Saturday, May 16, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - Fear #3 of entrepreneurship

"I'll fail."

A hallmark fear for anyone starting anything new - whether it's a business, a new job, getting a degree, starting a relationship, moving to a new city. Every time that we adopt a change in our lives, we open ourselves up to the risk of failure. The flip side of that possible failure is a tremendous upside for growth, learning, and improvement of our current situation.

Failure has a very negative connotation in our culture, and it's often unwarranted. Failure means to discover what doesn't work. Knowing what doesn't work puts us one step closer to knowing what does work. And once we know what doesn't work, we can correct it and move forward. Peter Skillman of Palm is famous for advocating for early failure. Try something. If it doesn't work, switch gears, and take another run at it.

Whenever I am afraid of failing, I consider what I would have to do to completely protect myself from it. And the answer is often that I would end up not doing anything. That's no way to live. Our time on this Earth is too brief, too precious, to stand still for every long. Life is about experience, and with every new experience comes the risk of failure.

Like death and taxes, failure is a part of life. It can be a wonderful teacher if we cast in that role in our lives. Whether it changes our lives for better or worse is largely up to us - it all depends on what we do with the lessons it teaches us. Do we use them as valuable information or do we take them on like a yolk, a source of discouragement and despair? How we look at and use failure says a lot about how we live our lives.

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