What is it that sets highly successful people apart from the crowd? Books have been written on the subject, interviews conducted and theories conjectured. To those who yearn for the answer, success becomes an enigmatic destination, dissociated with ideas of struggle, failure or fear. Quite convincingly you could argue the successful are born with an innate set of skills, they are genetic lottery winners destined for greatness. Perhaps they have the best contacts, are kings and queens of network and use it to their advantage. One such person who knows is Barbara Corcoran, US real estate mogul and Shark on ABCs Shark Tank. She took a $1,000 loan and created The Corcoran Group, which went on to be sold in 2001 for $66 million. “Building a business, I learned that you have to be good at one thing, and that’s called handling failure.” Barbara explains, “I am so good at failure it’s like my specialty. That ability to pop back up is true of anyone who succeeds in their field”. It is not that successful people don’t make mistakes, it’s that when they do fail, they fail quickly and move forward with an unwavering confidence in future success. Going about addressing failure when you are ambitious, fearless and gung-ho about your career seems a little counterproductive, but in order to reach the top it absolutely must be addressed. As J K Rowling famously remarked “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.” But failure is scary. There is not a person alive who at some point hasn’t felt that deep twinge of self-doubt, fearful of what might go wrong. You must be willing to accept failure as one potential outcome, there is no changing this fact. Try as you may, no amount of diligence can avoid it. Prepare for it, embrace it and let the fear fuel your efforts. If you fail, fail fast and move on, undeterred and better informed. Research conducted at State University of New York concluded that high self-esteem individuals recover faster from failure, and take from it a sense of increased persistence. Winston Churchill once remarked “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” The ability to recover and keep moving forward after you’ve faced failure has arguably more impact on your ability to succeed than any other. Frequently, it is the voices around us that perpetuate this profound sense of fear. There are few things certain in life. The old adage of death and taxes probably runs true, but so does the certainty that when embarking on an ambitious and often arduous journey such as starting a company, people around you will fill your ears with negativity. Warnings about the financial or professional risks involved in such an endeavour will chime out. You will face calls of bad timing, poor market conditions or questions about your preparedness. This is classic doom mongering, though it comes from a good place and caring hearts, for those close to you just want you to be secure and financially stable. It may also come from a place of jealousy, that you have the courage of your ambition and the advantage of youth. In any case, this type of negativity should be promptly considered, set aside and largely ignored. This projected fear is often the first you come across, and the first to be confidently addressed and overcome. Having dealt with numerous accounts of projected fear, you are now faced with your own fears. Exposing yourself to massive financial or personal risk strikes fear into the heart of even the hardiest soul. Risking public humiliation, or facing the doom mongers’ with news that you have failed in your endeavours is unnerving to the extreme. The only way to overcome such fear is through objective research and preparation, followed by clear, confident and decisive action.
The manifestation of the fear of failure is what you must take control of. Procrastination, inactivity and a lack of progress are all classic symptoms. How often have you failed to get beyond the title of a report because you can’t work out how to start, and don’t want to screw up. Decisive action, even temporarily in the wrong direction is far better than inactivity. Don’t give the fear of failure the power to stop you acting. Perfectionism is another symptom of this. Rather than a love of being meticulous, deep down it is a fear of failure, of making mistakes and disappointing people. Progress, in any case, is better than perfection, and slow progress is progress all the same.