What is the one thing you would do, if money were no object and you knew you wouldn’t fail?
I have recently made the transition from legal career, to government, to … building a fashion start-up, Adrenna. The move hasn’t been easy. There have been, and still are, so many days when I feel like a complete failure, but here are a few ideas that have kept me on track:
1. Regrets are worse than failures.
When I was deciding on whether to abandon my legal career to do something completely different, I thought about what my life would be like if I stayed and what it would be like if I left.
To be honest, I had no idea what it would be like once I resigned.
But, I did know that if I stayed, I would be waking up the next day at 7am, getting on the train and bus to get to my office, turning on my desktop, then staring at it for the next 8 to 16 hours, occasionally speaking to other stressed out lawyers on the phone, eating my lunch and dinner in the office canteen, then booking a taxi to get home. And this would repeat for the next few years of my wonderful lawyer life.
I couldn’t stomach it. So I made the decision to resign and do something else.
2. Reframe your notion of success: Failing is not really a failure.
When I was starting out, it was all about getting to the top of the tree. Chairing committees. Becoming secretary-general. Becoming partner. That’s before I came to know the reality (which is perhaps, a topic for another blog post) and lost sight of what I wanted. Probably because I didn’t want it that much in the first place. Why did I start on that path to begin with? Because it seemed to be the best way to become successful.
In the lead up to my resignation, I had to reframe my notion of success.
It’s all about perception and assuming that others are going to think this or that about you, what you’re doing or what you’re about to do. How do you know that’s what they’re thinking though? And if they are thinking that exact thought, who else cares? Probably no one.
And really, what’s the worst that could happen? I still had my health and had gained great work experience. If it all failed, I’d get up and find another way. I thought that failing is not really a failure, just another experience to look back on.
3. Take baby steps.
Getting out of your comfort zone is … uncomfortable. Being the cautious, risk adverse person I am, I still couldn’t make the full leap into the unknown. So when I resigned from my corporate legal job, I moved into a government role as legal counsel and took a 50 per cent pay cut. I took discomfort in baby steps.
4. Recognise your limitations. Then do it anyway.
When I was thinking about starting a business, my immediate concern was money. How was I going to dedicate time to both building the start-up while paying the bills? I was lucky to have found work in legal consulting to help pay my way. There were some months when it was really tough and the consulting still didn’t pay all the way, especially at the beginning. So I took up side jobs like dog walking and pet sitting. I am still consulting and expect to do so for the foreseeable future while my start-up is in its baby stages of growth.
Rather than creating excuses and self-sabotaging your dreams, find another way.
5. Open up to vulnerability.
One of the scariest points was when I had left my government role and was starting to tell people what I was actually doing. Cue some nervous side glances, stuttering and sweaty palms, but I promise you, telling people your idea – particularly a business idea – is the most liberating thing you could do. You will find your greatest supporters this way – once they know your idea, your greatest supporters will try to find ways to help you.
As soon as I told someone and got them excited by it, I felt like I actually had to go ahead with my idea and do it for fear of letting them down – which is not a bad thing!
6. Find ‘mentors’ that you know and can relate to.
One of the most frustrating pieces of start-up advice I get is, “Find a mentor” (yeah, that would be great if I could just go onto Amazon and pick one). For a shy and mostly-introverted person like me, this is easier said than done.
When you’re first starting out, and if your network is small (because you’ve relocated to another country or you are starting off in a completely new field) my advice is to look to your immediate circle of friends and family. When I actually paid attention to the closest people to me, I realised that a handful of them were already starting their own businesses, who were taking on side jobs to achieve their goals and who were putting energy into building their own dreams and empires. Knowing someone else who is doing it or has done it, and knowing from example that it can be done, is extremely powerful. Make them your inspiration.
There is no magic bullet and I still feel like an imposter on a daily basis (read: lawyer, starts fashion label).
What is the one thing I would do, if money were no object and I knew I wouldn’t fail? There are so many things, and starting a fashion label is one of them. Learning to dance comes a close second.
If you want to explore your own fear of failure, why it holds you back and learn some strategies to grow your potential, why not join us on 20 July 2017 when we host F-OFF: Fear of Failure Forum (Gratitude Edition).
Buy tickets here.