Doubt kills more dreams than failure

Richard Branson smiling
Richard Branson Headshot Virgin Atlantic Tel Aviv
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 5 February 2018

“Doubt kill more dreams than failure” – I heard this wonderful quote from Suzy Kassem in conversation the other day and it got me thinking about the creative process an idea goes through. 

Most people start off thinking their idea is amazing, then realise the difficulties and begin to question it and think it is rubbish. This then manifests into self-criticism and self-doubt. If you manage to make it past that stage, you find ways around the difficulties and start to think, actually this could work and you do a full circle to thinking, actually, this is pretty great.

I’ve been through so many of these circles in the first stages of setting up a company that I try and recognise the stages and keep the doubting at bay.

When you first get an idea, it’s like a spark has been lit and excitement fires through you. You’re open to all the possibilities and everything feels possible. At this point, make sure you put everything on paper. Write down all your ideas, whether they are good or bad, get it all down. You don’t know what will be useful later. 

When you start to do the research, you will inevitably find difficulties on the way. Don’t focus on the negatives – turn the challenge into an opportunity. Looks for ways around your problem and keep pushing for a solution. This stage is the hardest and many entrepreneurs give up at this point – I nearly have on so many occasions. If things are getting you down, have a rest and a cup of tea. Quite often solutions come to me when I’m kitesurfing or having some downtime with my family.

Richard Branson archive photo from the early days of Virgin Atlantic
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We faced many obstacles when we took on the airline industry. Virgin Atlantic began with just one plane and we struggled to get backing from the banks as we had no experience. We were the underdog and faced many logistical nightmares and were up against competitors with huge budgets.

We realised we had to do things differently with memorable marketing and stay in the public eye. We found ways to protect our downsides and stayed loyal to our values. 

When you find the solutions, you start to feel the cloud lifting and optimism sneaks back in. You start to think that your idea might actually work. The momentum starts building  and finally you start to feel the excitement that you started with and think your idea is amazing again.

Had we not faced these obstacles at Virgin Atlantic and learned great lessons from them, then we wouldn’t have gone on to launch Virgin Australia and Virgin America, along with hundreds of other businesses in a number of different industries around the world.

The trick to making it round the full circle is not to give in to self-doubt. Keep going and most importantly, keep believing. Realise that you are the only thing stopping you.