Great ideas take flight when you are free of fear. Everyone faces fear, and that includes innovative, successful entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur’s very job is to swim upstream. The trick to succeed as an entrepreneur is positive thinking, so that you maintain faith in yourself and in your ideas despite doubt. If you want to be an innovator, a creative disruptor, you must embrace uncertainty and reject the very concept of failure. Whether your start-up succeeds or not, your career will benefit. See below three keys to overcoming your fears and becoming a successful entrepreneur
“Passion, creativity, and resilience are the most crucial skills in business. If you’ve got those, you’re ready to embark on the journey.”
Jo Malone, founder of Jo Malone.
#1 See Uncertainty as Inherent in any New Possibility
Think back to the successes in your life, the achievements you’re most proud of. Then try to remember how you felt when you set out to obtain the achievement. Do you have a degree from a university? Congrats! But I’ll bet you didn’t get to graduation without feeling a lot of uncertainty. Conjure up the emotions pulsing through you on the day your family dropped you off. Thank back to the first few weeks on your own, with the enormous lecture halls and the intimidating professors. If you’re honest with yourself, you doubted more than once if you were going to successfully manage college life and graduate in four years. So did I!
But college was worth the struggle. That diploma on your wall opened up so many opportunities to work with your choice of inspiring people and be offered jobs by impressive companies.
I remember a similar feeling of uncertainty when I started my own wealth management company. I never took it for granted that my plans would become reality. Even today, as I continue to innovate — always looking for ways in which my company can better serve our clients — I know that some ideas will work, and some will not. To deal with doubt, I use positive thinking. There is no growth without risk.
#2 Redefine Success
Most new businesses will not survive until they turn a profit. Even those that eventually become profitable face setbacks and challenges from day one. That’s okay because there is more than one way to succeed as an entrepreneur.
Success may not look like the business that the founder imagined. Play-Doh is a great example of a business that faced a changed market and pivoted its business successfully. As recounted in Smithsonian Magazine, the product we know as Play-Doh was originally designed to clean coal soot off of wallpaper in the 1930s. By the 1950s, fewer and fewer homes used coal for heating, and Play-Doh’s customer pool dried up. The founders needed a new idea. They heard about a teacher who used the product as clay in her classroom. The company ran with that idea, added some colors to the product, and the rest is history.
Even start-ups that don’t endure like Play-Doh can be considered successful. No business is a failure if it positively impacts the lives of the people it serves. A fresh grocer, for instance, would have brought nutrition to people living in a food desert. Even if it only lasted a few years, the grocer gave neighborhood parents access to proper nutrition for their kids, which is crucial to their healthy development. Similarly, a short-lived bookstore could have sparked a love of reading and writing in someone who would change the world with her writing.
#3 Eliminate “Failure” from your Vocabulary
One failed start-up, or several, does not make an entrepreneurial failure. It’s only when you let failure define how you think of yourself, that you’ve actually failed. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs used the valuable lessons learned from early failures to build a platform for much greater success.
Recent research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research and reported on by Harvard Business School’s website backs up the idea that however a start-up performs, its founders are better off for having taken the chance. The white paper is titled Failing Just Fine: Assessing Careers of Venture Capital-backed Entrepreneurs Via a Non-Wage Measure. Its authors analyzed a database of 5 million resumes and found that those who quit their salaried job and founded a start-up usually came back into the business world with more seniority than their peers on the traditional career track. And that benefit was felt across the board, by founders of successful start-ups and by founders whose businesses did not succeed.
A great deal of work goes into launching a start-up. But preparation by itself won’t propel you to quit your current job and make the leap of faith necessary to become an entrepreneur. Positive thinking is necessary. Follow the advice in this article and you’ll be well on your way.