Whether you’re looking to start your own business, are a recent college grad looking to embark on a more traditional career path, or are un(der)-employed and looking for a fresh start, we all face the same obstacles. Three of them, in fact — and they hold us back from finding the job of our dreams, embarking on the career that will finally fulfill us or working towards creating the startup we’ve always wished for.
Obstacle #1: Fear of Failure
The vast majority of us (especially women) consistently and unequivocally grew up trying not to fail. In class, on the field and in relationships, we heard one message loud and clear: failure is bad. You avoided an F on an exam like it was the black plague, only tried out for the sports teams you thought you had a relatively good chance of making, and have likely – at one point or another – compromised yourself in the context of a relationship just to avoid failure.
However, failure is a necessary step on the path to success. It allows you to push past your comfort zone and find the true limits of your success without regard to what you think those limits may be. As Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
In careers, our fear of failure is present when we don’t apply for a job because we’re not sure we’re qualified (that’s why there are applications, you’re not supposed to know) or when we put our brilliant startup idea on the back burner because it may not work out (most don’t, that’s part of the process).
To get over this fear, ask yourself one thing: “What’s the worst that can happen?” Moreover, you need to write down all of the ways you could possibly fail and what exactly that would look like. Every. Single. One. You may think that writing it all down and thinking it all through is a defeatist way of embarking on a career, but it’s quite the opposite. In addressing all of your fears, you will realize that even if every single one of them comes true, it wouldn’t be that bad. The fear of failing will not only become more manageable, but also likely become less palpable than your fear of regret. From here, you’ll be well on your way to the job of your dreams.
Obstacle #2: Pursuit of Perfection
In working so diligently not to fail, many of us have become obsessed with perfection. When I was first launching TheBeautyBean.com, I was intent on it being perfect. I remember meeting Lewis Howes at a sports networking event prior to launch and he said something like, “What are you waiting for? Done is better than good.” I resisted, sure that I knew best and that perfect was precisely what I was going to launch with.
Three years later I can say two things: first, Lewis was completely right (sorry about that!) and second, nothing is ever perfect. When we let go of the idea of perfection and embrace the mantra, “progress, not perfection,” we are able to take chances, knowing that a step forward is better than waiting around.
Perfect doesn’t exist. It never will. And while you’re sitting around waiting for it, someone else is making progress. Don’t worry too much about figuring out exactly what you want to do with your life right now. It will change. Often! Instead, take a step in the right direction.
Obstacle #3: Fear of Quitting
“No one likes a quitter” — or so they say. Well, they are wrong. Quitting is actually great, if you do it correctly. As Seth Godin has said, “You should quit if the project you’re working on has a Dip that isn’t worth the reward at the end.” If that’s the case, it’s to your best advantage to quit often and quit fast.
One of the most limiting lessons that many of us have internalized is this idea that once we’ve already put a lot of work into something, we should see it through to the end. However, if you know something is going to fail (which isn’t a bad thing) or if you just aren’t enjoying it anymore, then the work you’ve already put in is a sunk cost. It’s done; it’s time you’re never getting back. Accept this and move on, because the more time you continue to put in to pursuing something that won’t come to fruition – either due to your lack of passion or possibility – the more time you’re wasting.
Remember: failure is essential, perfection is overrated, quitting is smart.
Alexis Wolfer is working to empower women and promote confidence through beauty as the founder and editor-in-chief of TheBeautyBean.com, a television host/on-air expert, and a Real Beauty activist.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.