Risking Failure to Find Success!

Risking Failure to Find Success!

Did you know that Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas”? Were you aware that he went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland? History is replete with stories of famous folks who repeatedly failed before they began to achieve their dreams.

All-too-often we avoid new endeavors for fear that we won’t succeed.  We become paralyzed; terrified that we’ll disappoint ourselves and our loved ones, or embarrass ourselves in front of the rest of the world.

Here’s the conundrum:  In order to succeed at a new venture we have to be ready and willing to risk failure.  I frequently meet with bright, talented and enthusiastic people who would like to change or improve their lives but are petrified of the risk involved in doing so.  On the other hand I regularly meet with highly successful individuals who reveal the many times they’ve met with failure while on the road to success.

What makes risk-takers different from folks who are risk-averse?  Although genetics may play a role the major difference is that successful risk-takers have figured out how to stare fear of failure in the face and overcome it. Starting today here’s how you can take the bull by the horns and work toward success in 2013:

  • Start at the end:  Although it sounds like an oxymoron the most successful risk-takers happen to be planners. With this in mind carefully consider what your venture will look like once it’s a success.  Now create a roadmap to reach your destination by developing goals which are achievable and measurable.  By doing so you take some of the mystery out of your journey and thereby reduce your fear.  Secondly you increase the chances of success because you’ve figure out the steps to reach it.

  • Put your fear in context:  Understand that when you face daunting or unknown circumstances the primitive brain kicks in, responding as if you’re dealing with a life or death situation rather than just a challenging one.  If you recognize that your “fight or flight” response is out of proportion, it will be easier for you to feel the fear and proceed anyway!

  • Learn more about others who’ve succeeded: You’ll likely find that many people who’ve achieved great things “skinned their knees” repeatedly before they finally succeeded. Abraham Lincoln, for example, failed at a business, a law practice and several political campaigns before he was finally elected President.

  • Develop a thick skin:  Expect that as you attempt to develop a new service, product, invention, thesis or skill, failures will be necessary steps along the way.  If you repeatedly remind yourself that mistakes are normal and inevitable you’ll be less derailed when they occur.

  • Vow to turn mistakes into teaching moments:  When you meet with failure step back and assess what you’ve learned from your initial efforts. Then use your new insights to bring you a step closer to success.

  • Pick yourself up, brush yourself off and start all over again:  When you hit a bump in the road don’t waste time wallowing in self-pity or using your mistake as an opportunity for self-flagellation.  Instead get busy where you left off, steadily working toward your goal.

  • Reframe the conversation about unsuccessful attempts:  For example, instead of telling others that you came in dead last in the NYC Marathon you might tell them how delighted you are that you finished it. If you change the conversation you’ll eventually find yourself believing it!

Finally, many ventures don’t succeed because we throw the towel in when obstacles loom large.  In the simple but inspirational words of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, “never, never, never give up”.  Wishing you and your new venture every success!

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