Many of the entrepreneurs I talk to are terrified of failure. The thought of falling flat on their face keeps them up at night. But in my experience, you have to do a lot to actually fail as an entrepreneur.
Failure is not as common of a reality as many entrepreneurs think it is. In fact, it's quite rare.
As I look over the past three businesses I've built, I don't consider any of them a failure. I consider them stepping stones on the path to where I am today. I needed those experiences. And while I did have setbacks, nothing was an absolute failure.
We need to redefine what failure is, or it'll cripple us.
We need a definition of failure that isn't contingent on what we do, but rather who we are. If we become a person we don't want to be -- a person who doesn't value the meaningful things of life -- then that's a failure.
What this redefinition of failure also does is remove the pressure of this walking-on-eggshells attitude we practice every day. Too many entrepreneurs are terrified of making a single, wrong move to completely tank their business. But it's not what we do that's so much a failure; it's who we become.
If we view failure as more of a matter of who we are rather than what we do, then we can stop acting as if it's always around the corner.
Taking this redefinition of failure into consideration, here are three ways I believe we can actually fail as entrepreneurs (and hint, they all deal with our character -- or who we are):
1. We run our business like others run their business.
Many business coaches will tell you to look at how other, more successful people are running their business, and then copy them. This is only good to a degree.
If we're only copying other people's businesses, then it's harder to arrive at how we want to run our own business.
Just because one person is really successful at consulting clients through webinars doesn't mean you should do that. Just because one person is really successful at offering a wide range of services doesn't mean you should do that.
Be comfortable and confident enough to run your business how you want to run it.
You shouldn't become the person who does it just like everyone else. That's a failure. A failure is never doing business the way you want to do business.
Let's avoid the advice that tells us to be just like everyone else, and instead embrace what we want -- for our business and our lives.
2. We put too much stock in how others view us.
This was a large failure for me in the past. Because I put too much stock in the opinion of others, I stifled my best work. I didn't venture out to do new things because I was scared that one person wouldn't like it. I continually kept shutting myself down.
I became a people-pleaser. And because I was a people-pleaser, my business suffered.
If we continually do what others agree with, then we're not really changing anything.
We shouldn't bend over backward to be appealing to everyone. We can't satisfy everyone. We should become difference makers -- or people who aren't afraid to disrupt what's conventional.
If we put too much stock in how others view us and become a people-pleaser instead of a difference maker, then we've failed.
3. We're too afraid to pivot.
If you want to grow as an entrepreneur, you need to change, tweak, and adapt. This means, if you're doing something that isn't building your business or helping your family and friends, then you need to stop.
You see, too many people are too afraid to change course because they've settled with doing business one way. For example, I was scared to consolidate my past two businesses into my new brand, Essential Hustle. I was, once again, afraid that people would judge me or not agree with the shift.
But as I thought more about this, I realized that I didn't want to become the person who stuck with something just because he was too afraid to change. I want to become the person who grows -- in life and business. And to do that, we need to embrace change, not run away from it.
Failure matters less about what we do, and more about who we become. When we can view failure through this light, then we can start to acknowledge just how rare failure actually is. We can stop the fear of failure from paralyzing us each day.
To be successful, we simply need to prioritize who we want to be over what we want to do.
Success is developing the character you want to have in life. It's not as contingent on what we do as we think it is.
So let's stop defining failure as something that's always lurking in the corner, and instead focus on becoming the person we want to be.
This article was originally published on EssentialHustle.com, a platform helping entrepreneurs prioritize the essentials in their lives and online marketing.