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Let Go of Your Fear of Failure

10/19/2013 08:21 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

"Fear is only as deep as the mind allows." Japanese Proverb

Unbeknownst to each other, my friend Fay and I had been listening to the same CD on failure as we drove to our lunch meeting. So naturally once we'd ordered our lunch, we started to chat about the stories on the CD.

Somewhat sheepishly, I shared that I'd never really failed at anything, but my friend, as friends will do, quickly pointed out one of my ventures that hadn't worked out well. And therein lies the difference of perception.

You see, I never saw that as a failure, more something to learn from and move on. Yes, it hurt at the time, but if you let other people determine your feelings, then they are in control and they've won.

My definition of failure is different. Failure to me is when you lose tons of money and your world bottoms out. That I have never experienced. Have I made mistakes? You bet, but to me they are lessons to be learned.

Now I haven't always felt that way. Years ago I would beat myself up when I goofed, but I have learned not to be so hard on myself and to let go of the need to be perfect, because I am not.

But as a society we still judge people on their outcomes -- whether they are a "success" or not -- and instead of accepting them for who they are inside, we measure their place in the world by what they have achieved.

As a result, women in particular have such a fear of failure, avoid taking risks and putting themselves out there. And it is too bad. I remember being with a group of small business owners who were sharing their dreams and aspirations, when the conversation turned to what would hold them back from success. The outpouring of negative thoughts -- "I've never succeeded at anything, why should I now?" to "I am not good enough." -- came so quickly from the women, it almost made me cry.

Why do we do this to ourselves? And how can we counter these gremlins, these voices inside our heads that put us down and take pot shots at our ideas and dreams?

The trouble is if we don't believe in ourselves, how can we expect others to do so? And it does all start with how we feel inside, but maybe there is some merit in that old saying of "fake it until you make it." When you give the outward appearance of being confident, people are more likely to believe in you.

Surrounding yourself with people who believe in you and are your cheerleaders is also important. Get rid of the naysayers and "Negative Nellies" -- you don't need them. If it is your partner or family, it is harder, but you can screen/ignore their input and seek out others who get you and what you want to do.

Do your homework. Think through your business idea. Research what others are doing and come up with solutions to the worst case scenarios, so if they happen, you're ready with battle gear on.

You don't have to start big either. Maybe test out your idea before you leap in. Many people keep their day jobs and work on their businesses on the side. Tough to do, but it keeps food on the table and bills paid while you explore the world of entrepreneurship.

But my main message is to rethink your definition and fear of failure. Ask yourself what is the worst thing that could ever happen? One of the stories on the CD was about a woman who spent so much time researching her business idea, that when it came time to finally launch, she'd missed the boat. Her advice was to accept that your business isn't going to be perfect at the start, but to just start, to leap in and get going.

Many super-successful people will tell you that it was through failure that they learned the most, and from there went on to become the success they wanted to be.

As Steve Jobs said, "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure -- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important."

So just go for it.

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