jamie-wolf-2Failure is not an option! Or is it?  

Fail Frequently – Part 1 of 6

It may seem strange to you that I am getting ready to focus on failure in a column about how to start a business. I am a believer in the concept that you get what you give your attention to, so why would I direct our attention to failure when that is the opposite outcome that we are pursuing? Am I trying to sabotage you? Of course not! But failure is a taboo topic and therefore it holds both too much power and the wrong kind of power. Failure is like death or sex – it exists, it is part of every day life, but because our culture doesn’t encourage us to discuss it openly, it gains a disproportionate level of mysticism, confusion, misinformation, and fear. Therefore the fastest way to put failure in perspective and manage it successfully is to discuss it openly and get informed.


Here’s what we’ll cover in the next 6 installments of So You Want to Start a Business. First we’ll identify the problem and then we’ll explore the solutions. Forewarned, you won’t fall into these traps and compared to the average entrepreneur-wannabe, you will be miles ahead on the road to your success!

•            Failure to get started – procrastination, perfectionist, potential-action-results-belief cycle

•            Failure to prioritize – time management, busy work, measurement and outcomes

•            Failure to forgive – time, energy, money, health, wealth, relationships

•            Failure to be accountable – there is no free lunch, the freedom to do your own thing obligates you to be responsible, to excel, to develop yourself to the highest standards, and to be accountable for your own results, good or bad

•            Failure to follow through, to finish – quit, give-up, low resilience and tenacity

•            Failure to be open, receptive, willing to fail – open to new ideas, new behaviors, new standards of excellence, new scale/scope of what’s possible


What is the difference between someone who takes massive action and everyone else? The people who take action don’t let the fear of failure (or success) immobilize them.


Here are 3 main reasons people fail to get started. We procrastinate. We keep revising until some magical moment when everything is perfect. And we believe we have a certain level of potential so we take action according to that belief, get results in direct proportion to our action, and reinforce the belief.


•            “I bought a book called 52 Steps To Defeating Procrastination. I’ve still never read it – it was over 10 years ago, and I’m not even sure where it is now.” – Craig, Bedfordshire, UK

•            “When I was asked to write a 2,000-word history essay for my architecture degree, I waited to the last week to act. I decided to set all my other tasks aside so I could wholly focus on the essay. I locked myself in my room, and yet for the first six days I only wrote 100 words each day. My piano and guitar improved loads and I saw a lot of good movies but this was not what I had been planning. It was only when the stress of a deadline and the possible retake of the module reached breaking point on the last day that I managed to complete the last 1,400 words. What this showed me is that it is possible but I wish that I was motivated by something other than stress.” – Theo Roseland, Bristol


Here are some simple solutions for procrastinators:

•            Professor Joe Ferarri suggests breaking things down. “Procrastinators struggle to see the wood for the trees; I say cut down one tree. If that’s too much cut down one branch. If that’s too much cut me some leaves. Just do it!”

•            Professor Piers Steel believes in negative bribes – give money to a friend to hold for you and instruct them to give it away to a political party or cause you hate if you don’t complete the task

•            Decide to begin, then stop thinking. Start doing the task before you feel motivated to do it because the laws of physics state that it is easier to keep going once you’ve begun.


On the other hand, you may be a perfectionist if the word “should” frequents your vocabulary! There should be a right time or best time for me to get started. I should wait until I’ve edited the book again before I publish it. I should have all the information I need to eliminate ambiguity, chaos, and error in order not to fail.


There’s a difference between setting stretch goals to move your learning just past your comfort zone and aiming for unrealistic, unattainable ideals that actually become a crutch to never DO anything. At first glance wanting things to be perfect seems inspiring. Ultimately, though, perfectionists actually demonstrate sub-standard performance. They never execute, implement, or put something out that is good enough to get started and instead rely on the habit of excuses for why things should be different tomorrow.


What can you do if you recognize a perfectionist in the mirror? Acknowledging it is a big step. If you’ve spent a lifetime jumping between motivation and inertia you may need professional help. Overcoming mild perfectionism can be as simple as being kinder to yourself, letting go of who you wish you were and being who you are. Model someone you see who gets started with something that’s just OK; you will have plenty of time for improvements once you’ve done the hardest part by getting started.


Finally there is the cycle that fulfills our beliefs about our own potential. If you believe you can complete a marathon to raise money for a cause you care about, you’ll find a trainer, find teammates to train with, set a schedule, put your shoes on every day, eat the right food, get the right amount of rest, listen to motivation tapes, gather together supporters, and on the appointed day it’s pretty likely you will run 26 miles. When you finish running you’ll look back and know that you had what it took to complete your goal. And you’d be right.


On the other hand if you and a co-worker compete for the same job and you believe your lack of degrees will hold you back, you may not get the job. But if you’re honest you’ll acknowledge how frequently they stepped up, took extra work, trained extra interns, crafted new programs, learned new skills, made more sales – in other words, you’ll see they took action when you didn’t. They will get the job because they believed they could work harder, get recognized, and fulfill their belief in their own potential. You acted to the level of your belief in your potential, too. You just put your own potential at a much lower level. It requires real courage to honestly evaluate yourself and the true level of your beliefs and supporting actions.


What do you do? Learn to view yourself differently and learn to view failure differently. Get started! If events cause you to move in a new direction, embrace the change enthusiastically and give it your best effort. No excuses, no procrastination, no perfectionism, no low potential beliefs. No longer will you be someone who fails to get started!


Beaufort resident Jamie Wolf is the author of ‘Start Over! Start Now! Ten Keys to SUCCESS in Business and Life’ and ten accompanying guidebooks.  If you’re ready to be Master of your Fate and Captain of your Soul, she invites you to come on board! Jamie offers online courses and coaching for entrepreneurs and people interested in starting over or in starting their own business. Visit her at http://www.thestartover.com


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