Everyone who embarks on a new career journey or wants to start a business will have to face their fear of failure. If you want to start something new and change direction, the chances are you are stepping out of your comfort zone. I’ve been there, that’s exactly how I felt when I was starting DrivenWoman.
Let’s go back couple of years to the early days… It’s a rainy and dark late summer evening in London’s Soho district. We had founded DrivenWoman only some months earlier and were sitting in a co-working space where we used to hold our Lifeworking workshops. We were about to start the session and were expecting our participants to arrive. Those early days we used to offer tickets for free as we were testing our concept.
It’s 20 minutes past the start time, but no one has arrived. We sit there with Jennifer, my co-founder at the time, anxiously waiting. Another 10 minutes passes and still nobody arrives. Slowly we realise that no one is going to show up that evening.
Fear of failure started to seep in.
I never forget how I felt that night. Of course I was disappointed. But more importantly I was hugely embarrassed. I asked myself if had lost my mind. Perhaps our idea of a proactive women’s group was completely stupid! And why would they show up anyway…? Had we failed? And does anyone even care…?
The reasonable thing to do would have been to pack our things and go home. Make a cup of tea, watch a little bit of telly and go to bed. We could have concluded it was a failure and moved on. We could have taken it personally. We could have retreated to our comfort zone.
But we would have missed a great opportunity – a great opportunity to learn.
We decided to stay.
We sat in that empty room for the duration of our meeting and studied our emotions, we studied the pain we were feeling.
Why did we feel so embarrassed?
It felt as if someone was watching. Perhaps someone saw our failure. If anyone would know that nobody came, what would they say!
But we soon realised that no one could see us in that empty room. There was nobody else there, just me and Jennifer. Nobody knew of our momentary failure, it only existed in our heads. Our failure wasn’t a truth, it was only a feeling. If we could deal with the feeling we could learn a lot.
I’m very grateful we decided to stay in the empty room that night because we took out some great lessons about success and failure.
Fear of failure is only a feeling
1) It’s likely there’s nothing wrong with your idea or you
The reason nobody showed up that night had nothing to do with our idea or us. It was nothing personal. We simply hadn’t been around long enough to sow enough seeds. We also offered tickets for free and because the weather was pretty dreadful that night, people simply didn’t bother because there was no commitment.
2) The Universe is slow. You have to give it time to catch up with your plans.
Things take time. Things take much longer than you allow even in your worst case scenario plans. Luckily someone had told me that when you are building something, nothing happens in the first two years. That gave me a more realistic outlook on things.
3) You must accept it’s difficult
Trying to get people to hear your story or buy your product is incredibly difficult. It feels bad when you have poured your heart and soul into a project and nobody shows up, but you simply have to accept it as part of the process.
4) Momentary failure is ok
Nobody can reach their goals without facing fear of failure and feeling momentarily defeated. It’s part of the process. If you can’t accept that, you won’t succeed.
5) There’s a reason for a rejection
There’s a reason people don’t pay attention to your story and you are yet to discover it. Perhaps you haven’t shared your ideas with the right people. Perhaps you haven’t packaged your product right. You haven’t made it relevant to your customers. Or you haven’t been consistent enough. Or you haven’t repeated your message enough. Or you don’t even know how to talk about it. There may be many reasons for feeling like you’ve failed. Your job is to find out what it is and raise your awareness.
Facing rejection, an empty room, is very hard. I understand why people give up their projects and why they quit.
But they shouldn’t.
I’ve faced the feeling of an empty room many times since that rainy night in Soho. I’m now very grateful for that experience because I know what to do.
When you find yourself in an empty room feeling rejected and like a failure try to do what we did that night. Stay in your pain. Just sit there and be quiet. If you can stay in the feeling of failure and rejection, if you can be still, all answers will come to you.
But if you rush out of the room, if you seek comfort, you will miss out. You will never learn that lesson. You will return to your comfort zone, you will return to your familiar domain. It’s familiar and cosy for a reason – you already know everything. There’s nothing to learn.
You can only expand your experiences and knowledge in the area of pain. Be brave and fully feel it and you will come out stronger and wiser, knowing exactly what to do next.
~ Miisa Mink is the founder and chief-doer at DrivenWoman