I was 21 and had convinced a bunch of investors that my idea was the next big thing. For months I built the product, pounded the pavement and found buyers. It was really hard work and after a while I began to realize that I wasn’t going to get rich quickly.
On top of that, I had to face the investors and tell them that they were only going to get “most” of their money back. It was a difficult thing to do. I felt like a failure. My ego was severely bruised and I learned a lesson that I never wanted to repeat.
If you’re a leader in a community, of a family or a business, it’s inevitable that will make mistakes. Unless you have a heart of stone, this is going to hurt. You’re going to disappoint others; you’re going to do things that affect people’s lives; you’re going to face criticism; people are going to say things that sting.
Unless we’re narcissistic, most often we’re harder on ourselves than the other people judging us. We seem to hold ourselves to a higher standard than we hold for others. We seem to think that because we’re the leader that we shouldn’t make mistakes; that we’re responsible for the choices and actions of ourselves and the others who have contributed to each failure, demise or stumble.
Our ego is deflated, we feel like a catastrophe and often we sink into a depression.
But what is failure?
If I hadn’t failed in my first venture, would I have learned how to prepare for my next successes? Thomas Edison tried approximately 10,000 times to invent the light bulb yet he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Imagine how many times he picked his ego off the floor, how often he would have been discouraged.
A young single mother on welfare struggled to support her child. In her spare time, she dreamed of writing a novel. Ultimately, she wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and six more books in the series. Now a billionaire and considered one of the greatest business successes of the 21st century, J.K Rowling has said, “Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.”
How often does fear of failure prevent us from beginning? We dwell on the fact that others might think less of us if we make mistakes, that they might criticize our efforts or laugh at our folly. Because of this fear, we fail to step up and speak what needs to be said in our families. We fail to stand up and be counted in our communities. We decide not to risk our money or our time to live our dreams in business.
Yes, we’re going to disappoint. We’re going to make mistakes. People will talk about us and our egos are going to be hurt if we fail.
However, if we want to achieve something small or great, we need to take risks. We need to follow our heart and do what’s right. In business and in life, nothing happens if we’re held back by fear that change is going to take too much effort and that in spite of all that effort, we risk a dismal failure.
Forget your ego. Just focus on the possibility of what might be. Take the risk.
Troy Media columnist David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy.
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