The 6 critical mindset shifts needed to go from corporate career to successful entrepreneur: Part 3.

In parts one and two of this six part series, I covered the first two mindset shifts critical to go from a corporate career to successful entrepreneur.


In part three, I cover an essential mindset shift that can be particularly challenging for ex-corporates to get used to.

Failure is an option.

Whether in the corporate or entrepreneurial world, failure means the same thing: A lack of success in doing or achieving something. And in both the corporate and entrepreneurial world, failure has consequences. However, those consequences - depending on how your view them (mindset) - are actually quite different.


In the corporate environment, the absence of success is interpreted as a bad thing. Among other things, there are objectives to meet, market share to grow, and top and bottom lines to deliver. Lack of success in any of those areas can have a direct or indirect impact on revenue and profit, stock price, and investor confidence. It's somewhat understandable then, that failure in corporate results in your being poked with a metaphorical cattle prod. Ranging from a sideways glance to being fired, failure is most commonly met with some degree of punition. It's also understandable - though not particularly sensible - that achievement in organizations is driven by the fear of failure rather than enthusiasm for success. You may tell yourself otherwise, but if you dig deep enough you'll see truth in those words. Inside organizations we learn to fear failure. It's more stick than carrot. And when we fear failure, we focus on what could go wrong and not on what might go well if we take a chance. We tie ourselves in knots mitigating, and wherever possible eliminating, risk. This stance - this mindset - influences behaviour. With a focus on what could go wrong, we hold back, hesitate, and play safe. While that might be somewhat expected in the corporate world, it's entrepreneurial kryptonite.


As an entrepreneur with a 'fear of failure' mindset, you're guaranteed to do lots of 'stuff' without making actual progress. You'll spend a lot of time tweaking websites, putting systems and fancy tech in place, manipulating copy, but you won't take big, bold strides to grow and drive your business. That fear of failure will make your spin your wheels as you try to plug every hole and account for every possible scenario. It will hold you back and keep you small. When you step out into entrepreneurship, the mindset shift that has to take place is going from fearing failure to accepting it as inevitable on your way to wherever it is you're going.

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” - Winston Churchill

To be successful as an entrepreneur you're going to have to take action despite the fear of failure. You can't possible have all the information you need to inform every decision, so you'll have to move ahead regardless. You're going to have to trust your gut. Everything is an experiment, a pilot project, or a test of market response. The fear of not getting the result you want or expect will always be there.


The big differences between corporate and entrepreneurial failure are these:


1. The more you fail the better you get.

True as an entrepreneur, not at all true in corporate.

Even in controlled circumstances - such as a pilot project - failure in the corporate world results in some kind of poke with that metaphorical cattle prod. And it's somewhat understandable. Having an organization full of mavericks would result in chaos. There has to be a degree of control and order. As an entrepreneur however, failure is market research. When you try something and it doesn't work, you learn a valuable piece of information that you take with you into your next action. Failure informs action. The more you fail, you better you get.


2. Try-Fail-Learn-Pivot-Act

When you fail in corporate, your actions and the associated outcomes have to be explained and justified. Assuming you're allowed the opportunity, you'll spend hours crafting your story and putting together slide decks to present to the executive team to explain why your 'experiment' didn't work. In the entrepreneurial world you fail, learn, pivot, and you act, often in the space of a day or even a few hours.


3. Your cushion is your own butt.

When you fail in corporate, you're cushioned as you fall. That cushion may be full of spikes, but it's a cushion nonetheless. As an entrepreneur, you'll hit the ground so darned hard it will rattle your bones. It feels so much more personal. And there are times you'll feel like a total idiot (even though you're anything but). But if you've groomed your mindset, you'll sit up, shake yourself down, get up, and get going. You just won't care. You know failure is all part of the process. And it will drive you.


4. Success is dictated by what goes on between your ears.

It's worth noting that the more you achieve in the corporate world, the harder it is to accept failure as an entrepreneur. When you're not accustomed to failure, or when failure has been cushioned, failing galantly is tough to learn for the first time when you're on your own and feeling vulnerable and exposed. But know this: If you succeeded - to any degree - in the corporate world, you've got more than it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. All you have to do is get your head on straight and get going. Your success as an entrepreneur is dictated purely by what goes on between your ears.


I'll leave you with this thought. I couldn't put it better.

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” - Denis Waitley

It's mindset - not strategy - will get your business off the ground and thriving.


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