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Richard Branson on Embracing Failure

Richard Branson on embracing fear in business.

Richard Branson

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Q: I have always been fearless, and gone after everything I wanted. I launched a business selling my designs a few years ago, and it succeeded, but I had to close it due to the recession. Now, having just earned a master’s degree, I have decided to launch my own design firm rather than look for a job, and for the first time in my life I find that I am paralysed with fear. How can I face down this fear in order to go after my dreams?

Fear is something everyone must learn to cope with when tackling life’s challenges, but this is especially important for entrepreneurs, who are likely to face many hard choices in the process of getting a business off the ground. And in the early stages of running a new enterprise, the way you handle pressure can often make the difference in whether it survives.

Making tough decisions

You may need to make some tough calls. During Virgin’s early years, one difficult decision we had to make involved Virgin Records, which at one point was in desperate need of cash to sign bigger artists.

My partners, Nik Powell and Simon Draper, were split on what to do: Nik wanted to conserve our resources and slowly collect money through our retail operations; Simon wanted to invest heavily in Virgin Records, betting on the notion that we could find the next big artists that way. We needed quick growth, so I took the riskier gamble, following Simon’s advice over Nik’s. It turned out to be the right decision, but it took a lot of courage – and not just from me, but everyone on staff.

I’ve always found that the first step in overcoming fear is figuring out exactly what you’re afraid of. In your case, I wonder: Is your anxiety a reflection of doubts about your business plan? Or is it rooted in your experience with your previous venture?

Face your fears

If it is the former, and you are having doubts about your idea, why not take your concerns to a key friend or mentor and carefully run through your business plan?

Talking everything through with a trusted confidant, from your business’ unique selling points to how it will stand out among competitors, is a good way to help calm fears and give you some perspective and confidence. Sometimes even the simple act of discussing your plan will highlight things you’re unsure about – often, small, unresolved issues can be at the root of an entrepreneur’s anxieties.

But if your previous venture’s end is what is making you so hesitant, try to take some comfort in the fact that most entrepreneurs fail when they launch their first businesses. Failing doesn’t mean that you’re not cut out to run your own business.

In fact, many venture capital investors evaluate potential partners on how they reacted to a failed business, seeing it as a test of character, rather than a mark against them. The key to bouncing back is to learn whatever lessons you can from the experience so that you can avoid making the same mistakes in the next launch. This will help you to overcome your fear, take a leap of faith and try again.

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Are You a Terrible Leader? Here are the Signs

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Learn from the experience

The experience of launching one of your first businesses reminds me of the adventures and challenges I have embarked on over the years to promote Virgin and put our businesses on the map. There were countless times during our record-breaking hot-air balloon trips when I wondered whether we were going to make it back down to earth alive. But every time, I learned lessons from making mistakes during previous trips and was able to adapt.

Another example: A few years ago I was helping to launch Virgin America’s new route from San Francisco to Las Vegas – and upon arriving at our casino hotel, I was taken to the top floor, given a harness and told I was going to jump off the side of the building.

It was dark and windy, and I knew I should go back inside and tell everyone we needed to postpone the jump. Instead, I was persuaded to go through with it. The wind was up, and within seconds I found myself banging down the side of the building, ripping my trousers and bruising my backside.

It was an extremely painful lesson, learned the hard way. But learning from mistakes (and a combination of good fortune and adrenalin) is what has gotten me through on many occasions.

Get back on the horse

Overcoming fear is not necessarily as easy as jumping off a building, but it might be easier than what you’ve done: Watching a business fail after putting your heart and soul into trying to make it succeed. But don’t be too hard on yourself.

Starting a new enterprise from scratch and gathering the nerve to take risks that are similar to those you took last time can be daunting for any entrepreneur. Just remember that picking yourself up from a failed business in order to try again is the bravest choice you can make.

Have you had a business fail? What did you learn from the experience? Let us know in the comment section below…

Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. He is the author of "Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur."

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Salome

    Jan 15, 2014 at 09:45

    I failed. And I learnt a lot from that experience. To keep it short: If
    it is not your ‘passion’, leave it. If you don’t have the knowledge,
    ‘get it’, if you only know one side of the business and leave the rest
    entirely up to the other partner, ‘get to know it’! It took me a long
    time to ‘get over it’ after, but I brushed myself off, started
    ‘studying’ (after I learnt where my shortfalls lie) and got the guts to
    start again. I have a LOT of studying to still do, but you’ve got to
    start somewhere! You only ‘fail’, when you give up. Never give up! Start
    again!

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Leading

Become Your Best In Business

How can you streamline the actions you take in your business?

