How many times have we heard things like, “Failure is not an option”? It is said so often, it has become a part of our cultural zeitgeist. We say it as if there is some virtue in not considering the possibility of failure. The very idea that one can avoid failure for any sustainable amount of time is little more than magical thinking, and should be mocked when encountered.
Another pithy bumper sticker is, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. This is yet more meaningless sophistry that, if anything, only serves to set us up for, you guessed it, failure.
For those of you paralyzed with the fear of failure, here is your word for the day: Atychiphobia. It means, the fear of failure. If you have a morbid fear of failure, one of two things is likely to happen: Either you refuse to try anything you are not absolutely certain will succeed, or you will convince yourself that you are shielded from failure, only to crash into a dangerous depression when you and failure are formally introduced.
Failure is not something to be feared, but understood. The problem with the adage about planning to fail is that is makes planning to fail sound like a bad thing. But once failure is properly understood and contextualized, you will realize that we should absolutely have a plan for failure. It is the only reasonable thing to do. Here are a few reasons why:
We Have Lifeboats for a Reason
Only a fool goes down with his ship when it is full of lifeboats. We have those lifeboats for a reason. One might even say that a lifeboat is failure preparation. A ship’s captain has a professional obligation to do everything he can to ensure the safety of his ship and crew. That professional impulse must be balanced against the human impulse to live and fight another day. In a sense, the lifeboat is the line of demarcation between the professional and the personal.
In the business startup world, your lifeboat is your buffer between professional disaster and personal security. If you don’t have one, you will go down with your ship whether or not it was absolutely necessary.
A solid financial plan that keeps your personal resources safe from business failures is your lifeboat. Having such a buffer is wise, and it affords you the opportunity to try again at a later time. In that way, a business failure can be a learning experience, not an extinction level event.
Failing to plan for failure will necessitate drastic measures if your personal life is to be salvaged. Mortgaging your home and going into personal debt up to your eyeballs for a business venture may seem heroic at the time. But one false move means that you and your family are financially ruined.
Instead of moving on to your next business venture, you will be headed for the nearest Internet connection hoping to find whatever information you can about credit repair. Repairing one’s ruined credit is certainly possible, but difficult when tackled alone. Legal firms specializing in this area can not only answer your questions about credit repair, but walk you through all your options from debt consolidation, to bankruptcy, and everything in between.
While it is nice to know there is a safety net, it is better to have a buffer between professional risk and personal resources. Use the lifeboats that are available.
Sometimes, the Bear Gets You
If you are not completely sick of aphorisms, here’s another: Sometimes you get the bear; sometimes the bear gets you. To be sure, it is a grizzly little turn of phrase. It just means that you’re not going to win all the time. If you win all the time, you are not competing often enough, or at a high enough level. According to Forbes citing Bloomberg:
8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. A whopping 80% crash and burn.
Are you really such a good bear wrestler that you don’t think you need a plan in case the bear gets the upper hand? Do you really think your chances of failure are significantly lower than everyone who has come before you? At some point in your endeavors, how are you not a part of the 80%? Hint: you are! You need to prepare for failure because it is statistically inconceivable for you to avoid it for long.
Success is Like Riding a Bike
When they say a thing is like riding a bike, they mean it is easy once you learn how to do it. But I think the expression works better if we remember what it was like to learn how to ride a bike. It is one of the few things our parents encourage us to try to do that they are almost certain will result in our falling and hurting ourselves multiple times. That is why they buy us safety pads and helmets.
To learn to ride success like a bike, we are going to have to fall and skin our knees, probably on multiple occasions. Preparing for those failures insulates us from the worst of the damage. Like riding a bike, if we were not prepared for the falls, we would hurt ourselves too badly, and likely not try it again. Startup success is the same way. Preparing for failure is the surest way to prevent it from hindering our ultimate success.
Article Submitted by Jane Brown.