Today's post is brought to you by Melanie from Partners in Fire. Melanie is an older Millennial who decided that she’s over pursuing the “traditional” life that society told her she wanted. Her current goal is to quit her job in January of 2021 and start living the life of her dreams.
Failure is not an option. I’m sure you’ve heard that before – either in a group project, while playing a sport, or somewhere else in your life. We have a tendency to spin failing at anything as a giant red mark against our dignity and sometimes even our personhood. But what if I told you that it’s okay to fail?
I know, it sounds crazy. We’ve been taught that failing at something is akin to complete ruin. One failure will be catastrophic and destroy our entire lives! We’re so petrified of failure that we don’t do anything to help ourselves grow.
It’s Okay to Fail
It’s actually okay to fail. Hear me out. When you were a toddler, how many times did you fail at walking? Using the potty? Saying words? Of course, you don’t remember any of those things, but believe me, it happened every single day. And that’s okay!
You tried to walk and you failed so what did you do? You got up and tried again. And I’m betting that you walk pretty much every day without giving it a second thought (I apologize to any of my disabled friends that can’t walk – this analogy probably doesn’t work for you, but there is probably something similar that you learned when you were a child that became second nature to you).
Where Does Fear of Failure Come from?
So if we all failed thousands of times as children in learning how to become adults, why have we become so frozen at the very thought of failure? What happened to trying something, learning, and growing? At what point did any of that become a bad thing?
I think it starts early. As school children, we fear failing a test or a course, because failure can lead to being held back. The resulting embarrassment and ostracization that a child can endure from something this drastic can definitely produce a fear of failure. It only gets worse as we age. Failing a test in college might prevent us from getting the GPA we need to go to graduate school. Failing a course may prevent us from graduating and securing a good job. Messing up a presentation at work may get us fired. As we grow and develop, the consequences of failure do seem to get more and more severe.
So I understand where you are coming from with your fear of failure. Our society tells us that it’s life threatening. And that idea puts so much pressure on us to succeed that sometimes we freeze up and don’t even try new things.
But let’s explore that for a minute.
What Happens if I Fail?
Let’s explore what happens if you try something new and fail. I’ll use myself as an example. I started a Youtube channel recently – and guess what? My first videos are disasters. Epic, horrible, failures in film making.
Nothing. I’m still in the exact same position I was in before I started a channel. And, I learned how to splice videos together using Blender, learned how to add images to videos, and learned how to do a voice overlay on a video!
My first blog posts were huge failures as well. I wrote my little heart out, and got a big fat 0 views for the first couple months. But as I kept it up, I learned how to write and how to network. After 2.5 years, I still wouldn’t exactly consider Partners in Fire to be a success, but it’s getting there. All of those failures were learning experiences that helped me grow and become better.
I’ve had tons of business ideas that turned out to be failures, from e-books to flipping, dropshipping to product creation. I’ve applied to tons of jobs that I didn’t get. There’s been a lot of failure in my life.
What all this taught me that’s it’s okay to start a venture without knowing what you are doing. It’s okay to dabble in a bunch of things, and its even okay to fail at some of them.
Does Failing Make Me A Failure?
We have to get over the idea that failing at a thing makes us a failure in general. You see, you actually have to try a ton of things and fail at them in order to figure out what you really want. If you fail at something but keep trying and keep practicing until you get good at it, then you know that you really want that thing.
At the same time, if you fail at something because your heart just isn’t in it, then you know that you didn’t really want it in the first place. Failing at things can be a way we discover what we are truly passionate about.
It’s also true that there are some people out there who are just better at you than certain things. That’s not a bad thing – that’s life. There’s always going to be someone younger or smarter at something, and that’s okay. Losing out on a job to someone who was more qualified doesn’t make you a failure. It just means that one particular job wasn’t right for you. And that’s okay.
It’s Okay to Give Up
Another thing that I think needs to be addressed with failure is giving up. We’ve been taught from a young age to never give up, to keep pursuing the thing until we achieve it! And if we don’t achieve it for some reason then we are giant failures.
