Life after Startup – Fear of failure

Fear of failure

It’s the middle of the night, my eyes are wide open and my mind is racing. Many “What if..” questions linger in my mind.

What if I don’t manage to round up enough sponsors for the event, what if people end up not liking the concept of the event, what if I’m simply not as good at this as I thought?

I recognize this pattern. It’s a pattern I have gone through plenty of times during my entire startup life and by now I know better than to let it get to my head, however I cannot turn it off on command.

Fear of failure and anxiety is something I have always struggled with, but I have learned that with patience and hard work, they slowly fade.

So if you thought that entrepreneurs that have started multiple companies don’t suffer from this, think again.

Confident doesn’t mean free of anxiety

To the outside world most entrepreneurs come across as fearless and confident. It’s an image that is reinforced by the media but also by entrepreneurs themselves.

Often if entrepreneurs (me included) don’t know each other very well, it will seem as if everything is always going great. Especially if a bit of ego is involved. Also my male entrepreneur friends are much less likely to share their anxiety than my female entrepreneur friends.

The reality of a startup however is that something is always not going well.

Whether it’s people in the team that are not at their best, or the sales is in a bit of slump or operations are running behind their deadlines.

On top of that there are thousands of things that are completely outside of your control, like the economic climate, wars, inflation you name it.

This means that at the end of the day, when everyone has gone home, I would still be left drilling down on the problem in my head.

Anxiety as a powerful focus machine

At first anxiety can be overwhelming. My brain will start to question everything and start making lists of things I should be doing and other things I should be doing better. However as I have grown older I learned to also let this run it’s course.

The reason is that this anxiety has often served me well. It has pushed me to some of the most creative solutions or wildest outcomes.

For example before starting to be part of the Superconnectors team I didn’t really have lots of experience with the events sector. This is exactly what I found exciting. At the same time I also didn’t want to come across as unprepared.

So I buckled down in putting together a research document on all franchised events that I could find. I also interviewed people that organized events and asked around in my network if anyone knew people that organized a TED conference.

I even went as far as reaching out to one of the founders of one of the events that I admire the most (Fuckupnights) on LinkedIn. Something that could come across to the founder as yet another weird guy in their LinkedIn inbox..

Let the anxiety work for you

To my surprise everyone was very open and willing to share their experience once I shared what I was not sure about or what I felt insecure about.

Even the founder of Fuckupnights, someone that gets approached all the time, took the time to have a super inspiring call with me.

The only thing pushing me was this sense of not having all the information needed to do excellent work.

And now looking back at this I realize it got me results that would have not simply fallen in my lap otherwise.

So next time you start something new and you feel anxious, don’t let it stop you, instead let it work for you.

No matter how tough entrepreneurs look, underneath the surface they can sweat as much as anyone else.

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