Fear of failure is the great equaliser in business. Every entrepreneur feels it. But the ones who succeed confront their fear and overcome it.
Think about the one thing that you fear above all else in your accounting firm…
It’s failure, right?
It’s natural to fear that you’ll fail to provide the level of service your clients expect from you. It’s only human to fear failure whenever you consider launching a new service or marketing campaign.
Some business owners fear failure so much that it paralyses them.
Instead of taking action, they stand still. They allow their competitors to move past them, while their fear holds them back.
At the end of the day, they might be able to say that they didn’t fail…
But allowing fear to control you and your business like this is a failure in its own right. By trying so hard to avoid failure, you can create an environment where you’re guaranteed to fail.
The simple fact is that failure is a part of any entrepreneur’s life. Name any successful entrepreneur and you’ll see a laundry list of failures sitting right alongside their successes. People like Richard Branson and Bill Gates don’t get everything right.
And they don’t expect to.
The thing that separates them from other entrepreneurs is that they’re not scared to try.
We’re going to share some of the key lessons you can learn about failure from the world’s most famous entrepreneurs. Whenever your own fear threatens to hold you back, you can remember what happened to these business leaders.
Richard Branson – Don’t Be Embarrassed by Failure
When you think of Richard Branson, you likely think of a billionaire who’s done it all. He stands at the head of a number of successful businesses under the Virgin umbrella. He’s an adventurer and a maverick who’s dedicated his life to doing amazing things.
And he has a whole catalogue of failures under his belt.
Take Virgin Cola as an example.
Branson launched that product in 1994 with the steadfast belief that it would compete with Pepsi and Coca-Cola. But in just a couple of years, Virgin Cola disappeared off the shelves.
Or what about Virgin Cars? Branson wanted to change an entire industry with that project. But that change never came about and the company shut down just a couple of years after its launch.
Some people would wallow in self-pity after investing so much time and money into such huge failures.
But Branson sees things differently. He says:
“Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.”
Your failures are not a reason to beat yourself over the head. And they’re not ammunition that others can use to drag you down.
They’re proof that you have the courage to try new things.
Yes, those new things may not work. But each experience gives you valuable lessons that you can take into your next venture.
Elon Musk – Failure Is an Option
We’ve all heard the famous quote from Apollo 13:
“Failure is not an option.”
And sure, that’s relevant if you’re in a life-or-death situation. But so many business owners take that quote a little too literally when it comes to their work.
Elon Musk isn’t one of them.
Musk is one of the world’s most prominent entrepreneurs today. And much like Richard Branson, he has several failures under his belt.
Musk got ousted from Zip2, one of the companies that he founded. And the same thing happened at PayPal. To add insult to injury, his forced exit came while he was on his honeymoon! Even with Tesla and SpaceX, he’s had to deal with failures.
Even so, he’s quick to say the opposite of the Apollo 13 quote:
“Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”
The point here is that it’s okay to fail. If you’ve failed at something, it means that you’ve taken on a new challenge and aren’t okay with sticking to the status quo. Sooner or later, your attempts to innovate will strike on success. And that success will help you to stand out from the crowd.
Aaron Schildkrout – Use What Motivates You to Push Past Your Fear
Aaron Schildkrout is a co-founder of the dating website howaboutwe.com. And he says that constant thoughts of failure plagued his mind while he was starting the business.
That’s a story many owners of accounting firms can relate to. In starting your business, you’re taking a big step away from your old role as a technician. You’re taking on brand new challenges that you’ve never confronted before.
The things that motivate you can help you push past the fear of failure. As Aaron puts it:
“…The idea of creating something out of nothing, something millions of people could use to find love, was worth facing failure for. So we learned to fail more quickly, pushing through bad ideas to arrive at great ideas.”
Think about what drives you in your accounting business.
Yes, you want to make money from your company. But you also have an opportunity to change people’s lives with what you do. Your unique talents can help other people achieve their own business dreams.
Use that fact to motivate yourself whenever the fear of failure creeps into your mind. You’re doing important work and you can’t allow fear to paralyse you.
Arianna Huffington – Use Failure as a Stepping Stone
The founder of The Huffington Post is no stranger to failure. When she was still a struggling author, Arianna Huffington had to deal with 36 publishing rejections for her second book.
Imagine the toll that must have taken on her.
That’s 36 companies telling her that her writing wasn’t good enough for them to publish.
Some people might take these failures as a sign that they need to stop what they’re doing. However, Huffington took a different approach:
“…My mother used to tell me, ‘Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s a stepping stone to success.’ So at some point, I learned not to dread failure.”
The lesson here is that you need to reframe how you think about failure. It isn’t something that you need to avoid at all costs. Instead, each failure is simply a milestone on your journey to becoming a better business owner.
Mark Cuban – Never Give Up
Mark Cuban is a billionaire investor and TV star, as well as the owner of NBA basketball team the Dallas Mavericks. To say that he’s a success is something of an understatement.
But that success didn’t just happen. Much like the other entrepreneurs on this list, Cuban has a long list of failures to his name. He was fired from his first sales job, at a computer store.
He failed to get his first business, which sold powdered milk, off the ground.
And in perhaps his biggest failure of all, Cuban didn’t see the potential in Uber. He refused to invest in what has since become one of the most well-known companies in the world.
And yet, he has still achieved an amazing level of success. That’s because Cuban does not give up:
“It doesn’t matter how many times you fail. Each time only makes you better, stronger, smarter.”
It’s easy to allow self-pity to overcome you when you take the risk to try something, only to fail at it. But those who achieve success take each failure and extract what they can from it. Then, they keep pushing towards the next challenge.
Bill Gates – Heed the Lessons of Failure
We’ve made the point that failure contains within it lessons that you can take into the future.
Nobody understands that better than Bill Gates. The founder of Microsoft, Gates is one of the richest people on the planet. And he believes that he’s built his success on the lessons that his failures taught him:
“It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
There are actually two important lessons here.
The first is that failure can teach you things, as we’ve already stated. But the second is that success can be just as dangerous as failure. While you absolutely should celebrate every win that you achieve, you can’t allow it to go to your head.
Success is not a reason to become complacent.
If you rest on the laurels of your success, you invite failure to your door. It may take a while to get in. But if you’re not doing anything to build on your successes, you eventually allow other firms to overtake yours.
Don’t Let Fear of Failure Stop You
The simple fact is that everybody who succeeds, in business or in life, fails somewhere along the way.
Your fear of failure will stop you from taking risks. It will stop you from making the changes that you need to make in your accounting firm.
That means your business will stand still, while all around it keep pushing forward.
The six entrepreneurs on this list recognise that their failures are also their greatest sources of learning. They’ve confronted their fears and achieved amazing things.
Are you ready to do the same?
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