There seems to be an increasing number of Indonesians that are interested in being entrepreneurs. Strong indicators of this interest are the numerous events that have popped up recently offering education, business forums, and courses in entreprenuership. Just last month alone, thousands of enthusiastic individuals flocked to two large entrepreneurship events, namely the Entrepreneur Festival in Jakarta and the Pesta Wirausaha in Bandung, West Java seeking knowledge and opportunities.

However, there are also thousands of people who pass up entrepreneurial opportunities for the same reason why people in general are reluctant to try something new in their life-the fear of failure.

Mankind has long been programmed with a natural desire to learn, improve or achieve something. This can be seen with the various technological advancements we have seen in the last two decades. Without this desire, we will still be living in the Stone Age. However, there are those that have become too comfortable in their perceived “comfort zone”. Any change is taken negatively rather than positively and taking a risk in something new is just not worth the disruption to their lives.

As such, you can expect a plethora of feeble excuses from these people to stay put and avoid the unknown: I’m not ready, I don’t have the time, I don’t have what it takes, I don’t have enough money, what will people say, how can I compete with others… and the biggest excuse for inaction would be: what if I fail.

Yes, I would agree that fear of the unknown and worrying are fundamental aspects of being human. It is a natural instinct of self-preservation. However, it is best to change one’s mindset regarding failure. Fear of failure prevents us from trying new life experiences: a new hobby, a new relationship, a new business, etc. Luckily, self-limiting beliefs are not unbreakable. Fear can be overcome. Worry can be rationalized. Failure can be mitigated.

First and foremost, we need to wrap our head around the fact that we need failure in our lives. Failure gives us feedback in order to succeed. Every successful person I have known has failed one way or another. It is how they used failure as a learning experience to bounce back and become successful again that is the hallmark of a true entrepreneur.

Secondly, for those who still tremble at the word “failure”, I would like to help you to refocus and re-classify failure as “practice”. A professional football player attempting to perfect a trick would have to practice it hundreds of times first during training sessions before daring to try it out on the big stage. Each of those practices are actually miniature failures-from the feedback he gets, he will attempt to either replicate the same action or change the way he is doing it in order to achieve the desired result. Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid Football Club is a perfect example of this. Many laud his God-given talent on the pitch, but few know of the number of hours he puts in after training each day practicing his craft to fulfill his ambition of being the world’s best. If we can do the same with our lives and keep practicing until we succeed, then every single failure we have brings us closer to our goal.

Once we get past the initial fear of failure, there are techniques to address worry and fear. My personal method is to remove emotions from the equation by triggering my problem solving mode. I do this by following the acronym AAAR, or AwarenessAnalysisActionReview.

The first is Awareness. You need to be aware of issues around you or pertaining to you in order to start this process. For example, you could read this article and forget about it in an instant, moving on to the next. Or you could pause and take the time to reflect on whether this article is applicable to your current situation. Awareness is simple, but also serves as the trigger. Similarly, new business ideas are conceived because people become aware of a need or want in society that has not been fulfilled to their satisfaction.

The next step is Analysis. When you analyse a situation, you mentally go through the different angles. Going back to the same example of this article, you could start thinking: Am I afraid of failure? What was something that I didn’t try because I was embarrassed about what other people thought of me? How do I want to lead the rest of my life? What I also like to do at this stage is play out the worst case scenario vs best case scenario in my mind. I will figure outwhat are the worst things that could possibly happen if I fail. I then think of the best things that could happen if I succeed. By doing this, I get a feel of what failure will feel like, but at the same time I start realising the effort it will take to succeed.      I will now make my failure threshold manageable such that if things go south, I can still survive. When you rationalize all your concerns, you will realise that you are much more objective in making a decision to take the third step: Action.

Action means making a decision on your analysis and acting on it. For example, you might evaluate a business opportunity and decide that it is worth a shot especially if the failure were manageable. Or, you could decide not to pursue it.  Either way, you have taken conscious action-be it positive or negative. If you decide to take positive action, it means devoting your time and energy to doing it to the best of your ability. After all, if you are not going to put in the effort, why start in the first place?

Finally, you will need to review your action. This is where most people would miss out on because if the action resulted in success, we would not think about how it happened, and re-visiting failure is always painful or embarrassing. However, it is the most critical step because this is where the learning and improving takes place. You will gain much by deconstructing your action and seeing how you could improve on it. Get feedback from others as well-constructive criticism is like fertilizer-taken the right way, it can help you grow. With feedback and self-evaluation, it will not hurt to analyse, revisit your actions, factor in a deeper sense of understanding and try again. Remember that things will never go right the first time… or even the 10th time. But success relies a lot on perseverance, patience and a willingness to improve.

Once you have made the decision to try something new, especially in business, do away with the excuses, gather your courage and take action. Turn your negative thoughts into positive steps that will bring you closer to your goal. This is probably the most difficult part of entrepreneurship-taking the leap into the unknown. This is also where you will find out if you have what it takes to stay committed. The truism of business is that there is always

 

a large gap between your expectations and reality, especially if you are starting up a business for the first time. Sooner or later, disappointment, frustration and thoughts of failure start creeping in. This is definitely going to happen so be prepared to deal with it.    In this case, you need to learn how to manage your expectations and keep focused on constantly improving the way you do things. Being passionate about your business helps a great deal to tide you over the difficult times. Eventually, people will start recognizing your efforts and you would hopefully have a small but steadily growing customer base.

Another thing I would like to add is to always ensure that you should make your business personal from the start. The one thing many people forget is that even if we own a business, we are still consumers at heart. We have the ability to be very critical regarding the products and services of others, but we accept sub-standard quality from ourselves. That’s why we need to believe in our product or our service and be constantly critical of how we go about running our business. I like to always ask myself – would I buy a product, or engage in a service that I am providing, at the prices I am charging? Am I giving my customers quality? Will I be happy with the level of service I am giving myself? These questions, if in the negative, would reflect that you need to change the way you do business because in all likelihood, if you cannot even satisfy yourself, there is no hope for your venture.

I am a firm believer that starting a business is about the freedom of choice, the passion for excellence and the desire to improve. It also teaches you so much about yourself. If I had my way, everyone would go through this experience once in their life because the life lessons you learn from something like that can only make you a better person.

Be it in business or in everyday life, if we dare ourselves to be a little bit more adventurous, confront our fear, muster the courage to try a few simple but new things or to pursue your true calling and savour the ups and downs, you will eventually succeed.  You will also feel empowered and in control because you took the opportunity and gave it a try. If you fail, brush it off as a learning experience and improve. After all, I can’t agree more with Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca, who says: It is not because things are difficult that we don’t dare, it is because we don’t dare that they are difficult.