How you can overcome fear of failure


J.K. Rowling’s post On Writing describes finding her courage when she felt like a failure:

Fear of failure is the saddest reason on earth not to do what you were meant to do. I finally found the courage to start submitting my first book to agents and publishers at a time when I felt a conspicuous failure. Only then did I decide that I was going to try this one thing that I always suspected I could do, and, if it didn’t work out, well, I’d faced worse and survived.

Ultimately, wouldn’t you rather be the person who actually finished the project you’re dreaming about, rather than the one who talks about ‘always having wanted to?’

J.K. Rowling

Ironic that all too often we hold ourselves back from achievement. The #1 regret of the dying is that they didn’t live a life true to themselves.

Failure itself can actually empower us to overcome our fear of it. If you aren’t failing, you may be playing it too safe.

If you aren't failing, you may be playing it too safe. Click To Tweet

The best product teams fail a lot. They experiment, which is naturally fraught with failure. In a world with more uncertainty than ever as the pace of change continues to pick up, we need to understand how to face and overcome failure as individuals, teams, and companies.

3 ways you can overcome failure:

  1. Think about multiple potential outcomes.
  2. Have a backup plan.
  3. Practice being positive.

On Multiple Outcomes

Too often we think of one solution and then fixate on it. Taking time to step back and think about multiple potential problems and solutions can be very impactful. And this doesn’t have to take days. Start by taking 5 minutes to list out answers to one of these questions:

  • What has been going well? What hasn’t been going well?
  • Why am I doing this?
  • What do I really want? What does wild success look like?
  • What are the constraints, risks, or dependencies?

For a bigger list of questions to answer that help move your team forward, check out our guides to design sprints and brand sprints.

On Backup Plans

Reid Hoffman talks about plan A, plan B, and plan Z (worst case scenario) in his book The Startup Of You. When you have a solid backstop, it increases your ability and willingness to take some risk. Many times the worst-case scenario isn’t as bad as we initially think.

On Practicing Positivity

Your mindset, the stories you tell yourself, are not only impactful to your actions but within your control. You get to decide what to do when failure (or fear of it) comes calling. How you respond to negative thoughts and events drastically impacts your work, your marriage, and your life.

Practice positivity by gathering positive influences around you, thinking “what good has come from this?”, or running a retrospective to get better as a team.

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Surrounding yourself with people who will help.

What are you going to fail at today?

Resources to helpĀ Product Managers find work they love and enjoy the work they do

For product managers who don’t want to hate Mondays.

Hi! I’m Ryan. I find and teach patterns that can help you find a job and master product management.

Topics include getting a product management job, creating roadmaps, influencing your team, prioritizing, launch products customers love, and getting a promotion.