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 entrepreneurship. Just last month alone, thousands of enthusiastic individuals flocked to two large entrepreneurship festivals in Jakarta and Bandung 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. There are those, however, 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?
It seems 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.
Steve Jobs was a shining example of being able to sustain failure. Today, we remember him for his turnaround at Apple and the introduction of life changing devices such as the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad and the new iMac line of computers. However, few would remember him being forced out of a boardroom coup at Apple in 1985 after a run of bad products (the most notable being “Lisa,” a computer that costs tens of millions to develop but was considered an epic fail), or his attempt at starting a competing company, NeXT which ended up as a flop — depending on which side you are standing on (Apple bought NeXT for $429 million in 1996 as part of the deal to hire Jobs back). As Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak mentioned in the Innovation and Creativity seminar in Jakarta last month, it was Jobs’ failure in his previous stints that drove him to do better when he returned to the company he founded.
Secondly, for those who still tremble at the word “failure,” try to refocus and re-classify failure as “practice” or “experimentation.” 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 these 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 FC 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.
Finally, we need to manage and learn from failure. Know your limits and fail within the “safety zone,” that is, when failure occurs, it is not catastrophic or affects your life in an adverse manner. You also need to stand up to failure. Analyze what created that failure and treat it as a life lesson. Don’t run away from it and try to bury your head in the sand like an ostrich. Most of all, never be afraid to attempt again. I like to think the cost of failure is akin to your “tuition fee.” By making mistakes and failing, you are gathering life experiences that give you the insight to improve and become 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 savor 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. After all, we all need to get around the fact that failure is part of life, and is also a necessary step towards success. Once you dare to fail, you are on your way to success.
Brandon Chia is Chairman of HDI Group of Companies and recently assigned to oversee the business unit in Indonesia.