At the Women’s Business Center of Utah, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing resilient women business owners move mountains to build their business from the ground up. They’ve juggled family, school and a full-time job, while leveraging their resources and elevating their business to unforeseeable heights.
I’ve noticed most of my conversations with women in business, or with those that are playing with the notion of starting a business, begin with “I want to start a business in [blank], BUT…”. In every conversation, there was always a “but,” a moment of uncertainty, a brief feeling of discouragement. I didn’t quite understand why there was indisputably moments of hesitation, until I ventured into starting a business myself.
After multiple mentoring appointments, conversations with colleagues and napkin writing sessions with my business partner it dawned on me. That despite my undeviating enthusiasm, I too kept using the word “but.” I would say things like, “But, what if I have a bad idea?”, “but, what if the market is too saturated?” and the scariest one yet, “but, what if I fail?”.
What if I fail. That’s it. The perilous subconscious monster, looming in the corner, preventing myself from jumping in with both feet. I came to realize, I wasn’t the only one. So, when I started to talk to more women business owners, I delved a little deeper and came to understand that almost every time, the main thing holding the person back was a fear of failure and it wasn’t just in the entrepreneurial world, but in every aspect of a business.
Many women including myself invariably have a nagging apprehension that shrouds them failing at something.
The truth is, failure is inevitable and happens to everyone. Failure entails unforeseen circumstances and women are more likely to take failure personally.
Women hold themselves to a higher standard. Constantly competing with their own expectations and the expectations of others, while carrying the responsibility of achieving success not only for themselves, but for their team and family. This stress paired with a perception that failure is a negative thing, garnished with the fact that failure is not often spoken of in a professional setting, makes a recipe for fear of taking risks.
The thing is, if I ask you to close your eyes and recall moments that your fellow co-workers have spoken about their professional failure, how many moments would you be able to recall? I would like to challenge you and say, not many.
Rarely is it mentioned the amount of times we will fail before we achieve success and no one tells us that just possibly, failure is a good thing. The thing is, even the most successful business men and women have failed many times.
So, here are a few things I’ve learned that may help shift the narrative on failure in the workplace.
Start a conversation
Admitting to mistakes and failures in the presence of colleagues and management is not a common practice, but it should be. Not talking about failure for fear of being criticized or facing repercussions translates into a lack of failure culture, a culture afraid of pushing the envelope.
Leverage your failure
There is no point in divulging your failure or listening to others’ mistakes if you are not willing to learn from it and change your course.
Failure is necessary. In order for people to take risks and push the envelope, they need to shake hands with defeat and find comfort in knowing that there may be obstacles ahead before getting to the finish line. Failure is just a matter of perspective, therefore don’t fixate on what you’ve lost, rather what you’ve gained. Every failed moment, is one step closer to your goal.
And lastly, give yourself a break
Stop being hard on yourself and know that you are not the only person whose proposal was rejected, you’re not the only person who locked themselves out of the house for 20 minutes before a meeting and you’re not the only one whose startup failed. Everyone is on this massive boat, and to keep ourselves afloat we must talk about our failures and learn from them.
About the Writer
Teresa Bagdasarova is a Utah native and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Westminster College. She is currently the Northern Region Program Coordinator for the Women’s Business Center of Utah and co-owns Mosaic Bakery, that sells Armenian and Lebanese baklava, and is dedicated to celebrating the diverse community of Utah through pastries and education. Prior to WBCUtah, Teresa worked for four years at Promise South Salt Lake as a program manager and art instructor. She loves supporting local entrepreneurs through creative and educational events and enjoys volunteering her time to various organizations that help the art and entrepreneurial community.