Richard Branson - why it's time to embrace failure

"Fear is something everyone must learn to cope with when tackling life’s challenges, but this is especially important for entrepreneurs..."

As Richard Branson explains in his recent blog, fear of failure is not something  the modern day entrepreneur should have to contend with. The amount of successful businessmen and inventors who have experienced vast waves of failure before achieving greatness shows us it can only be a minor setback, in fact in many cases these failures are responsible for the success which follows.

“During Virgin’s early years, one difficult decision we had to make involved Virgin Records, which at one point was in desperate need of cash to sign bigger artists. My partners, Nik Powell and Simon Draper, were split on what to do: Nik wanted to conserve our resources and slowly collect money through our retail operations; Simon wanted to invest heavily in Virgin Records, betting on the notion that we could find the next big artists that way. We needed quick growth, so I took the riskier gamble, following Simon’s advice over Nik’s. It turned out to be the right decision, but it took a lot of courage - and not just from me, but everyone on staff,” writes the Virgin Founder.

But how can we overcome the fear to give us the chance to make a similarily brave decision? Practise makes perfect, according to Branson: "The key to bouncing back is to learn whatever lessons you can from the experience so that you can avoid making the same mistakes in the next launch. This will help you to overcome your fear, take a leap of faith and try again.

"There were countless times during our record-breaking hot-air balloon trips when I wondered whether we were going to make it back down to earth alive. But every time, I learned lessons from making mistakes during previous trips and was able to adapt."

While many of us may have picked up a few bumps and bruises in the workplace, few are as extreme of this tale from the launch of one of the Virgin arilines. "A few years ago I was helping to launch Virgin America’s new route from San Francisco to Las Vegas - and upon arriving at our casino hotel, I was taken to the top floor, given a harness and told I was going to jump off the side of the building. It was dark and windy, and I knew I should go back inside and tell everyone we needed to postpone the jump. Instead, I was persuaded to go through with it. The wind was up, and within seconds I found myself banging down the side of the building, ripping my trousers and bruising my backside. It was an extremely painful lesson, learned the hard way. But learning from mistakes (and a combination of good fortune and adrenalin) is what has gotten me through on many occasions," explains Branson.

"Overcoming fear is not necessarily as easy as jumping off a building, but it might be easier than what you’ve done: Watching a business fail after putting your heart and soul into trying to make it succeed. But don’t be too hard on yourself. Starting a new enterprise from scratch and gathering the nerve to take risks that are similar to those you took last time can be daunting for any entrepreneur. Just remember that picking yourself up from a failed business in order to try again is the bravest choice you can make."

What's the greatest fear in business you've had to overcome? Let us know below...


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