How to Deal with Fear of Failure as an Entrepreneur

April 30, 2019

One of my favorite quotes is, “What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”
It’s from a 23-year old poet, a young Australian woman named Erin Hanson.

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”

This is how entrepreneurs often feel as they build their businesses.
So many of my clients tell me that they’re worried. That they have fear of failure.

Fear, Confidence and Your Comfort Zone

Every time we do something out of our comfort zone, we feel fear. It’s our body’s natural response to the unknown, an innate protection mechanism. It made absolute sense thousands of years ago when there was real danger constantly challenging our survival.
But in modern times, this fear, this negative voice in your head that tries to keep you within your comfort zone, is reacting fearfully to any kind of change that threatens this comfort. There is no real danger but you still feel the fear.
What if you could think about fear differently? What if you knew that every time you push through that fear, your comfort zone grows? Every time your comfort zone grows, you build your self-confidence.
In order to achieve anything in life, we need confidence, and as entrepreneurs we need lots of it. We need to stand in front of our potential client, confident in our program, confident in our pricing, confident in ourselves. We need to feel confident that we can actually deliver and give value to our clients.

The Lizard Brain

But confidence doesn’t come out of thin air. It comes from taking action. It comes from pushing through the fear. In one of my very first videos as an entrepreneur, I described this comfort zone and drew an ugly little lizard. The lizard is a good reminder that when this negative voice starts to speak to you, it’s coming from the lizard brain – as Seth Godin calls it.
The lizard brain doesn’t have the same importance as it used to thousands of years ago. There is very little immediate and fatal danger in our environment, but the lizard brain still works to keep you safe. It wants to keep things as they are, not doing anything new, not trying to get out of your comfort zone. Not making that phone call to ask for the job. Not reaching out to a well-known expert for a podcast interview. The lizard brain wants to keep you just where you are. Nothing new. Sticking to same habits, talking to the same people, day in and day out.
Do you know what happens when you do that?
You stay in your tracks and you continue to surround yourself with the same people year after year. There’s no progress. Entrepreneurs want progress. We want to grow. We know that being an entrepreneur is the biggest personal development journey we’ll ever go on. Being an entrepreneur, you’ve signed up for this huge personal development program whether you like it or not, and it’s all about growth. That’s not just growing your business but also growing as a human being – becoming the ultimate version of yourself. The best version you can possibly be.
[tweetshareinline tweet=”Being an entrepreneur, you’ve signed up for this huge personal development program whether you like it or not, and it’s all about growth.” username=”sigruncom”]

Track Your Lizard Brain for a Week

The lizard brain doesn’t particularly like that. The lizard brain would like to keep you just as you are. But here’s a practice I’d like you to do for a week.
Add an alarm on your phone that goes off about three to five times during the day at random occasions where you’d expect to be in the middle of something. Maybe not during client call or a mastermind session, but in the middle of writing an email, updating your website, going for a walk or run. When the alarm goes off, write down what the lizard brain is saying. You’re likely to discover that this creature that is hiding inside of your head tells you some really mean things.
When you write this stuff down, you realize, “Oh my god. I am listening to this, and I’m allowing this creature to keep me down, and keep me from moving forward”.
On a day to day basis we barely notice this negative voice. It’s there talking to us all the time. Despite all my practice doing this and other exercises, the lizard brain is still there. It constantly tries to keep me back. But by doing this exercise, it revealed a very negative demon inside of my head. A creature that was keeping me from going after my dreams. I realized that I had been giving in to this creature way too often. While I had done many things in my life, it might not be as much as I’d really wanted to do.
All these negative comments in your head when written down, are very much like the comment section on a trashy website. So commit to this exercise for a week, you will realize what a load of crap your lizard brain tells you.
The voice doesn’t go away but you’ll get better at ignoring it or listening less. By not giving the lizard brain the attention that it so much craves, you’ll have taken the first big step in stepping out of your comfort zone.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

After the first step of addressing the lizard brain problem, it’s now time to do something that you know is outside your comfort zone. If you’re already comfortable with Facebook Live, then doing a Facebook Live doesn’t count. Pick something that you’ve put off because of fear. Reach out to someone you’ve always wanted to interview, or to be interviewed by them. Directly contact someone who wants to join your program but hasn’t yet signed up. Ideally you do one of these things every day.
Many of these tasks will only take you 5 to 15 minutes. They do require some energy because you have to get into action, shut down the lizard brain, pick up the phone, write that email etc. but they generally don’t require a lot of time.

A Phone Call Outside My Comfort Zone

One of the biggest steps I took outside my comfort zone and ignored my lizard brain was when I made a phone call (hear me tell this story in my TEDx talk). It was probably a 10 or 15-minute phone call. In my memory it was even less. It was November 2003, and I wanted to be a CEO for the first time. I had no business education. No experience running a business.
Still this was the opportunity of a lifetime. I was already the project manager in the company and had been in contact with all the clients. I knew everything about the business, and the CEO was about to leave. The company had new owners and they did not have a particular person in mind for the job yet. I thought to myself, “If I don’t act today, I will miss out. If I get a no, then I get a no”. I knew it was now or never.
It was very scary. My mean lizard brain, trying to keep me safe, thought I was absolutely crazy. I would never get this job. Why would someone hire me? Nonetheless, I picked up the phone and called the company’s new owners. In the end, I got the job! It took 10 minutes to have that phone call. It took a lot of energy, but very little time.
What if you did something like that once a day?

What If You Fail?

As an entrepreneur when you want to do something but you’re worried you’ll fail, how can you take action anyway?
This often comes up on the hot seats in my SOMBA program and at my Sigrun Live events. I distinctly remember one of my SOMBAs on the hot seat – a literal hot seat in this case – talking about her fear of launching. It could have been anything really but launching was where her fear was focused at that time. I told her, “You’re going to have a launch that fails. The question is, is it going to be this one, or the next one?”. This was not what she expected me to say.
[tweetshareinline tweet=”You’re going to have a launch that fails. The question is, is it going to be this one, or the next one?” username=”sigruncom”]
If you anticipate that you will fail at some point, what is there to worry about? I don’t know a single entrepreneur who has only had success. My first launch failed. While I was able to turn it around and make it work but it was not how I had wanted it to be.
It’s a normal part of entrepreneurship to have failures and make mistakes. Sometimes we can make things work within a certain timeframe and sometimes we need to take a step back and figure out why things went wrong. We learn from it so next time we can do it better.

Entrepreneurship is a Mix of Failure and Success

Everything in entrepreneurship is about this mix of failure and success. There is no success without failure. I don’t know any entrepreneurs that have failure after failure after failure. Anyone who does probably doesn’t have the right support system in place. Because when I work with my clients and something doesn’t go the way they want to, we analyze it. We review what they did, what went well, what could have worked better, and next time they are successful.
Ultimately, if you pay too much attention to the negative voice that feeds your fear of failure, it will hold you back as an entrepreneur and as a person. I don’t want that for you, and I know you don’t want that either. The next time you feel that fear, remember, failure is inevitable. Maybe it’s going to happen this time or the next time. And that’s okay because that’s a part of entrepreneurship. The moment we decide to become an entrepreneur, we are accepting failure.
When you ask yourself what will happen if you fail. Remember this quote:
“What if I fall? Oh my darling, what if you fly?”
When you take action and actually do what you’re afraid to do, that’s when you can fly.

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