Fearing Failure in Business

April 9, 2012 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Entrepreneur Mindset, Featured

During a recent mastermind, some of us were discussing why people don’t want to succeed and I suggested that it was probably due to the fact that they might be fearing failure and did not know how to overcome their self-imposed barriers.  This got me thinking…

Fearing Failure is a Choice!

Have the courage to fail big and stick around.
Make them wonder why you’re still laughing!

~ From the film Elizabethtown

There is a lot of wisdom in that statement.  It isn’t so much that you want to prove to others that you’re strong in the face of adversity but rather, to me, it portrays an individual who understands that fearing failure is only a result of caring about the opinions of onlookers. In the vast configuration of things that really matter, what those people might think have nothing to do with your actual experience.

Children are inherently good at moving past failures because, in their youthful pursuit of life experiences, they have no idea what failure means. Like everything, children are taught that fearing failure is “normal” by some well-intentioned adult who explains the mechanics of failure and success.

Strictly speaking and in my opinion, you can only fail if you are comparing yourself to external standards that may or may not apply.  Yes, this sounds a bit like double speak but please bear with me while I explain.

When we measure our success against another person’s accomplishments and find ourselves falling short of that mark, we are doing ourselves a disservice.  What worked for them in their environment may have no bearing on what will work for you.  Have you ever noticed the small print in advertisements and sales copy that informs us that results are not typical?

fearing failure

Don’t let Fear of Failure Stop You!

I don’t mean to imply that you shouldn’t surround yourself with people whom you admire and pursue the level of success apparent in their lifestyle.  That is the premise of working with a mentor, after all.  They have traveled the road that you wish to undertake and, if they are charging fees for mentoring, they have *hopefully* learned something about the route that they can teach you.  But, if you cannot immediately mirror that level of success, please don’t let it slow you down or stop you!

In my mind’s eye, any effort to do something that one has never done before cannot ever be considered a failure.  Fearing failure has potential to stifle your creativity as you imagine ways to proceed with your plans. If things do not turn out as expected, that is not a failure either.  Remember, goals are only intended to measure progress.  If you have to regroup or reset your goals, that is NOT a failure.

Who says you have to have it all together by a certain age? In my early 50s, I threw away the success model my parents prescribed and started all over again because I discovered that what was true for them was not bearing out to be true for me.  You can read how to avoid fearing failure here.

Fail Forward, Fast
~Tom Peters

I can’t help finding analogies in the behavior of children when I think of this topic.  Children pick themselves up from a fall and keep moving after their goal.  If something hurts, they eventually learn to avoid it.  The same is true for our businesses.  Inexperience might cause a painful lesson or two along the way to your own definition of success but fearing failure can stop you from trying something new. It’s all about your attitude.

This is a link to a story about an 11-year old who understood the iterative process of succeeding. It is a pretty awesome video example.

Overcome Fear of Failure Powered by Intuition

In the video below, Brian Tracy gives some great advice for overcoming the fears that may be holding you back in your progress.

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18 Responses to “Fearing Failure in Business”
  1. Tara Houck says:

    I have had to recreate myself a few times in my working career and take on projects that were a bit uncomfortable or I did not have all the answers. The lessons from failure seem to always be the ones that keep you on the right path and make you the most money. If you get halfway across a bridge and it gets windy and you become afraid don’t turn around and run back. It’s the same distance to the other side. Great Post

    • Marj Wyatt says:

      Thanks for your comment, Tara.

      Yes, life is a proverbial wheel and we have to sometimes roll down roads that we haven’t previously traveled. I agree that the lessons of instant success do not provide as much learning as the attempts that seem to fail. What we learn from revising and adapting our strategies stays with us much, much longer.
      Marj Wyatt recently posted..I’m Not Really a Waitress …My Profile (dofollow)

  2. You mean there is no ” EASY Button”. What is the point of a minimum number of words for a comment,( beyond the obvious “great post”). Found this out the hard way, by trying to post as a comment the first 7 words.
    Robert Nelson recently posted..What Do Equations Have To Do With Good Health ?My Profile

    • Marj Wyatt says:

      Nope! The easy button is for folks who believe that money grows on trees. 🙂

      Thanks for your comment, Robert. To answer your question about a minimum number of comment words, the goal is to avoid comment spam that is utterly meaningless.
      Marj Wyatt recently posted..Are You Confident or Arrogant?My Profile (dofollow)

  3. Rose Kline says:

    Great post and lots if very truthful info. And YES, there is no easy button or way. It takes lots of work to succeed.Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone and take the plunge to get ahead.. Thank you

    Rose Kline recently posted..My Journey, What Is An Auto Responder?My Profile

    • Marj Wyatt says:

      Rose … I’m so glad you stopped by to read the post and comment on it. You have been part of the discussions that I alluded to in the opening paragraph. I know that YOU know that mindset is the largest contributing factor to making progress toward your goals.
      Marj Wyatt recently posted..Are You Confident or Arrogant?My Profile (dofollow)

  4. Sissy Moss says:

    Hi Marj, I can really relate to this article. Thanks for sharing it. Too bad more people don’t see things the way children do, just able to pick themselves up and dust themselves off and go on.
    Sissy Moss
    skype pasquallys_mom

    • Marj Wyatt says:

      Sissy … some people are able to remain thrilled with their progress, regardless of the outcomes. Mostly, those are people with great confidence who have decided that they will succeed and are willing to do what it takes to get there.

