Failure in Entrepreneurship

In this article, we’ll discuss what to do when you experience failure in entrepreneurship.

Failure is common for entrepreneurs. More than likely your first endeavor will fail no matter how smart you are or how much funding you have. Failure is often a part of the process of becoming a successful entrepreneur.

At the same time, the objective is success. You set your sights in opposition to failure. It’s a complex relationship. The intensity of the work and drive for success can nurture a fear of failure, which can be harmful to the venture. Fear can sometimes be productive but it can often be debilitating and lead to avoidance behaviors that end up sabotaging progress.

Taking risks puts you in a position where fear will show up. This is normal. It’s easy to imagine a one-dimensional attitude toward fear – overpowering it. But fear is a feeling, and a natural one at that. It can even be a source of strength and creativity. Here again, we see the almost paradoxical nature of fear. Letting concerns about failure drive you is limiting, but dealing with fear can motivate and empower creative solutions. So how does it work?

Confront Your Questions About Failure

You’re committed to your venture. With drive, passion, and creativity, you believe you have what it takes. To maintain the focus on success, you may find yourself forcing thoughts and feelings of failure out of your mind. This has a purpose, but it can create an avoidance of failure that turns into fear.

Instead of trying to get rid of those thoughts, deal with them directly. This has the quality of getting you in touch with fears and uncertainty, so the pressure doesn’t build up. When you take time to let the fear in, you set yourself up to overcome failure. Don’t stop with the question of “what if I fail?” – answer it. What if the worst-case scenario happens if you fail – what would you do? Most people stop with the catastrophe and don’t consider what comes next and there is of course, almost always something that comes next.

Embrace Failure in Entrepreneurship

There’s often a belief that embracing fear will just sink you into all the negativity that threatens to hold you back. The reality is that fear thrives in the shadows. When you move toward and own your feelings of fear, you ground yourself in reality. The reality is, your business might not make it. And that’s ok – failure is a valuable learning experience. Accepting fear as a good feeling takes away its power. Trust that feeling afraid won’t detract from your ability. It’s scary but it will free your mind up to make the moves your business needs.

It’s not you, it’s a feeling

It’s easy to get down on yourself when failure is on your mind. It might feel counterproductive. Sometimes it seems like those doubts are starting to define you, and they’ll derail your progress. The key here is that doubts and fear are only feelings. A failure is just one outcome. Feelings pass, and you aren’t defined by one setback.

There’s patience involved here. Be kind to yourself, reflect on what you’ve done well. You were strong enough to take a risk on yourself – that is the kind of thing that defines you, not moments of uncertainty or a venture gone south.

Use Failure to Your advantage

We’ve seen that avoiding failure in entrepreneurship can reduce your mind’s capacity. Dealing with these feelings constructively can actually be a source of strength for entrepreneurs. In The Dark Knight Rises, a Christopher Nolan film, Bruce Wayne thinks he is ready to escape because he’s not afraid.

Only when he makes the climb without a safety rope does he feel the fear that gives him strength to make the jump.

Don’t Dwell on Failure

This is a bit of a heavy subject. It can be a little existential. Let’s break it down into some practical action-steps.

Dwelling, or worrying about failure is the kind of fear that holds the entrepreneur back. Letting your mind run with indecision or replay painful scenarios will raise your anxiety level and sap your energy.

When these feelings are strong, let them in. When you’re overwhelmed, that’s ok. After a short time, commit to letting go of the thoughts. It’s like you are letting them in so they can pass through. It may feel counterintuitive at first. There’s no right way to do it, find out what works for you. Be patient, it takes time for these things to change.

Be Realistic

Failure is part of being a successful entrepreneur.

Sometimes, with your expansive vision of success, you might start to be over-optimistic. After all, you have to believe in yourself to get the job done. Coming to terms with flaws and limitations will give you clearer vision. And you’ve still got that energy that comes from trusting yourself.


Here’s one that’s easy to overlook when dealing with failure in entrepreneurship.

When demands at work have you stuck in a worrying cycle, turn your focus to yourself for a bit. Exercise is one of the most immediate, powerful things you can do for your mind. Running has a habit of targeting stress and putting things in perspective. Sometimes, after a good sweat, failure doesn’t seem like the universal concern it was an hour before.

You Can Overcome Failure

Your business may or may not make it. But you can overcome the fear of failure and by doing so, you take important steps toward creating success. Let failure be part of your success story.

Let fear be something that’s part of you, that you use to create solutions. Failure is inevitable if you are invested in doing hard things and fearing failure can get in the way of taking necessary risks and pursuing big ideas that can ultimately lead to success.

Failure is not limiting, fear of failure is.

Talk To Someone

Therapy for entrepreneurs can provide a space for you to process your work stress and perceived failures. Contact me today to learn more how therapy can help you in your journey as an entrepreneur.

About Michael Hilgers, M.MFT

I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor working remotely with clients around the world. I believe that everyone has the potential to change; to create new paths, to go in new directions. Life is hard. Counseling can help.

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