How to overcome fear of failure in business in 6 steps

November 18, 2020

How to overcome fear of failure

Eli Zheleva, a passionate Marketer with a thick portfolio, talks about how to overcome fear of failure in business and unleash your full potential in 6 very doable steps.

You are afraid that your business might fail? The thought of entrepreneurial failure keeps you up at night? Let’s get something out of the way. You’re scared, because you’re not prepared.

Do you think that any world-class athlete turns up at a competition without having practiced? Of course, not. The good news is that business, unlike many sports, is not a zero-sum game. This means that if you win, it doesn’t mean someone else loses and vice-versa. That’s why there’s always an opportunity for your business to succeed. You just need to do the work.

Define what success means to you to cure your fear of failure

If you’re afraid of failing, then it’s key to define what success looks like. This way you can keep your focus on the prize. As Tony Robbins says, “Where focus goes, energy flows.” Just like driving, you should occasionally look in the rear-view mirror, yet if you keep doing that, you’ll crash as your focus was not on where you want to go. A way to keep your focus on the right thing is to find your “why”.

As shown in the book “Marketing Matters” by Eli Zheleva the first step in any journey, even when it comes to overcoming fear of failure in business, is defining the “purpose and outcome”.

Look at your business goals from two points of view – your heart, and your finances. Often people want their business to be successful financially, so the money can allow them to do something. Think about what it is you want more of (apart from money). Would you want more time with your family? Would you want the opportunity to travel? Would you want to make a difference to your community?

A great exercise to help you find your why is Dean Graziosi’s 7 whys process.

Once you know your why, think of other ways to get the same result without involving money. This way, you remove the stress that’s built up by the pressure to make your business hit financial targets.

Example

Let’s say you want to have a successful business, so you can have money to help children in need. Think about how else you can help those children. Is it possible that you will give your time to the cause instead? Can you reach out to someone in your network who can help? Maybe you can even do a fundraiser? This way, regardless of how your business performs, you will be able to fulfil your mission. And guess what! When you do that, the money will follow because of the energy you have created.

Define what success means to you to cure your fear of failure

Whilst it’s crucial to have a solid business plan ready at the start of your business venture, it’s just as important to review it once a year to ensure it’s still aligned with the business needs, goals and ever-changing market environment.

Plan for the best-case scenario and the worst-case scenario. For the best-case scenario, be bold and dream big. Also take the time to consider answering the question “what might get in your way to this best-case scenario?”. Think about how you can overcome any of the potential roadblocks.

There’s no guarantee that if something is to get in the way of your best-case scenario, it will be one of the things you have initially listed. However, in the process of identifying the potential barriers you would have found new ideas of potential actions to take that might be useful in the context of the actual challenge that arises.

For the worst-case scenario, have a contingency plan. For example, think of 10 things that you can do if it happens to get yourself back up. It’s much easier to think creatively when your mind is at peace and is not in the stressful situation already. Once you have those 10 things, take the time to really think about them and plan with more detail how you can make them happen. Ideally, you should treat each one of them as if that’s the only possible option and outline the resources you would need to implement that option, should you get to it.

Overcoming fear of failure in business by finding role models

As much as your business idea might be unique, chances are – someone has already walked the path you’re on. Reading biographies of successful people is a great way to learn from their mistakes and find new strategies and coping mechanisms for tough times. Sometimes all you need to get grounded and to see the way forward is a different perspective. Here are three books to get you started:

  1. “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike
  2. “Finding My Virginity” by Sir Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin brand and serial entrepreneur
  3. “Winners: And How They Succeed” by Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s chief spokesman and strategist

If you don’t have time to read a whole book, you can search for blogs sharing tips from other business people. They can provide you with a summary of the learnings of others.

When you learn about someone else’s experience, it is helpful to focus on the message instead of the words. This means that even if you think that the example given is not relevant to your business, allow yourself to see how you can adapt the learning to your situation.

Join a mastermind group

Surround yourself with other professionals who are willing to grow. Go to Meetup.com /Eventbrite to find an existing mastermind group on your subject. If you don’t find a group that resonates with you, just create your own. Go through your contact list and see who you would like to learn from and who you would trust to give you the most relevant advice. 

During a mastermind session, you will be given the opportunity to sit on the “hot seat”. This is not a comfortable place, yet it’s greatly rewarding. After all, growth never happens in your comfort zone. When you are on the “hot seat”, you need to define what is your current biggest challenge/struggle. Then the people in the mastermind will give you feedback, will challenge your current thinking and will share their experiences to provide you with context and help you generate ideas.

Usually, you can gain as many ideas as being on the “hot seat” as when someone else is on it and you’re giving feedback for their problem.

If the masterminds are facilitated in the right way, a magical thing happens. People allow themselves to be vulnerable, put their egos aside and realise that they are not the only ones having those fears and challenges. The feeling that you’re not alone can be a great catalyst for change in its own right.

Visualise your success to annul fear of failure

There are countless studies showing that visualisation is a powerful technique to rewire your brain. You can train your brain to link thoughts or situations with specific emotions. The key here is to train your brain when thinking about your business to associate it with fulfilment, joy, satisfaction and other high-frequency emotions.

Each morning before you do anything else related to your business – be it checking emails, planning, going into the office and so on – spend a minimum of 10 minutes to visualise what having a successful business feels like. You can go through the questions below to help you in the visualisation process. Make your vision as vivid as possible through engaging all five senses, which will help you bring it into existence.

  • How do you feel when you wake up in the morning knowing that your work today will get you closer to your mission? Determined? Excited?
  • What is the first smell that you smell when you sit at your desk? The flowers on your desk? Freshly ground coffee? Fresh air from the opened window?
  • What do you have for lunch? Chicken salad? Vegan superfood shake? 
  • Where is your place of work? In a conservatory at home? In a beach hut? In a lodge in the forest?
  • What do you listen to before you start work? Favourite song to get you in a great mood? An audiobook? A podcast? Your child playing an instrument?
  • Who is the first person you see from your team? What do you say to them? How do they feel after talking with you?
  • What makes you smile as soon as you start working? An email from a happy customer? Good news from one of your team members?
  • How do you feel at the end of the day? Do you feel energised? Accomplished? Calm? Proud?

The more consistent you are with your daily visualisations, the more your brain will focus on that and you won’t have the cognitive capacity to fear failure.

Overcoming fear of failure in business by finding role models

Can you create your own definition of failure that will make it impossible for you to fail? As when you think about it, failure is a construct of the ego. Of course, money and assets can be lost, yet many of the most successful people in the world have lost a lot of money at some point in their lives. That has not stopped them to achieve great results though.

The Italian language lends itself nicely in this situation and offers us an alternative way to view success, and thus failure. In English, the verb “succeed” means “to achieve the desired aim or result”, i.e. it’s focused on the outcome. In Italian, the verb “succedere” means “to make something happen; to occur”, i.e. it’s focused on the process.

This means that for as long as you’re making things happen, failure is not an option. See! There’s nothing to fear but fear itself.

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