When I grew up I was never really motivated to try something new by my parents or by teachers. “Keep your head down and avoid confrontation” – this pretty much was the directive. Avoiding risk and failure and ultimately avoid the embarrassment associated with failure. I learned a profession and the country I grew up in then pretty much pre-determined how the rest of your life would look like. Unions would make sure you are paid “fairly”, unions limited that you could advance when putting in extra effort, laws protected you from being laid off and if you would have to be laid off, a strong social security safety net would cover you.
Fear. The fear of failure. It is all over the place. We’re being raised and taught to avoid this fear. Follow a map and you will be fine. We are being taught that if we fail, people will look down at us with this “I told you so” attitude.
Somewhere along the way I met a co-worker who was a little different and while he was not the one who transformed me, I made some baby steps in a new direction – trying the unknown. I took a risk and I was actually rewarded. This involved $33,000.00 and more than once I doubted myself, but I had prepared this project with lots of detail. I had done so much research, I could not fail if I would stick to my plan. Before I ventured out to take on this challenge people around me were questioning what I was going to do. More interesting were their reactions after the fact when I was successful – there was some jealousy, there was some ignorance, but barely anyone congratulated me on being successful. I learned a lot from taking on this risk. Even though I had fear of failure, I was able to overcome this fear and to execute the plan.
A few years later I took an even bigger risk quitting my job, putting all my belongings into a suitcase and to leave home, leaving the country I grew up in. I actually moved to the United States of America. I had no job, no home, no friends, no nothing. I had a plan, I had enough money to survive a few months, I had motivation, and I had fear. But I did not let fear control my actions. I took action. I took a risk and it paid off. Some people back home where I grew up were actually disappointed that I did not fail and had to come back.
So, fear is good. If you start controlling the fear, you can tackle things you never imagined you would be able to tackle. One important step is to take initiative. We’re being raised to follow, to take orders – we’re not being raised to take initiative. People wait to receive a promotion at work. They wait to be chosen for a manager position. They are not taking initiative. The one who takes initiative risks to experience failure, but he or she also increases the chances of being rewarded. If you look at it from a business perspective – who is more valuable?! You know the answer already.
Let’s be clear about it – every business or venture in general needs people who follow. If everyone would be a leader, the business would be doomed. But we already know that the majority of people is going to follow, they are not taking initiative. They are afraid.
By accepting that you are afraid and that you have fear, you are also moving up one step. Use the fear and funnel it into something positive. Fear helps you not to run blindly into disaster and by not letting fear control you, you are able to advance and to take initiative. The moment you take initiative you set yourself up for success. Yes, you will still fail, but every time you fail you realize that failure is not the end of things. You learn from failure and the next time you try something new and unknown you can use the knowledge you gained from previous failures and apply it towards success. In the end you will be rewarded for taking a risk.