But the truth is that none of that is true. It’s okay to try something new, realize it isn’t for you, and give it up. How are you going to discover what you are truly passionate about if you don’t try a bunch of different things? If it turns out that you hate something, it’s okay to give that up and try something different.
Making Sure it’s Okay to Fail
So, now that we understand that it’s okay to fail, and where are fear of failure comes from, we need to talk about a super important aspect of failing, and that’s failing successfully.
I now, it sounds like an oxymoron. But, in our current society, failing at certain things can still have horrible consequences. Failing at work can lead to job loss, which can cost a whole host of problems. Failing at a business you start can have the same affect.
Therefore, we need to set ourselves up for successful failure. And what I mean by that is giving ourselves a safety net that makes failure okay. Here are a few types of safety nets that can help you get over the fear of failure.
The first thing you can do to prevent failing at a new venture from completely destroying your life is maintaining your day job while you start. Yes, it’s hard, and yes, you are going to put in way more hours than you ever thought possible. But you will also learn really quickly whether you are passionate about the side hustle or not.
I’ve been blogging regularly for over two years. It takes at minimum twenty hours per week – I do keyword research, write, edit, create images, and publish two posts every week. I also keep up with a few of my social media accounts, network with other bloggers, and updates posts when I can. That’s a ton of freaking work, and for the first 2 years, there was very little reward.
If I didn’t have my day job, I’d be dead in the water. A complete failure. But, since I have the financial backing of a day job, I have the freedom to build my brand on the side during my off time.
Another thing that can prepare you for failure is ensure you have some money in savings. If you want to quit your job and start your own business, make sure you have the funds available to support yourself when you first start. You need to know that you will be okay if you fail. That your entire life won’t fall apart if you your idea doesn’t become an overnight success.
How much money you need is up to you. Most businesses fail in the first five years. According to an Investopedia report as to why businesses fail, a common reason is finances. Businesses lack the financial backing and resources to keep going.
Although this isn’t part of that report, I’d imaging that people give up because they don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to their fledgling business. They can’t continue growing because they need to make money so survive. If you are going to quit your job and pursue this full time, you should have at least a year of living expenses saved up, and enough capital to get your business off the ground.
You can also build your safety net with a network. It’s far easier to quit your job and pursue a passion if you know that you can come right back to it in case your business doesn’t work out. But this isn’t just about maintaining your network – it’s about maintaining your skills and ensuring that there you can always find a job to fall back on in case you do fail.
Another way you can do that is by keeping you resume up to date, and continuing to add new skills to it. Having that in your back pocket, ready to go, will help you feel better about making the leap. It’s okay to fail if you have something you can easily fall back on, right?
A final safety net is a good partner. I know, we don’t want to rely on our partners to take care of us if things go south. We don’t want to take advantage of them or make them feel like they are trapped in a career they hate just so we can pursue a passion. That’s unfair to them, and can lead to a ton of resentment.
But, a good partner will discuss your plans with you. They will want you to achieve your dreams and help you make a plan to do so. They may agree to help financially support the family more while you’re in the starting phases. Or, they may agree to cut certain items out of the budget so you can build your safety net. Make sure that whatever the case, you are both on the same page, and you have an agreement of when you will call it quits and go to your fall back job.
Communication and making sure you are both in agreement as to how much money gets invested and when to call it quits is paramount. You can’t expect a partner to support you financially indefinitely, but you should have a partner who is supportive and wants you to achieve success. They may even help you build your business! But like I said, just make sure you aren’t taking advantage. And if your partner is giving more in one area (more money to support you, more time to help you) make sure you are chipping in more in other areas (helping with the housework, taking care of emotional labor). Partnership needs to go both ways.
Overcoming Fear of Failure
Now that you know where your fear of failure comes from, and have taken steps to make sure it’s okay to fail, it’s time to overcome your fear of failure!
Start with something small. Make a Youtube video and watch as it gets 0 views. Apply for a job that you know you aren’t qualified for. The more you put yourself out there and fail, the easier it will become. You’ll see that it’s okay to fail, and that will give you the confidence you need to succeed.