In combat, as in business, the fear of failure is an incredibly powerful notion evoking a fight or flight mentality most can relate to. This past weekend I was humbled by the opportunity to speak alongside Mark Cuban, Daniel Alarik, and others titans of industry to discuss my lessons learned in the military that contributed to the overall success of Nine Line Apparel. One question asked related to, what failures did I overcome to become successful?
The answer is not so clear cut and gets at the heart of most success stories in both military and civilian endeavors. As the CEO of Nine Line or the Air Mission Commander of a Special Operations Task Force, I would be lying to boast that the fear of failure did not dominate my thoughts. The decisions I made and continue to make have the potential to fail in a big way.
What I learned over the past decade of military service is that the fear of failure provides a sense of urgency for preparedness. While some might argue that this fear is something you must overcome as a paralysis to success, I would maintain it provided me with an overwhelming drive to thrive in the most inhospitable environments.
Every Direct-Action mission I flew provided the enemy an opportunity to take me and my men from our families, an incredibly powerful motivator that remained in the forefront of my mind. Although the consequences of my entrepreneurial initiatives are far less permanent, I feel equally indebted to my employees’ financial security.
While we are all different and there is no secret ingredient to successful entrepreneurship, I will say the fear of failure has prevented me from becoming complacent. Although Nine Line continues to receive accolades as the 31st fastest growing company in the country, I am highly attuned to the competitive nature of this industry. I truly believe the fear of failing my employees drives my obsession for innovation and preparedness. I attribute this drive to the motto recited by my fellow Night Stalkers in that, I serve with the memory and pride of those who have gone before me for they loved to fight, fought to win, and would rather die than quit.
In the end, I would encourage aspiring entrepreneurs that success is not final and failure can be fatal, but the courage to take action despite the possibility of failure is what defines your potential for success.