Dr John Demartini

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A few of the primary keys to becoming successful in business include having a clear intent or purpose, a truly inspiring vision, a grand message to share, a genuine social calling and a targeted niche to serve. From these initial basics arise the primary strategic objectives you would love to accomplish or achieve and a plan for their implementation. But before these objectives can be met, the mastery of the mind is to be initiated.

True business leaders are those who are congruent and integrated and who can organise and lead their inner parts purposefully. Once leaders govern themselves, they can govern others.

Time Is Life

When you loaf about, your mind starts thinking about all kinds of doubts, insecurities, fears, other people’s beliefs and worries about what’s happening and what isn’t happening. Such dead time can zap your energy and confidence levels and distract your mind from your purpose. Any time or space that’s not filled with high priorities often automatically becomes filled with low priorities.

Have you noticed that when you’re busy, you often accomplish and create much more? The more intensely you’re focused and active and the longer you maintain such a focus, the faster your accomplishments (time x intensity = results). Time spent on doubt, fear, or low-priority actions slows down your accomplishment process.

When you take your mind off your focus, all you see are obstacles. When your mind is focused on your dreams, you don’t have time for the many self-doubts that block them.

Raise Your Standard

Anything you do consumes time. To maximise the value of your time, prioritise your interactions. People who seem less busy and want to consume your time may think you’re being rude when you say no to their invitations, but busy people understand immediately that you’re just choosing to prioritise and wisely manage your time.

People who don’t value their own time want to take up yours with small talk, and if you keep associating with people who talk small, you could end up with a small life. You’ll find out what kind of people they are by putting a fee on your time and raising that fee regularly. If people really value your skills and time, they’ll pay for it.

“A man’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Efficiency and Effectiveness

Often when you perform a service for less than you feel you deserve, you lower your worth and enthusiasm and slow down your business. Even though you may be working like a ‘dog’, it’s neither efficient nor effective.

Any aspect of your work that pays less than you truly feel you deserve can become the weak link of your business. In addition to undermining your motivation, inefficiency and ineffectiveness can also reduce profit margins. When you or your employees perform effective actions in an inefficient way, ineffective actions in an efficient way or ineffective actions in an inefficient way, your business becomes undermined. Your worth can be determined by how efficient and effective you are at performing high-priority actions. Business masters are those who love what they do, do what they love, and work efficiently and effectively. They delegate everything else to those who desire to do the same.

How can you streamline the actions you take in your business? Ask yourself, “What can I delegate?” You’ll be far more productive, energised, and inspired at the end of the day when you can stick to actions you deem to be high-priority. Unless you value your time, neither will the world.

For more information on Dr Demartini’s teachings, visit www.drdemartini.com

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Leading

How To Be A Leader

Lead by example and you’ll win the respect and loyalty of your staff.

Richard Mukheibir

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Being a successful entrepreneur is not about locking yourself away in your workshop and bringing a great innovation to life. Certainly, you need a must-have product that will have customers beating a path to your door. But you also need the business skills to ensure you can scale up production – and the leadership skills to motivate the staff you have employed to help you make this happen.

It is rare to find these three key skills balanced equally in an entrepreneur. Most have more of one quality than another – but there is one of these qualities that we tend to fool ourselves about.

Most of us know whether we have creative skills that can produce great innovations or whether we need to improve our business skills. Almost all of us assume we can be leaders if circumstances mean we have to step up to the plate. However, almost all of us are wrong about that.

Leadership skills are something that you develop and hone as your career progresses. You might think that being head girl at school, rugby captain or president of your Toastmasters’ branch means that you have got leadership nailed.

You would be right that you have some leadership experience. But you are wrong because so much about leadership depends on context. Just as what works on the rugby field and what works in the debating chamber are not the same, so what works in business is different.

In part, it can depend on the size and sector of your business. That in turn is partly because your understanding of the context – your business savvy as opposed to your business skills – is as important as your credibility as a leader.

But there are some common traits in leaders that work in all business contexts. Once you have these nailed, you will find that you can reuse them in different businesses as you expand your entrepreneurial interests.

Here are three starter principles to put into practice today:

1. Be first

Get to work first and leave last. As an entrepreneur, one of the prime qualities you need is energy. You need to put mental and physical energy into knowing the detail of what is going on in your business.   Listen to the insights of your staff as to how your systems are taking strain or could be streamlined. If you are serious about growing your business, you cannot expect to achieve this as a sleeping partner who drops by the business premises at best once a week.

2. Be a team player

Make it clear that you are not giving yourself privileges just because you are the boss. If your business involves any kind of production line, whether actual or virtual, you should be able to pitch in and help out if there is a rush of demand or an unusual number of staff hit by the virus that is going round. This is also an opportunity to check personally on the effectiveness of the systems you have set up and make tweaks where you see bottlenecks or downtime occurring.

3. Be last

As well as leaving work last, you should also pay yourself last. Consider this part of your investment in your business – and also an investment that will pay dividends in consolidating staff loyalty.

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Leading

Peak Performance – How To Become A Strong And Legendary Business Leader

The starting point is to consistently and constantly build and mould an unshakeable character and add a clear strategy for your personal life and your business.

Dirk Coetsee

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‘Leadership is a potent combination of Character and strategy’

– General Norman Schwarzkopf

Leadership has long fallen into the category of the enigmatic. It is no longer the case considering the ‘deep dive’ neuroscientists, psychologists and industrial psychologists have taken into understanding the brain and human behaviour in general.

For those that have a deep and driving desire to understand themselves better volumes of highly beneficial research are available to you. How willing you are to seek for and apply the infinite amount of knowledge out there is dependent upon your priorities, your ‘grit’ and your level of desire to personally transform and be impactful in this world.

Most of all a strong belief in your own abilities to become a legendary business leader is a basic requirement for the alchemy from follower to leader to take place.

The human nature guru Robert Greene describes a strong character as follows:

“Strong character has a tensile quality like a good piece of metal – it can give and bend but still retains its overall shape and never breaks”

Character is who you really are, not what you want others to think of you. Who you truly are is especially revealed under the most challenging circumstances. How your investors, co-founders, employees and clients view you is highly dependent upon your actions during times of business crisis, failure or when you as an entrepreneur are faced with turbulent personal circumstances.

The ability to authentically and empathetically (towards yourself and others) take a stand for your beliefs, admit (to yourself most of all) to your mistakes, rectify them (the highest and truest form of an apology) within times of strife and difficulty leads to a strong and un-breakable character.

Through this writing you are strongly urged to reflect on the fact that a strong character will not fall from the sky and simply be bestowed upon you, instead a strong character, akin to steel, is moulded and shaped by fire meaning that your character is mostly shaped by challenging times.

As the late master poet Leonard Cohen said –

‘There is a crack in everything that is where the light seeps in’

Nothing is perfect and when you truly learn from failures and mistakes your wounds can become blessings, your tests can become testimonies and you can lead others to achieve the same.

Those that have a slight and very determined smile on their face and maintain belief and even dramatically increase their levels of performance the moment they recognise that they have arrived within a highly challenging space are the ones that have trained for that exact moment.

The Navy Seals say:

“You do not rise to the challenge you fall to your level of training”

All external information gathered within each moment enters the brain and is processed through the Amygdala first – that part of the brain that provides housing for the ‘fight or flight’ response. Information is first filtered through your very own doubts, fears and insecurities.

If you have not worked on your own fears diligently and instilled habitual mechanisms of effective action triggered by fear your re-actions of lack of action (procrastination) will not be optimal at all. ‘Grit’ is born at the intersection of passion and perseverance and can be trained. Bravery can be trained. Leadership can be trained. Character although influenced by genetics can be trained.

All tools to succeed at the aforementioned subjects are within us all, in a lot of cases lying dormant and anxiously awaiting your increased levels of awareness which will empower you to use the tools required effectively.

As a practical example I coach my ‘Peak Performance’ clients to train for Grit in the following way – Choose a day of the week when you are especially tired and not in the greatest of moods force yourself to the gym and train the toughest muscle group for you (usually legs) and where you normally do three sets of squats do seven and make those sets harder than before in every way.

Or again choose a day of the week again where you are very tired and instead of taking a plunge onto the couch to watch ‘Game of Thrones’ or whatever it is, go and hike, a long tough hike that will really test you.

It does sound harsh but you will thank yourself when the tough times occur and they will, that you have willingly trained yourself for grit.

On to the subject of Strategy which forms a potent combination with character and results in Leadership.

Dictionary.com defines strategy as:

A plan, method, or series of manoeuvres or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result.

For a strategy to be effective a basic requirement of many requirements is that a clear and highly specific end vision and/or goal, and/or result must be defined. Visions, goals or desired results are often vaguely defined because the often subconscious fear of clearly defining our failures by setting clear and measurable goals plagues us.

The mind struggles with finding solutions, answers and strategies when vague goals are set. It is also very hard to retain focus on anything that is very vague. As the importance of an effective plan to achieve your well defined Vision and goals cannot be overstated I strongly recommend getting expert help to facilitate a future session.

Once the desired end result, goals and vision is crystal clear we can ‘reverse engineer’ an effective plan that can actualise our dreams. We need to create a metric system that constantly, consistently and visibly measures our progress and success of our plan. The metrics will notify us of challenges and will signal a need for adjustments within our strategy.

The very good news emanating from this article is that anyone can be a legendary leader should they not only sincerely wish to be a leader but also take effective action on becoming one. The starting point is to consistently and constantly build and mould an unshakeable character and add a clear strategy for your personal life and your business.

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