Over the past few weeks I have been looking into a few business opportunities. When I tell people what I have been working on they get this weird look on their face, and then ask something like, “Why? You’ve never done that before.” I simply remind them that I had never built a consumer software product before InternetSafety.com either.
Our society teaches us that failing is bad. If you fail at school, you will never get a good job. If you fail at work, you will lose your job and will not be able to pay your bills. If you fail, your friends will laugh at you.
If you think about it though, there are plenty of places where failing has actually made us better. You can ride a bike because you spent some time falling off of it. The first time you jumped into a pool you didn’t know how to swim. Even learning to walk was only accomplished by failing over and over again.
I have seen this fear of failure hold people back from their full potential. Sometimes these people have great ideas, and the skills needed to make it a reality. They are just seem to be frozen in place by the fear of failing. They think things like: “If the business does not succeed I won’t be able to pay my bills”, “If I leave behind a good job now, I may not be able to replace it later”, or “All of my friends that told me not to do this will laugh at me”.
Rather than give into these fears, I choose to turn them into motivation. I know this alone does not eliminate failure for me– I am just as prone to fail at something new as anyone else. However, instead of fearing that failure, I see it for the learning experience that it is. For example, I can snowboard because I spent enough time falling down the mountain, and soaking sore body parts in the hot tub, to learn how to get from the top of the mountain to the bottom without falling.
I also understand the need to try and manage risk, rather than just diving into a challenge. It is like learning to scuba dive. The instructor does not strap an air tank on you, push you into the water, and take you down to 50 feet for the first lesson. Instead, you spend hours in a pool learning, and practicing. This allows you to make a mistake, and still be able to get to the surface, without the risk of drowning.
So, when people say, “Are you crazy? You’ve never done that before”, I simply remember that I am not afraid to fail. If I do fail, the lesson was something I needed to learn, and I now I have done my best to eliminate, or understand, the risk of what I am about to undertake.