Setbacks vs. Failure: Why the Fear of Failing is Overrated

fear of failure | The F Word by Toyin Dawodu

Reading time 4 minutes

In my more than two decades of experience launching and running businesses,  I have come to recognize that fear is a HUGE obstacle most people never get around to overcoming.  Recently, I wrote my first book, The F Word, which is a content-packed handbook I wrote to help people recognize and get over their fears.

In the book, I take some time to identify the four major types of fears and how to recognize them in your own life. I walk readers through eight intensive exercises where we talk about our hopes and dreams, compare them to our realities then start weeding out the fears that are stifling our growth.

At the end of this week, The F Word will be available for you to download FOR FREE to preview the book before it goes live on Amazon. I encourage you to download this crucial playbook and also to download the supplemental workbook, which will guide you through an even deeper exploration of your fear triggers.

If you’re going to succeed in business, in relationships or in life, you need to conquer fear once and for all. I will teach you the tricks, strategies and techniques I’ve used to smother fear and live a fantastically adventurous life.

Yesterday, I talked about Fear of Success on The Magic of Real Estate blog. You can read that one by clicking here. Today, let’s talk about the second of the four major fears – Fear of Failure.

Fear of failure

The flipside of the fear of success is a fear of failure. This fear capitalizes on your desire not to be embarrassed or feel ashamed. It preys on your self-esteem with insecurities about your place in this world. The stronghold of a fear of failure is that it threatens to expose the “truth” about you to the whole world – that you’re not good enough. You don’t want people to find out that you are not good enough or that you aren’t who you say you are, so you hide behind this particular destructive fear.

Look, if you want to live a miserable, uneventful, constricted life, allow yourself to be dominated by a fear of failing. What is life without taking a risk? There’s risk inherent in most things worth doing – getting married, having kids, going to college, choosing a major, competing for a promotion, entering an art contest, skydiving, doing one night of amateur stand-up comedy, karaoke, Krav Maga training… you name it, there’s some level of risk involved in it.

Setbacks are not failures

I want to make the distinction very clear between a failure and a setback. A setback is what happens when something doesn’t go as planned. Let’s say you’re looking to buy an investment property and you find a vacant fixer upper in the inner city. You initiate contact with the owner and start negotiations to buy her property. Midway through negotiations, she asks you a question to which you do not have the answer and because you can’t answer the question, her faith in the deal is a little shaken. She pulls back. You panic.

That’s a setback.

You have one of two things you can do at this point: You can call your coach, get some advice and renegotiate, or you can tuck your tail between your legs, forget about the deal,  and turn a small setback into a big, painful failure. Setbacks are often unexpected and beyond your control. Failure is a decision you make in response to a setback.

Anyone who has ever done anything has probably grappled with a fear of failure. This fear is a staple for entrepreneurs and inventors. I mean, as a business owner, if you are investing your time, energy, money and resources into a venture, you want it to work well and work fast. An aversion to failure is a normal part of the entrepreneurial process. Over the course of the past twenty years, I have hired hundreds of employees and contractors to work with me and for me in different ventures. But to this day, I still ask myself the same questions whenever it’s time to recruit:

Is there enough work for him to do?

What if I can’t make money off the business?

What if I can’t make payroll?

What if I open this business and nothing happens? No one comes?

Do I have enough business to support an employee?

They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Well, let me tell you that a woman scorned is a light-weight compared to an employee whose check has just bounced. No business owner wants that embarrassing experience so, like clockwork, my mind runs that script every time I start recruiting talent for a new project. I ran this script before I hired my first employee and I ran this script when I hired my most recent employee. This is a constructive process though. I have to ask and answer these questions and the answers need to be satisfactory if I am to run a successful business.

The goal in this line of questioning is not to second guess myself, it’s to protect myself. And I know, at the end of the day, that if things don’t go as planned, I will develop a new strategy to accomplish my goal because failure is usually not an option for me. And it shouldn’t be an option for you. So, practice making the distinction between a setback and failure and make a choice to quickly bounce back from both.





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