Photo credit: Jose Morales, TOSA

published 22 Apr 2015 5 minutes 35 seconds to read

The different faces of failure

Jose Morales is an entrepreneur, startup supporter and founder of the "Fear and Fail" event series. In his guest commentary, he talks about the role of fear in business creation and failure as a snowball effect.


I define failure as the fear I feel before something undesired happens. It causes anxiety. If indeed it happens, the awful feeling of failure is temporary and eventually transforms; life goes on. When we fail, resistance is futile; awareness is essential in order to learn and avoid self-victimization.

After all, the saying goes: “Failure is the road to success”. But, do you live your entrepreneurial life without fearing failure?

I have been exploring the meaning, effects and causes of Fear & Failure related to entrepreneurship since mid-2013. I have heard many interesting stories, and what I’ve come to understand is the following: Big failures are the explosive result of smaller and systemic failures. Let’s check some of them out:

Failure to understand the role of fear and anxiety

Think of both fear and anxiety an alarm system that  goes off when something needs attention. If I ignore my fears, I might be letting something important off the radar. According to author Seth Godin, anxiety is experiencing failure in advance; in other words is having the mind focused in the future, therefore ignoring the present. If I am exclusively trying to control the potential outcome of my actions, I get lost in planning and forget to execute my vision for today. Anxiety is another alarm system that reminds us to remember the present. Can you go to sleep with the satisfaction of the everyday achievements?

Failure to have a clear answer to “who are you?”

I usually try to answer this question with my professional accomplishments, but I always felt uncomfortable with it because what I did could always be dwarfed, compared or judged. Honestly, it wasn’t easy to define the version 2.0 of myself, but it helped to know that I am what I love doing, not only what I have done in the past It's refreshing to know that changing what I love doing is allowed. Are you your profession?

Failure to agree on the meaning of important words

About the event series
Fear and Fail is an event series, founded in 2013 by Jose Morales. The events aim to raise awareness of the different forms of fear and failure and supports exchange and networking on the subject. Events take place throughout Europe and feature 3-5 different speakers on each event. More information on

I usually talk about entrepreneurship and recently, as a founder of a coworking space, I found out that the confusion about entrepreneurship is so huge that it can damage my business. I practice to identify the important words at meetings or conversations and then ask if everyone understand these words in the same way. If you try that, get ready for surprises and engagement. Is your team in sync with the basic concepts your business uses to communicate?

Failure to ask

Many times I say things instead of asking questions, probably because of fear of showing vulnerability. Not long ago, I learned that asking good questions shows more self confidence than saying things as if "I know" they are right. Self confidence sells. Do you prefer to be silent when you didn’t fully understand an idea?

Failure to change

Change is so threatening that I might convince myself that the low current level of income is better than the possibility of a rejection by a big potential customer. Change is inevitable - either I drive it or it drives me, both of which are valid options. Are you consciously choosing to drive change or let it drive you?

Failure to celebrate

A good friend of mine awarded himself with a simple chocolate each time he passed an exam. As I see it, celebration is cumulative and tends to enforce a sense of achievement, commitment and integration. I consider celebration as part of the process of creating organizational culture. Are you celebrating only when reaching big achievements?

Failure to say no

I often say yes even when saying no is what I feel like doing. I tend to think of that sacrifice as an investment, but today I’m confident to say that the tactic doesn’t work for positive ROI. It’s good to be nice, but it’s better to not be stupid. Are you afraid of rejection, not belonging or not being nice enough to fit in?

Failure to understand the role of others

I grew up listening to the understanding that we are all the same. Today, I know that what I heard meant: “we all share the same rights”. Some of my biggest business failures are related to treating team members as if they think and perceive things the way I do, therefore ignoring much of their individual potential and challenges. I learned that the role of others is to complement, inspire and support each other. Do you get upset when someone doesn’t react as you would?

Failure to understand the role of money

As I see it, regardless of a company’s, business model or organizational structure, failing to define the role of money for a business is a big mistake. Thus, avoiding extremes on the definition of that role is important. I see money as the oil for my car engine, where the engine is the business and execution is the gasoline. Do you feel like your business can’t grow anymore?

Failure to understand you are not the business

I always thought of my businesses, especially the successful ones, as an extension of myself. I would use those cases as a reference to my personal worth. Big mistake, Jose! If something went wrong, I myself felt as a failure. Today I design my business, thinking about it as a separate entity that does not work to satisfy my ego, but to produce the results I wish to achieve. I feel free and my team feels empowered. Think of your business as a machine you are helping to create. Do you feel personally affected when your business goes wrong?

This is the first time I’ve come up with a list of failures. I’ll print them out and use them to remember along the way that small failures are the ones that carry the potential to generate big ones.

Win two one-on-one sessions with Jose Morales on fear, failure and entrepreneurship by sending an email with the subject "Fear and Fail" to till 30 April 2015. All applicants will be forwarded to Jose Morales, details will be treated with confidentiality. The winner will be chosen by lucky draw.


Guest Commentary