The Secret To Overcoming Fear Of Failure


Pride is a funny thing. On the one hand, we look at it as a vice, something to rein in, to take control of. If you look up synonyms for pride, the first words that appear are all negative: conceit, egotism, vanity. “Pride goeth before the fall,” says the Bible. It’s a universal sin in every religion.

But pride is also an essential component of success. We talk a lot these days about the importance of self-esteem and especially how children and teens need it to succeed in life, but what is self-esteem if not pride in yourself and your accomplishments?

So what’s the best way to feel the good kind of pride? The secret is simple. Set yourself to a task and really see it through to completion.

Completing something—a task, an assignment, an exercise program—is the ultimate satisfaction and the surest path to success. Think about the different things you set about doing over the course of just a given day, that ultimately don’t get done. Your workout at the gym; finalizing your sales report; calling a new client– It might seem unimportant if you miss one or two of them, but think about how great you feel when they’re actually all checked off. You’re going to feel pretty satisfied, and that feeling of accomplishment, of completion, will stay with you throughout the day and propel you forward to even bigger things.

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Now take that same feeling of one day’s accomplishment and ratchet it up to the next level. Probably the biggest hurdle we consistently strive to overcome in life, but especially as entrepreneurs, is the fear of failure. Nothing stops us in our tracks faster than the paralyzing thought that we’re not good enough, or some idea we thought of won’t work, or more often, that we won’t be able to see it through to completion. But if we overcome that fear, if we get over that hump, the reward will be immense and long-lasting.

The most satisfying feeling of completion I get is when I learn something new. It’s the discipline of educating yourself and seeing it through, not just the content of what you learn, that creates a more confident and more successful you.

Contrary to what you’ve probably heard, entrepreneurship can be learned, but you don’t need to sit in a classroom to be a successful entrepreneur. At many colleges across the country, some of the most popular courses are given online, and for many of these courses, like MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), you don’t even need to be a full-time enrolled student.

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At my own company, for example, we’ve recently partnered with the University of Georgia’s Terry School of Business, creating a 100-hour, online, Certificate of Entrepreneurship program that teaches tangible business skills, entrepreneurial thinking, and practical applications, for a fraction of the cost of an MBA. Other organizations have partnered with MIT, Stanford, University of Miami, University of Virginia, Georgia Tech, Arizona State, and many other schools, offering college-level and even high-school level courses in business and other subjects.

I’ve been an entrepreneur since I had my first paper route in Washington, D.C. at the age of 7, and I truly believe that anyone can be an entrepreneur with the right mix of confidence and hope that comes from simply completing something. Whoever you might be—maybe a high-school dropout, or a stay-at-home mom, or a retiree, or an athlete, or a veteran—if you take the opportunity to learn something new over a set period of time with a specific end game in sight, I promise you will rise to the top. That sense of completion, of pride in a goal taken all the way to its conclusion, is the kind of pride that propels us forward and will ultimately bring great reward.

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Fran Tarkenton

Fran Tarkenton

Fran Tarkenton is an entrepreneur and NFL Hall of Famer, and the founder of and Tarkenton Companies. With a passion for small business, he’s started more than 20 businesses during and after his NFL career. Fran is a small business coach for entrepreneurs and business owners, providing advice and guidance through sites such as,, and more. He has written about business issues in the Wall Street Journal, U.S. New and World Report, and USA Today, along with regular appearances on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. You can follow Fran on Twitter @Fran_Tarkenton.