Are you being Self-Sabotaged?

“What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?” it’s a thought-provoking question that is usually credited to the late evangelist, Robert Schuller.   Many others have used a version of it.  It was the opening question by Regina Dugan, former director of DARPA in a great TED Talk several years ago when she made “nerd power” pretty cool.

Could fear of failing be holding you back?

There are very few who answer this question unequivocally “No”.  We all fear failure at some point.  That fear can be a real ball and chain on a business and on individuals.   “But, what if it fails?” keeps companies from entering new markets, launching new products, offering a new service, increasing prices, decreasing prices, adding employees or firing employees, …the list goes on.

How many innovations never made it beyond the point of imagination?  It was never even captured in print or recorded on audio/video because it was too bold.   How many great ideas were captured but never acted on for fear it might not work?  That it would be a waste of time and money? How different would the outcomes be if they knew they could not fail?

What if fear of failure held back these two?

In October of 1903, “the prevailing opinion of expert aerodynamicists was that maybe in 10 million years we could build an aircraft that could fly”!

…..Two months later the Wright brothers made their historic 120’, 12-second flight on the beach of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  (Excerpt from Dugan’s TED talk)

Very few business owners (or individuals) are intentionally trying to fail.  More commonly, we encounter what can best be described a self-sabotage, and that is ignited by the fear of failure.  Opportunities may present themselves but they are so afraid of the unknowns if it does succeed; that they intentionally make decisions that slow or completely squash the opportunity altogether.

An example of self-sabotage is when an opportunity arises that could significantly add growth and value to a business.  But for it to come to fruition, it may require additional staff or management., an increase in inventory, maybe an expansion, or additional training.  The fears of what if it does work?  what if it doesn’t work set in.  The business owner becomes paralyzed.  Instead of acting on it, roadblocks are created that prevent it from developing, effectively self-sabotaging the opportunity that in their mind they are ultimately striving to achieve.

Defeating self-sabotage and reducing the risk of failure…

In terms of your business or something on a personal level, what is something you genuinely would like to make a reality, but for whatever reason you haven’t?  If you knew 100% that you could not fail would you do it?  Sure you would.

There will always be some risk involved.  Risk is impossible to eliminate, but you can reduce it.  After you identify what it is you want to achieve, you must make a plan; develop a strategy.  There will be a series of events that will need to take place for things to take off.   Unfortunately, this is where most great ideas die.   The expansion never materializes, the new service never is offered, the new product remains a sketch on the back of a napkin, and your 80 hour work week continues.

The visionary sees two things, where they are now and the end result.   To get to the end result there needs to be a first step.  Take the first step. Self-sabotage hates the first step, because it knows when it is properly executed another step will follow, and then another. It can’t win.  What are you doing to defeat self-sabotage?

What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?    We would love to see your answer in the space below.

Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach