Originally published October 30, 2017 with Restoration & Remediation (R&R) Magazine as a guest feature for November National Entreprenuer Month.
I enjoy finding inspiration from obscure places. I believe this coincides with the aspects of the entrepreneurial spirit that I identify with - going against conventions, disrupting the status quo and carving out a segment of the market that appreciates the value you bring to the table. When I think about what it means to be an entrepreneur, I think of the movie Pee Wee's Big Adventure, where the grey suited, red bow tied and awkwardly cackling main character asks a gritty question that all persons engaged in life as well as business should be asking themselves every day.
Before we reveal the question, some of you may already know, but I'd wage good money to bet it wouldn't be many, let's do the storyteller's work and set the stage. In the Big Adventure movie, Pee Wee Herman has lost his most prized possession, his unique bike. This great loss causes him to launch a journey in search of his treasure, of which he suspects his nemesis Francis stole from him out of jealously (can we draw some allegories in this to market competition?).
Some people help Pee Wee on his journey, many of whom are unexpected allies while many of his friends fail to empathize with his loss or provide any constructive input. Many of those close to him don't see it while those whom he meets along the way offer insight and encouragements (again, do any entrepreneurs see any correlations here?). Mid way through the film, Pee Wee is particularly down in spirit as he has learned the Alamo does not have a basement. Why did he think it had a basement? He consulted an industry professional who was not a practitioner in his field (a bit of a dig there, did you catch it?). Mr. Herman hires a consultant, a fortune teller, who sounded wise but gave straw advice for an exorbitant fee (dig after dig).
Pee Wee thinks he is doing the right thing, he consults his friends, he seeks professional advice and sets out heedlessly on a journey to acquire the one thing he values more than anything. He craves success in his pursuit. Since you mentioned success, we will interject a not-so-shameless plug for an article previously published with R&R on the subject of success.
We are at the point in the story where our main character is distraught. Pee Wee is sad and feeling hopeless. He has taken a job washing dishes in a dive restaurant to finance his debts (how many of you have had to hold second jobs to pay for your dreams and/or failures?). To cheer him up, his new friend Simone takes him to up to a movie viewing area in the head of a dinosaur statue. Simone shares her dreams of traveling the world and Pee Wee drops his insightful line [this is the big reveal], "Everyone I know has a big but. Come on Simone, let's talk about your big but."
Pee Wee & Simone - Video clip: https://youtu.be/0yfJQUoxN3U
What's Your Big But?
Isn't this what separates the doers from the dreamers? Everyone has a dream and they have a "big but" that keeps them from venturing out to pursue that vision. For Simone, it's a lumberjack of a man named Andy, her boyfriend, who is holding her back and soon enters the scene to threaten Pee Wee's life. There is no super gene, no special training or magic pill that makes an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is one who has identified a dream, a vision and/or a journey that they wish to pursue. An entrepreneur has faced the opposition from within; the concerns of those who care for them as well as the assault from those who oppose them, and continues to move forward (even if it's an inch at a time).
The question is not whether there is risk of failure but whether you will be nimble enough to navigate the multiple failures that arise as you chase your dreams.
The question is not whether you are the best able, most qualified, or expert enough to launch out upon your path, but whether you are willing to work you ass off, always be learning and remain true to your values as you meet the obstacles between you and the end of your road.
Entrepreneurs are everywhere. While this term has become synonymous with those who start their own business, the true definition is one who organizes and/or operates with an aversion to risk that hinders most (paraphrase). I have found in my experience it isn't as much the risk of failure itself, but the fear of the risk of failure, or atychiphobia, that holds most back from having the faith in themselves to grab life by the horns and enjoy the tumultuous ride.
Embrace the Opportunity
In that head of the dinosaur, Pee Wee is encouraged by his new friend and their discussion also inspires Simone to buy a bus ticket the next day, taking the first step to pursue her dreams. Pee Wee, on the other hand, is chased down by her former boyfriend Andy. In the moment of the chase, he is scrambling from certain death, but that run leads him to his next opportunity, effectively jolting him from his depression and back onto his own journey (can any entrepreneurs shout out an amen here?).
I shared some thoughts previously in another publication on the entrepreneurial lessons we can learn from the journey of Noah, being fueled by vision to endure opposition as well as obstacles. I bring this up because Noah faced opposition, Pee Wee faced set backs, and you understand that life isn’t about getting over one hurdle and then it’s over but rather continuing to rise over hurdle after hurdle. We work hard. We are always learning. When we can work hard and learn hard we should be able to glean from others some means that help us to adapt our approach.
There are many who say, “I would do this-or-that, but…” and fail to launch. Even those who have set out on their journey hit points where they hesitate to take the next step, “I would move forward with this-or-that, but…” and stall momentum through analysis paralysis. There are also those in a position of leadership who are faced with daily decisions based upon their core values, “I would do this-or-that, but…” and they allow fear to prevent them from action.
Entrepreneurs often see opportunities that others don't and take risks others are not willing to take but that doesn't mean they don't need quality input in their lives. Whether it's a stalwart of faith in action like Noah, a goofball like Pee Wee Herman or simply having coffee with a respected peer, you need people in your life who ask you from time to time, “What about your big but?”
If you have a dream to start a business, IZ Ventures can assist you with clarifying that vision and resources that will equip you to connect, collaborate and conquer. More than business consulting & coaching.
Pursuing your dreams starts with setting yourself up for success - video on preparation
1) Risk Assessment
What is the opportunity you are considering?
What are the potential risks related to pursing this opportunity?
The point of this exercise isn't to convince you that there is no risk or nothing to fear. Rather than pretend we can simply will ourselves into a positive outcome, we want to ensure that we are following best practices by identifying risks prior to making decisions.
2) The Risk Formula
A simple tool for calculating risk is to start with the end. The risk formula starts by calculating the worst case scenario for the opportunity than an organization or individual is considering. Can you picture it?
If we go down this path, what could (and probably will) go wrong?
If everything went wrong and we completely failed, what would that look like?
Could we survive the worst possible outcome?
3) The Classic Pro's and Con's
Sometimes those tools that are tried and true are considered such because they work. Referring back to our risk formula, if we cannot survive the worst possible outcome we will have to ask ourselves honestly if pursuing our opportunity is worth the reward.
Does the potential reward (which isn't guaranteed) outweigh the potential losses?
Are the risks low enough that we can offset our losses as we pursue our opportunities?
Are we in a position that we can afford to move (or not to move)?
Failure to launch can be just as traumatic to our long term growth as launching only to fail. As we have noted previously, some of our most creative solutions and our life long lessons are born from failures along the way that have caused us to adapt.
4) Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail
We have considered the worst case scenarios, and we believe we can survive them.
We have analyzed our opportunities and believe that we must make a move on them.
The risk is identified, the fear of failure has been addressed and not it's time to prepare to move forward. Smart operations are not oblivious to risk nor do they sweep their fears (or reservations) under the rug, they make them visible and work for progress without allowing fear to deter them from the goal.
Much is made of risk, but fear of failure and/or fear of success may be the biggest underlying obstacles to personal as well as professional growth. The homework has been done, the map has been laid out to the best of everyone's abilities, and so it is time to get the wheels of opportunity moving.
Action may lead to unexpected forks in the road but inaction will only lead to the eventually demise of having a fork stuck in your operation. Adaptation should be valued over deterioration.
Risk Management Best Practices in Business
Risk management should be a process in the decision leading to opportunity identification, growth mapping and the celebration of a job well done.
Risk management is essential because growth is essential and there is no growth without some level of risk.
Risk management does not stop the engine, it guides the vehicle safely through the obstacle course of growth and vision.
IZ Ventures - business coaching & consulting. We don’t just consult - we help you Connect, Collaborate & Conquer.
There is always risk of failure. Fear of failure should never be the deciding factor when engaging an opportunity for growth.
Failure is a reality.
Risk in inherent when you are attempting to do something worthwhile. Factors can increase or decrease risk. Far is one of those factors that serves as a speed bump to cause one to pause for some self evaluation.
Even when we fail, we must remember that failure by itself is not final unless it is allowed to be. Failure should be embraced as part of the growth process. Failure causes smart organizations to learn and adapt.
The strain of fear that immobilizes an individual or an organization due to fear of failing is noted in psychological circles as, atychiphobia.
Fear is natural.
Failure is natural.
Fear of failure is therefore logical.
Yet, immobilization due to fear of failure or morbid fear of the unfortunate, is unhealthy and unproductive.
Get your vision in motion and when you meet those forks of fear in the road of your mission take a moment to practice the following:
1) Call out the risks - identify your fears
2) Resource your options - connect with insights and skills
3) Develop creative solutions - collaborate with your team
Allow fear to speak. Stare down the risk of failure. Set your vision in motion rather than pull the emergency break on your momentum.
Positive results are not guaranteed. All adventures will lead an organization to learn from the process whether the results were achieved as intended or through adaptation.
A vehicle in motion is easier to steer than a vehicle that stays on the lot. Whether for fear of failure or as a protective measure, inaction is often the greatest risk as it will certainly lead to a negative result through deterioration.
The failure mantra.
Where there is opportunity there is risk.
Where there is risk there is a failure factor.
Navigate with vision and courage.
by Jon Isaacson
Risk of failure is a constant - if there is no risk of failure than there is no challenge and likely no reward worth pursuing.
The biggest risk is not taking any risk... In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks. Mark Zuckerberg
As a follow up to our more extensive treatment of the fear of failure and the practice of personal risk management in the pursuit of growth covered HERE, we share the highlights of how to overcome fear. The psychological term for immobilization due to morbid fear of failure or the unfortunate is called atychiphobia. Are you atyciphobic?
If you are pursuing something that is worthwhile and has the potential for a reward on effort (ROE), then you understand there is no avoidance of risk of failure. You may fear failure, you would be stupid not to, but that fear should not be allowed to be the presiding factor in whether to do or not do something.
Failure is a reality. As a risk factor fear is a speed bump that causes evaluation, but failure by itself is not final unless it is allowed to be. Failure is a part of the growth process that causes smart organizations and individuals to learn while they weave through obstacles in the pursuit of vision expansion. A fork in the road should be a call to identify risk, resource options and develop creative solutions rather than pull the emergency break to freeze all momentum.
You are a smart person, so don't be stupid - you know that positive results are not guaranteed. Every risky venture is a growth adventure and the process will lead us as an organization or individual to learn from the process. The likelihood that we arrive at the destination in precisely the manner as planned is unlikely.
A smart process that takes on risk in the pursuit of growth must include adaptation. Our process, like a vehicle in motion, is easier to steer and adjust as we go. Don't be like the atyciphobics who are still parked in the "safety" of the garage, too afraid to take on the risk that will lead to adventure. Whether for fear of failure or as a protective measure, inaction is often the greatest risk as it will certainly lead to a negative result.
Jon Isaacson is a freelance writer assisting organizations to translate their mission and vision into story. I am a business practitioner who specializes in employee engagement, systems optimization and business development with creative solutions that are grounded in practical applications. In addition to working full time, raising a family and volunteering, Jon writes, speaks and serves as director of local facilities networking group LFMC.
Jon Isaacson / IZ Ventures - More than coaching and consulting, we help you Connect, Collaborate & Conquer. #MTWSL
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