A successful entrepreneur shares her thoughts on business success and failure.

Fear of Failure? Here's How to Get Through It…

Fear of failure
This is a guest article by Flexo from Consumerism Commentary. Flexo is currently on a ten-day, ten-venue tour.

The harder you try to succeed, the more failures you will accumulate. Here’s my story:

Flexo’s Failure

I enjoy performing in stage plays, and a play was the scene of one of my failures. I’ve always been the last actor to memorize my lines in the script, being “on book” usually through the final rehearsals before the first performance. My lack of preparedness finally caught up to me while in mid-performance my recurring dream came true: I forgot my lines.

None of the actors covered for me, and I wasn’t about to ask, “Line?” while in front of an audience. A beat passed and I said the first thing that came to mind: a line from another scene in the play. The actors then continued, skipping a few pages ahead, and we adjusted.

I was told the audience and some of the other actors never realized anything was wrong, and my quick recovery saved me from any further embarrassment. After this experience, I made an effort to fully prepare in advance for every situation I enter.

Five Steps to Get Through Your Fear of Failure

Here are my suggestions for handling failure before and after it occurs so you are ready to bounce back:

1. Redefine the traditional concept of failure. There are no failures, only learning opportunities. Choose from a number of cliches that all say roughly the same thing. Like a top 40 record, these motivational nuggets about failure are overplayed and pedestrian, but truth lies within.

To be a successful entrepreneur, or a successful human being of any type, you can’t let major drawbacks discourage you. If you find it difficult to change your mindset by approaching a negative situation with a positive outlook, you are more likely to give up before realizing your potential.

2. Accept responsibility for your situation. As an entrepreneur or business owner, you have control of your situation. If you didn’t get the results you expected, you did something wrong. An individual might be inclined to blame others or the environment for negative outcomes while crediting himself for positive outcomes. However, someone who recognizes his role regardless of the outcome is more likely to succeed.

Since I generally write about personal finance, let me take an example from the financial industry. I’ve been speaking with and listening to the CEOs of major corporations over the last few years, and they all have something in common. In times of great prosperity, with their companies earning double-digit returns while watching their share prices soar, they are quick to credit their management and employees for wonderful talent and endless dedication.

But when their company begins losing money hand over fist, suddenly the cause of this despair is the “overall market” or “investor sentiment.” It is never the fault of management ill-prepared to handle their customers’ needs during any market cycle. If you are rationalizing your setbacks with similar reasons, you are in denial. Eliminate your excuses to succeed.

3. Learn from your mistakes. Once you’ve accepted responsibility, you will be in a position to fully analyze the path that led you to this point. Make a note of what you could do differently that might lead to a more favorable outcome. In some cases, the best options aren’t clear, and a certain amount of experimentation will help.

Communicate with people who are on a similar path or have succeeded in similar endeavors. You might be able to find some shortcuts by learning from other people’s mistakes, but your own experiences will always be the best teachers. Life is short, so you shouldn’t waste it by making the same mistakes repeatedly.

4. Be flexible and quick to adapt. Be ready to react to changing trends, unclear customer needs, and your competition.

American car companies were not ready to adjust to a consumer marketplace that left Hummers behind in favorable of smaller, more cost-efficient and fuel-efficient vehicles. Their businesses suffered not only because they failed to predict the change in attitude, but because these companies took too much time before adapting.

5. Ignore negative influencers. It is important to surround yourself with believers. While being a success when everyone thinks you will fail makes a great public relations pitch, the truth is almost always different.

In order to bounce back, you need people who are going to root for you and support you — not necessarily financially, but emotionally. People who repeatedly remind you of your obstacles and who show no faith in your abilities will do more harm to your success than you will yourself. When you temporarily fail, the “I told you sos” will start to come out of the woodwork.

You might be able to find motivation within the idea of proving the naysayers wrong, but this is rarely a natural form of motivation. For the most part, negative people are just noise. You want to work with people who amplify you and your goals. Get rid of the noise, turn up the amplification, and it will be easier to hear yourself.

You will more than likely experience some form of failure several times before you get to be a success. You must bounce back, remember your lines, and get back on your path with minimal distraction. Your goals might change thanks to what you’ve learned through the experience, but there is no need to abandon your plans.

Erica’s note: Congratulations to Flexo–this is the first guest post I’ve run on erica.biz! Although I plan to keep this blog mostly in my own voice, I’m happy to post the occasional guest post.

I’m looking for your feedback: Do you like guest posts on this blog? What would you like to see more or less of? Feel free to leave your note in the comments or contact me directly.

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