How many times have you wanted to do something but for whatever reason you never tried? What held you back? Was it the fear of failure? Maybe ridicule from your friends and peers? A lack of support from your family or significant other? Maybe you thought about an idea so much that it started to sound stupid and you talked yourself out of it? It’s OK – I’m here to tell you that we’ve all done these things. We’ve all had ideas that have come and gone, and for whatever reason they’ve never been pursued. Most of the time, it’s based on some form of fear. Obviously, nobody wants to fail, but isn’t it better to try something than never try at all?
If You Don’t Try, You Fail
I am in no way the model of stepping outside the box and following every passion and dream. Fear of failure has and still does hinder me. Many people believe it’s safer to never try and follow their dreams because that way they’ll never ‘fail’. But I believe this is a backwards way of thinking – and that if you never try something, if you don’t pursue that idea you have, you’ve failed.
I think one major thing that holds us back is that we get into our heads that we’re not good enough. I’ve got lists of blog ideas, business ideas, designs, domain names, and so on. But I know that there are hundreds of better designers, bloggers, and entrepreneurs who have been around for years and have already established great sites, large communities, found a niche in the market, and so on. I ask myself, how could I ever be taken seriously? How can I ever hope to compete?
Maybe it’s not about competing – but instead, about realizing your own inner potential. We are better than we think we are – each of us has something to offer. Where do you think the industry leaders started? It all starts with an idea, and from there, shaking off the fear of failure and just doing it.
Every entrepreneur feels vaguely disreputable. Maybe you drive a crappy car. Maybe you never went to prom. There are enough stuffed suits in this world to fill fifteen Wall Street Journals a day. As anyone who watches American Idol will tell you, what this spun-out, over-hyped world is absolutely famished for is a little genuine personality. And, outside of your technology, it’s probably the only thing you have. So stop trying to be like IBM and just be yourself. -Guy Kawasaki
If we look inside ourselves, each of us can see that we have something to offer – some idea that (may have already been done) but can be improved upon. There is innovation and creativity inside each and every one of us. It is inevitable that every single thing we do, that every idea we have, isn’t going to be the next big thing. We’re not always going to be successful. I’ve tried my hand at blogging and pod-casting many times in the past and each one has been a bust – but through each past experience, I’ve learned something – I’ve learned that you don’t have to focus on just one topic, I’ve learned about the importance of showcasing personality through your writing, and I’ve learned how to better connect with an audience and encourage discussion. Now, I have a blog that I love writing for, and I’ve connected and networked with an outstanding community of people. It’s a small-scale example of overcoming the fear of failure, but an example nonetheless.
How Do You Get Over Your Fear?
There is no magic answer for this one. It really is about just doing it. And not only getting out there and doing it, but thinking about why you want to do it. Sitting on the sidelines and watching can be a good learning experience, but you really won’t get far until you walk up to the coach and tell him to ‘put you in the game’. All of us want to be starters, no one wants to be a bench-warmer. Don’t be someone who talks about what they want to do, be someone who does what they want to do.
Getting started is the hardest part. Mistakes are going to come, but failure is the key to success. With each failure, you’ll learn what to do (and more importantly what not to do) and you’ll be one step closer to understanding what you need to do to succeed. That domain name you’ve been sitting on for a couple years – do something with it, launch your idea, tweet about it, spread the word, get some feedback from your friends and peers. Start a blog, write about the things your passionate about, don’t worry about your audience for now – it will build in time. Write a business plan for a start-up idea you’ve had. (If) you’re in a comfortable enough situation - quit your job and devote all of your time to your own ideas. Take risks. Whether you idea is small or big, challenge yourself to look inward and take a leap of faith. In your later years, as you sit in your rocker on the front porch and look back at your life, it would be much better to be a ‘Has been’ than to have been a ‘Never was’. They say you should live without regrets – and while this might be impossible to do, at least live a life knowing that you at least tried.
Michael Jordan, one of the all time greats, was quoted with the following on failure/success:
I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.
DISCUSSION: What is something you have always wanted to do but never tried? What’s one idea that you can commit to pursuing. What fears do you have? What’s holding you back from trying? What inspiration can you provide to someone who may be reluctant to take the first step?