Embrace the idea of failure before it embraces you

Most of us small business owners fear failure, and for good reason. A fair amount of our self-worth is tied up into our business. What we do is naturally an extension of our identity and our passions, and if we were to fail, that would be a reflection not just of our business ability but of our core being.

Here’s the problem. Fear of failure can be paralyzing. But it can also work on us in more subtle ways that keep us from moving forward or realizing our vision.

For example, you may have an idea for a new product or service, or a new way to do business. But it would require a distinct departure or not-insubstantial change from something that is already working. Or it may take time away from your core business. This new opportunity is a risk, but it could also open up new markets and take your business somewhere you have only dared to imagine.

Here is where fear and common sense take over. 99% of the time, we decide to take the safe path and not expose ourselves to frustration, potential losses or even failure.

Fear of failure is a natural instinct for most human beings. Our brains have been programmed over centuries to avoid failure, conflict and harm and to always look for shortcuts and safe options. There’s a reason we often forget the small successes but remember the big mistakes and failures … so we never do those things again.

But by keeping our distance from failure, we sometimes set ourselves up for it. A good example is newspapers. Most of them were so afraid to fully embrace the Internet, so inured in their safe, profitable glass palaces, so comfortable in how they did business, so afraid of taking a risk, changing their business approach and failing, that they waited and waited until … you betcha, it was too late and they failed. Big.

So instead of running away from failure, make it something you examine, understand, even flirt with. It’s on the edges of failure where many people often make the biggest discoveries.