Having spent the last ten days in Germany and the UK and talking to hundreds of young entrepreneurs and students, one topic which kept popping up again and again was the notion of failure and how to deal with it. For some bizarre cultural reasons failing is something which is still not accepted in large parts of Europe: People literally fear that they will be marked for life if they fail; that they won’t get another job if their startup went down the drain; that people will look down at them.
It drives me crazy.
Fear of failure is the number one reason why some of the best companies are never built, why some of the most important discoveries are never made and why people spend forty years in jobs they hate (or are indifferent about at best). All for the perceived benefit of a “secure job”.
I don’t know how to change a whole culture — other than to try and change person by person (which is the reason why I cherish every interaction I have with an aspiring entrepreneur). It’s simple — just ask yourself this one question:
If I fail — what’s the worst that can happen?
If your answer is not death, complete financial ruin for life or a significant illness — do it. There is nothing to fear. Worst case you fail and learn something. And that something will be more than you could ever learn from a book, a college course or any other form of education. More likely you will actually not completely fail. Something will come out of it. One thing often leads to another. You just need to start walking.
The next time you hear someone say that she failed — ask: “What did you learn?”. And congratulate her on her gumption and the general awesomeness of starting.