Forego Fear of Failure

Today is Columbus Day here in the U.S. If you were lucky, you might have gotten the day off. While most of us observe Columbus Day as a nice break that follows back-to-school and precedes the run-up to the holidays, there is an actual reason for Columbus Day – to honor and remember the fellow who was not afraid of failure and sailed off into the sunset of a then-flat world.

Stop for a moment and think about Columbus. He was the original entrepreneurial, start-up guy. He went for venture capital with a really stupid idea (at the time) and finally won financial backing from the Queen of Spain after being turned down by other investors, namely Portugal. Queen Isabella funded him and agreed to his terms to get him out of her hair because no one in their right mind figured the fellow would ever show up again.

But Columbus did it. He discovered a new continent. And he was smart enough to get the monarchs of Spain to put their promises of reward in writing before he set sail. The rewards he demanded were a knighthood, appointment as Admiral of the Ocean Sea, viceroy of any new lands, and ten percent of any new wealth. Not a bad bonus package. However, like many CEO’s of today, Columbus was later accused of cooking the books and ended up with a huge scandal on his hands. Like many visionaries, he ended up in political obscurity, at least during his own time. Two things he never knew – that he had actually discovered a new continent (not the Far East), and that he would end up as the most famous explorer of the New World.

Are you considering a career move that many would feel is ill-advised? Do you have a really good idea that you feel would fly if you only had the guts to put a plan into motion? Playing it safe is usually not the way to fame and fortune. If Christopher Columbus had played it safe, some one else would have made the “big discovery” and he would have missed out completely. There are times in life when you have to gather your courage and just go for it.

Are you going to fail? Of course, at some point you will. Everyone fails. Ol’ Chris didn’t get funding from Portugal and he had to do some heavy persuading to get Isabella and Ferdinand to shell out the dough. He lost one of his ships, the Santa Maria, to a storm, and the captain of the Pinta tried to make it back to Spain before Columbus so he could claim the glory. He had employee troubles galore and at one point he was arrested and sent back to Spain. On one voyage, he got stranded on Jamaica for two years. Columbus’s entire career was fraught with failure. But he persevered.

Failure is part of success and it is to be expected. If you do not go after that new job or attempt that new venture because you are afraid to fail, then you couldn’t handle success even if it came your way by accident. The key is to be as well-prepared as possible and then be ready to make the hard decisions as they come your way.

Part of the preparation for a career change is to have a resume ready to go. When a new opportunity presents itself, you can’t say “Can you wait a couple of weeks while I get my resume together?” You need to have a resume that is ready and up-to-date. If you are considering seeking funding for an idea or venture, you will need a resume that sells your qualifications. Investors will not consider your idea if your background is not well-presented.

There is no doubt that Columbus presented his qualifications and letters of recommendation to the monarchy of Spain in his quest for financial backing. He already had a reputation as a maritime expert, and had spent seven years working at the court of Isabella and Ferdinand in a sort of “think tank” before they ever consented to back him. He had even lined up his own private investors as partial backers. He was persistent, prepared, and not afraid to fail.

Are you?

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