Fear of Failure

Tonight I was discussing the irony of how I am writing a paper about entrepreneurial best practices such as iterative development*, and yet I have been working in this little hole of mine for months without getting any of my work to market. Why not? I care about how my work is perceived and thus I haven’t wanted to exhibit work that I felt was not of sufficient caliber. Basically, I let my work and my identify become intertwined. How unentrepreneurial of me. After all, the quintessential entrepreneur is supposedly completely internally driven, indifferent to other people’s opinion of him or her.

In most professional pursuits, the goal is known, criteria for success are clear, and measuring your performance is easy. In these scenarios, it is possible to “get it right” the first time. And thus, you are incentivized to front load your efforts to avoid the detrimental effects of failing- even if you don’t care what other people think, their opinion can impact you (e.g. they wont work with you).

Entrepreneurs face a very different scenario, and thus it’s no surprise the people drawn to entrepreneurial endeavors exhibit very different behavioral patterns than those who choose to follow more “traditional” pursuits. For those trying to create something brand new, goals are often undefined and dynamic. Because the criteria for success are ambiguous, there are no good standards by which to measure your performance (at least in the beginning). Since you are highly unlikely to “get it right” off the bat (whatever “it” is), you are incentivized to stage your investments, taking small steps, and then asking the world to validate your work. There may be detrimental effects from failing (not to your psyche though), but they are vastly outweighed by the losses you would incur from spending your time building up “castles in the sky,” businesses or product for which there is no demand outside you skull. Entrepreneurs are thus incentivized to fail early and fail often.

And there lies the linkage between the behavioral profile of an entrepreneur (internally driven) and an entrepreneurial best practice (iterative development).


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