      Everything in life is a choice, for me. We can choose to be filled with worry when things don’t go as planned or we can choose to busy our minds with ways to do it differently.
      Marj Wyatt recently posted..How to Create Blog Content that Attracts SubscribersMy Profile (dofollow)

  5. Janny Manla says:

    I have had my shares of failures in the past and yes, until now. What is so awesome is that after the failures, the lessons were actually intended to become building blocks for the present projects and successes. So, failures are not really failures per se but raw materials for bigger success.
    Janny Manla recently posted..Acceptance is PeaceMy Profile (dofollow)

    • Marj Wyatt says:

      Janny … what a marvelous insight you’ve presented! Everything we do is a work-in-progress or, as I like to quip:

      It’s a process, not an event!

      We can choose to respond or react. Reacting is often knee-jerk and that can cause frustration. If we respond to the outcome as if it is part of a lesson, we can remain enthusiastic.

      The child in the video had realistic expectations that he outlined in advance of the first experiment. His glee upon early success was contagious. Enthusiasm can be dampened if we slip into regrets.

      There is only one direction, and that is forward!
      Marj Wyatt recently posted..Switchback Entrepreneurial PlanningMy Profile (dofollow)

  6. Kay Brasher says:


    Yes, it is important that new people coming online understand that every thing they do will be successful. Some of the greatest inventors did not make it on the first several times. What separated them? It was their mindset. Which is NEVER give up!
    As you pointed out children fall and what do they do? They pick themselves up and go on.
    As adults we must have that mindset that says oh this didn’t work. What’s next?
    We need to have the mindset that no matter what we are going to keep dusting ourselves off and keep going until we reach our success.
    I love the article thanks for sharing. Nice to be reminded of these things.

    Kay Brasher
    Skype frsprt214626
    Kay Brasher recently posted..James Holmes’ WebinarMy Profile (dofollow)

    • Marj Wyatt says:

      Hey Kay,

      Nice comment! Your mention of inventors is a good example of what I was writing about. Thomas Edison never gave up on his ideas, even though he had hundreds of apparent failures.

      Us grown-ups can forget that the most important thing is that we have learned something, regardless of the outcome of our efforts. This mindset is not only applicable to working online though. Anyone pursuing an entrepreneurial dream has to hold onto the vision and adapt their plans as they move ahead. And they have to be aware that nothing is easy if you’ve never done it before.
      Marj Wyatt recently posted..Mixing Friendship and Business is a Bad for BusinessMy Profile (dofollow)

  7. Marj, terrific post. I loved the successes/failures hypothesis and reality video. So totally kidlike, that’s how I’d like to be all the time! I only have to choose that thinking more often…lol, great reminder.

    The best point of the whole post is where you got this idea. “During a recent mastermind, some of us were discussing”… No one has to go it alone even if they have a one person business.

    It’s good to get to know you online, glad I visited here today.


    • Marj Wyatt says:

      Thanks for your comment, Mary. Yes, getting to know people online and forming liaisons is one of the most powerful features of Skype. There are groups defined as masterminds and then there are the accidental mastermind sessions that reveal so much knowledge in their exchanges.

      Fearing failure is something that absolutely can stop us from trying new ideas. Innovation comes through trial and error and, as Bill Vallee wrote above, if Edison had been fearful, none of what we are doing online today would have been possible.

      All it takes is that tiny step into the unknown … and the passion to follow it through!
      Marj Wyatt recently posted..Are You Confident or Arrogant?My Profile (dofollow)

  8. Thanks for this Marj.

    I need to take this to heart for sure. It is easier said than done sometimes though.

    In August I started down a new path. I’ve had some success but if I would let go of the fear of failure I would be doing so much better now!

    Sadly this can really become debilitating.


  9. Bill Vallee(Leader: TIIMG) says:

    Great post Marj!
    We would all be in the dark if Thomas Edison had just tried …’ONCE’. The mantra that surfaces so often in the group is: Focus on your goal and TAKE ACTION! The fear of taking action is prevalent with people everywhere! Thanks for showing us a demonstration of ‘HOW’ to overcome the fear…the child’s way!!!

  10. Hi Marj

    F E A R False Evidence Appearing Real – stops that forward motion for sure!
    Oh to be childlike in our thinking – not childish but just get up and go again when something hampers our forward direction.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Elise Berenger recently posted..Baby Boy or Baby Girl – Guess What?My Profile (dofollow)

    • Marj Wyatt says:

      Ah, Elise …

      I had forgotten that acronym for FEAR but it sure is a good one. Thanks so much for your comment, and for reminding me.

      Children are fearless. Their inexperience, mixed with the curiosity that comes from not knowing, makes them such eager learners.

      If we adults can just keep in mind that we are the architects of our own destiny and that the definition of success or failure is ours to make, we can keep the mindset of “failing forward” and use each step as a building block along our way.
      Marj Wyatt recently posted..How to Create Blog Content that Attracts SubscribersMy Profile (dofollow)