Fear of Failure

AdaptThe Merriam-Webster dictionary defines failure as both a lack of success and a falling short. By these terms, failure is everywhere. The American dream is for success, but very few (if any?!) people stumble upon that million dollar idea the very first time. Why then, don’t we measure success by the number of attempts at something rather than the results? And if failure is so prolific and inevitable, why do we fear failure?

We thought of these questions this week as we were reading: Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure, by Tim Harford. Hartford, who is also the author of the bestseller The Undercover Economist and The Logic of Life and a member of the editorial board of the Financial Times, believes that you must

Learn to Fail to be Successful


According to Hartford, failure can teach not only what is wrong, but also how to do it right the next time. Learn from your mistakes! Perhaps that is what separates the entrepreneurs from the rest of us; that ability to try, try again.

According to Hartford, we shouldn’t be afraid of failure. We should RISK failure, and face up to it when it happens, because only then will we adapt. He devised principles for failing productively.

Tim’s Principles for Failure:

  1. Be willing to fail a lot
  2. Make sure your new ventures are on a scale where failure is survivable
  3. Spot a failure and fix it early

We’d like to add a fourth principle:

Approach failure as growth in your business.


You can hear more about this concept in his brief video:

Hartford says, “I think the world is probably a better place because of so many entrepreneurs who have been willing to set things up and ignore the possibility of failure.” We couldn’t agree more.



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