Having spent years talking with hundreds of young entrepreneurs and students, one topic that continues to pop up again and again is the notion of failure and how to deal with it. For some bizarre cultural reasons failing is something which is still not accepted in large parts of Europe. People fear that they will be marked for life if they fail, that they won’t get another job if their startup went down the drain, and that people will look down on them.

It drives me crazy.

Fear of failure is the number one reason why some of the best companies are never built, why some of the most important discoveries are never made and why people spend forty years in jobs they hate (or are indifferent about, at best). All for the perceived benefit of a “secure job.”

I don’t know how to change a whole culture other than to try and change it person by person (which is the reason why I cherish every interaction I have with an aspiring entrepreneur). It’s simple–just ask yourself this one question: If I fail, what’s the worst that can happen?

I don’t know how to change a whole culture other than to try and change it person by person.  Tweet This Quote

If your answer is not death, complete financial ruin for the rest of my life, or a significant illness–do it. There is nothing to fear. Worst case, you fail and learn something. And that something will be more than you could ever learn from a book, a college course or any other form of education. More likely you will actually not completely fail, and something will come out of it. One thing often leads to another. You just need to start walking.

The next time you hear someone say that she failed, ask: “What did you learn?” And congratulate her on her gumption and the general awesomeness of starting.

About the author

Pascal Finette

Pascal Finette

Pascal is the Managing Director of Singularity University's Startup Lab. He is also an entrepreneur, coach, and speaker who has worked in Internet powerhouses, such as eBay, Mozilla, and Google, and Venture Capital—starting both a VC firm and accelerator program.