Q&A: How Much of Your Success Do You Attribute to Being Scared of Failing?
“I constantly remind our employees to be afraid, to wake up every morning terrified,” the Amazon founder wrote in a 1999 shareholder letter. “Our customers have made our business what it is,” he continued, “and we consider them to be loyal to us – right up until the second that someone else offers them a better service.”
Well, doesn’t he sound like a fun guy to work for?
No, I can’t say that I agree with the Amazon founder on this one.
Fear of failure is the death of innovation. Going against the grain, taking a risk, and, yes, risking failure, is the only way to improve on existing systems. You can’t really be an entrepreneur if you’re afraid of trying something new because that’s what entrepreneurs do. They create something new and push innovation forward.
If I woke up every morning terrified of what could go wrong, I’d never get any work done. I’d might as well stay in bed with my face hidden under the covers. Trust me, that’s not a good look for an entrepreneur.
Hell, I embrace failure. Failure is the world’s best teacher. Every time I fail, I learn what I can do better in the future and make my work even better.
I am willing to take a hit in the short-term to have long-term success. That risk assessment and is part of running a business. You have to see the big picture.
Sure, I understand that Bezos is emphasizing that businesses should never take customer loyalty for granted, but fear of failure is not going to help you keep your customers.
Fear leads to paralysis, and—when you’re faced with new demands, new technology, new ways of doing business— you’ll fall behind if you don’t have the courage to experiment and adapt.