fortunate to be part of a team of scholars who teach in a program for entrepreneurship educators. This program, the Experiential Classroom, has become one of the leading seminar-type continuing education experiences for university and college entrepreneurship faculty and PhD students.

During the program, one of the most inspiring sessions focuses on how to captivate a classroom.  In this talk, the professor shares what has worked for him over his long and storied career, teaching entrepreneurs both in the US and around the world. In his presentation, he addresses the fear most of us feel each time we are in front of an audience.

When he talks about the nervous feeling we get before we speak, he shows a picture of butterflies flying in formation. The butterflies are a physical response to our bodies and minds being “on-point.” According to the professor, the goal is not to eliminate the butterflies, but to get them to fly in formation. In fact, he suggests, feeling anxious is a positive response because those butterflies are a reminder that if we focus the anxiety, we can be in the moment and completely attentive to the task at hand. What is especially powerful about this presentation is, throughout the presenter’s life, he has been challenged with a stutter. Yet, when the butterflies align for him, the stutter disappears.

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